First, our friend Adam came into town, and after a sushi dinner, we decided to cap off our evening with a drink or two at downtown’s Whiskey Bar Kitchen, which had opened about a month earlier at 1048 Broad St. in the former Wicked Wasabi location.
It was quiet on that Tuesday evening, just us at the gleaming wood bar. But it was cozy, too – golden light glinted off the exposed dark-brick walls, and the comfortable stools made for easy chatting. We opted for beers that evening, but I wanted to come back for the full experience – sip a whiskey for instance (there are more than 80 to choose from, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page), or sample one of its craft burgers.
A week later, we planned another sushi dinner on a Monday night, this time with our friend Todd, who pre-empted us by saying he already had a booth at Whiskey Bar waiting for us.
By the time we made it down, Todd and friends had settled into one of the high-top booths (I fell in love with the primitive, wooden built-in booths right then and there) and had also ordered appetizers to share.
Featured under Small Plates, our selections included barnyard pimp nuggs (naked boneless chicken) with your choice of 13 sauces, and the whiskey waffle fries, with sweet chili and maple sauce.
The crew had already been waiting about a half-hour for the appetizers, but we bravely decided to order dinner, too – and then we waited some more.
With the owner’s blessing, our incredibly sweet and apologetic waitress offered a round of drinks to make up for the hourlong delay. We declined – we were happy enough with what we had and with hanging out and chatting – and good things must come to those who are patient, because happily, our food arrived moments later.
Whiskey Bar Kitchen kept a few items from the Wicked Wasabi menu, so it was nice to see some of the same Japanese dishes. Feeling nostalgic with old friends in town, I opted for the Tokyo Beef Bowl – a rice bowl topped with beef in a sweet and savory brown gravy with mushrooms and onions. And although it wasn’t my husband Sean’s favorite when he tasted it, I thought it was simple and homey – living up to its description as “Japanese soul food.”
I couldn’t persuade Sean to order the TCB burger, or what I liked to call the Elvis – topped with smooth peanut butter, sliced banana, bacon and honey on a croissant, but he did go for another burger from the nine options. The Elway comes with two huge onion rings, bacon and cheddar on a croissant – and Sean switched out the BBQ sauce for mayo.
He chose well – our waitress hadn’t asked how he wanted it prepared, but it was cooked medium and oh so juicy. Its flavor was enhanced by the crunchy and savory onion rings, and the flavorsome bacon and cheese.
We liked the burger so much, in fact, that our third visit came just the next night, with friends Grace and Brett and their daughter, Paige. I still hadn’t had my sip of whiskey – and I wanted to take one for the team and order the TCB, peanut butter and all.
This time, we sat on the opposite side of the room – but one thing stayed the same. We waited. And 20 or so minutes later, we still had no sign of a waiter. A few minutes more, and we managed to flag down the owner, who was incredibly apologetic and sent a waitress over right away. This time, when he offered a round, we took him up on it.
My choice was the Four Roses bourbon, served in a heavy cut glass, with a single perfectly faceted ice cube. Caramel colored, the whiskey had the heady scent of the Chinese preserved plums I used to enjoy as a child, and a sweet and smooth flavor.
Our burgers came next. At first bite of the TCB burger, I had to admit Elvis knew what he was talking about. The peanut butter gave the burger a satay flair, and the banana and honey added sweetness that paired well with the seasoned meat. It was one heavy burger – fit for a King – made heavier by the fact that the burger this time, disappointingly, was fully well done, with not a hint of pink, and a bit dry on the edges.
Sean ordered the breakfast burger – topped with bacon and a fried egg, with a side of hash browns – but opted to leave the maple syrup off. His was cooked medium – and he enjoyed it as much as he had the Elway burger. But the best of all was Grace’s choice, the Cali burger. Her topping of fresh avocado, cucumber and citrus aioli (a garlicky mayo) was almost like an Asian-style slaw and made the beef burger taste deliciously fresh and light.
So, in the final tally, while the third time wasn’t exactly the charm, overall Whiskey Bar Kitchen does cook up a mean burger, has a fun atmosphere and offers an enviable selection of whiskeys. So kick back, enjoy a whiskey and be prepared to linger.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: Whiskey Bar Kitchen, 1048 Broad St.
HOURS: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday (brunch, noon-4 p.m.)
SECOND HELPING: (706) 814-6159, whiskeybarkitchen.com or find it on Facebook