Village Whiskey (Philadelphia)

Philadelphia has definitely been undergoing a food revolution over the past few years. While I (obviously) don’t live there to attest to this fact first-hand, it’s all I’ve been hearing about the city of late. “It’s the sixth borough,” say those who aspire to commuting to New York City from the relatively inexpensive city of brotherly love—and no respectable New Yorker would dream of moving to a place that didn’t have good food. While relocating may not be in the cards for me, an occasional visit never hurt anyone. I’m telling you—if you decide to stop at a bar, any bar, in Philadelphia, make it Village Whiskey in the Rittenhouse neighborhood.

village whiskey village burger

village burger

Village Whiskey features an unmarked exterior, which emanates the speakeasy vibe that comes from within. When you walk through the double glass doors into the mini-lobby where a hostess meets you, you feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. Inside, the walls are lined with white subway tile and stately, dark brown leather booths for a clean, masculine feel. Fewer than 10 high tables dot the left side of the place with a decent bar certain to be packed with locals who enjoy the occasional (or frequent) whiskey on the right.

You see, the eponymous spirit in Village Whiskey’s name is a favorite of Chef Jose Garces—and they’ve got plenty of it. The menu comprises more than 80 whiskeys, which recalls the thorough whiskey list of Maysville. Although Village Whiskey charges a pretty penny for their drinks, they at least offer a decent pour, unlike Maysville where bartenders measure 2 oz. of liquid and serve that up as a “drink.” If you’re into whiskey, you’ll want to stop here, but don’t be surprised if you can’t get a table or a seat at the bar.

village whiskey bbp pork sammy

bbp pork sammy

Now, what about the food? Well, it is, in a word, excellent. I ordered the 8 oz. Village burger, featuring tomato, lettuce and house made thousand island dressing on a delectable sesame bun. I opted to add the mild tasting Jasper Hill cheddar. The puck-like burger was fantastic. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it had a delicious char on the exterior. I can see why Village Whiskey claims they have one of the best in the country.

MDP got the bbq pork sammy and he was very pleased with his selection. While I felt the sandwich had an understated pork flavor, he commented that it could have had more sauce. His sandwich came with fried pickles that were quite good.

village whiskey duck fat fries

duck fat fries

We also ordered the duck fat fries, which were good, but I expected their flavor to be a departure from fries cooked in, say, peanut oil.

Village Whiskey also has a lobster macaroni and cheese dish that I would be interested to try next time I go. And they’ve also got a good selection of drinks on tap, including Crispin apple cider, for anyone who isn’t into the whiskey menu.

I highly recommend Village Whiskey, but definitely go there during off hours (mid-afternoon on a weekend, possibly weeknights) to ensure you grab a table. One last thing worth mentioning is that Village Whiskey has an outpost in Atlantic City, for all you Jersey folks who don’t want to make the trek to Philadelphia (though you should).

Village Whiskey

118 S. 20th Street (across from the Shake Shack, on the corner of Samson and S. 20th)

Rittenhouse, Philadelphia

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Maysville

So called for the place where bourbon was born, Maysville serves up a wide variety of whiskeys and “smoked & charred food and raw & chilled seafood,” as their website notes.

maysville crispy grits

crispy grits

It was Friday night. The bar was overflowing with people loudly talking, even shouting, at one another. I told MDP I didn’t think we’d get a table, that we’d have to go to Rare or Hill Country instead. But we went in anyway and asked how long the wait was. “I can seat you now,” said the hostess, to my surprise. And she put us at a small table just steps away from Maysville’s trendy bar.

We went to Maysville because New York magazine (which is officially on my shit list after that retro housewife article) recommended their grits. In general, I trust New York‘s restaurant/food recommendations because they’re usually spot on. Also, adding to Maysville’s appeal, it’s located just a block away from where I work, which made it unusually convenient for me.

maysville chicken

chicken

The hostess placed a thick binder filled with drinks on our table, in addition to our two double-sided menus. I shouted to MDP,  “Which whiskey are you going to get?” He didn’t know. But I don’t blame him. The sprawling list featured traditional mashbill bourbons, wheated bourbons, rye whiskeys and more. I selected the Four Roses bourbon, since I hadn’t tried it. When I first sipped the exactly 2 oz glass of alcohol, I noted its plain flavor–nothing like Maker’s 46, my favorite, which Maysville indicates as a wheated bourbon.

For an appetizer, we had to order the crispy grits, which are presented as cubes topped with country ham and bourbon aioli. To be honest, the grits hardly tasted like anything. The ham was pretty good, and reminded me of prosciutto–not sure what “country” the ham comes from. But I wasn’t totally impressed.

Because hardly anything on Maysville’s dinner menu sounded edible to me, I opted for the very plain, very hard to mess up chicken, which came with mushrooms, garlic and baby lettuces. The chicken was outstanding. It was tender and flavorful, and the skin was crisp and delicious. I couldn’t tell which kind of mushrooms they used; they were like oyster mushrooms, but brown and ridged. I highly enjoyed my dinner.

maysville bread pudding

bread pudding

MDP ordered the braised lamb and potato dumplings. His serving wasn’t exactly hearty, and he finished his meal quite quickly given the little they offered him. I tried the gravy that was at the bottom of his dish and it was quite delectable: meaty yet light. Our waitress informed us that we had tried the newest dishes to the menu (which makes sense since neither dish is on their online menu–I had wondered about that).

For dessert, we opted for the bread pudding with candied pecan ice cream and this fantastic, thick caramel sauce at the bottom of the bowl. The bread pudding is the dessert to get at Maysville. Don’t be tempted by the chocolate ice cream or plate of cheeses. No. Even if you think you don’t like bread pudding, I assure you, you’ll like this bread pudding. It’s phenomenal and was clearly the best thing we ate at Maysville.

So Maysville is pretty good, but definitely pricey. They’re a tad cheap with the bourbon, but the food is decent and the atmosphere is lively, if you like that kind of thing.

Maysville

17 W. 26th Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 28th Street. Walk south two blocks and right onto 26th Street.