There aren’t a lot of bars in the Roadfood cosmos because food so often is a sideshow in places where liquor is the main attraction. Among outstanding exceptions to the rule is Whiskey Alley. Yes, the booze inventory is impressive: bourbons, scotches, blended whiskeys, rum, tequila, and more are available in countless variations that range from common brands to elaborate cocktails and high-end spirits that set you back $100 a drink. But — and this is one big but — the food is terrific, some of it downright spectacular.
For instance, the bologna sandwich. Set aside pale pink mug shots of grocery-store bologna. Instead picture a house-made pork loaf that is energetically spiced and smoked, cut into a thick, brick-red disk and grilled until its edges are crisp. Forget ordinary white bread or burger buns and envision a toasted, freshly baked English muffin that is a masterful balance of fluff and chew. Add Dijon mustard and Duke’s mayonnaise and you have a magnificent little sandwich. Cost? $5
Nothing served at Whiskey Alley is ordinary or by the book (although the “old fashioned old fashioned” cocktail is an unadulterated classic). What aficionado of regional cuisine could resist an item listed as “sloppy Joe poutine”? Sure enough, it vaguely resembles the Quebec specialty, its foundation a pile of superb dark-gold, thin-cut French fries. But atop them instead of gravy you find sweet-tomato spiced ground beef sauce not unlike Bolognese; and instead of cheese curds, the mini-mountain of food is crowned with melted mozzarella. It’s iconoclastic for sure, but the way the sauce softens some potatoes and leaves ends and edges crisp, and the way the gooey cheese clings to forkfuls add up to a memorable, original plate of food.
A similar culinary-fusion dish marries Dixie to Downeast Maine. Each “lobster hushpuppy” is a large pillow of grilled lobster tail encased in crisp, earthy corn batter. With smoked paprika aioli for dipping, these are unforgettable bites.
Do you like pickles? You will love the bounteous “sampler” of different pickled veggies from sweet beets to hot jalapeno peppers. They’re great munchies with drinks, and a brilliant companion to one of Whiskey Alley’s plush hamburgers.
It’s terrific food; and while some items always are available — burgers, ricotta gnocchi, gorgeous fish & chips, house-made pork rinds, colorful charcuterie — half the fun of returning to this place is that the menu always lists inventive, intriguing specials. A few recent such creations: kimchi-braised pork shoulder, provolone & crab grilled cheese, house-made bratwurst with house-made sauerkraut, caramelized parsnips & fennel, smoked trout dip with hand-cut potato chips. Recently, at Mardi Gras time, the menu offered house-made boudin with creamy grits and crawfish etouffee as well as rum-infused bananas Foster cupcakes.
Savory goodness is rare enough in a place devoted to drinking. Great desserts are even less expected. But if you have a sweet tooth, this restaurant is worth visiting for cake alone. Tiramisu is chocolate/espresso bliss on the fluffiest imaginable ladyfingers. Sticky bread pudding is a robust powerhouse topped with dark chocolate creme anglaise. Sticky date cake, which is moist, tender, and spicy, comes under a mantle of warm brown butter caramel sauce: magnificent! A January menu offers bananas Foster creme brulee.
Eclectic and cutting-edge with a dash of retro, Whiskey Alley is a taste-buds adventure whether or not you tipple.
Dinner is served daily; brunch is available Sunday only.