Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Philadelphia here we come! We made a lot of stops along the way during our trip to Philly, from beer gardens and breweries, to historic landmarks and of course, Philly cheesesteaks... But one place in particular stuck out in my mind among the rest: Village Whiskey. A cool hole-in-the-wall type of place with a speakeasy vibe where everything is done perfectly from classic and contemporary cocktails to deliciously inspired food.
During our first visit there the whole time I was saying to Chris..."Why didn't I bring my camera?? I wish I brought my camera..." (we actually went twice in the same trip, it was raining the day we first went so I didn't bring my camera since I don't completely trust waterproof camera bags, especially when 'my baby' is on the line). The first night we visited, we were greeted by a cheerful hostess that welcomed us in from the rain. The host stand was backed by a frosted glass wall, that cut off your view of the restaurant, but luckily the hostess had a little 'peekaboo' slot to see into the bar and look for empty seats. Considering it was 7PM on a Tuesday, it was considerably packed. We had hoped for the bar, but since it was full we were brought in towards the back, past the bar, to a small 4 seat counter. Village Whiskey is a small restaurant, on one side there's 7 round marble tables with leather high top seats, then across the aisle there's a 12 seat bar with high shelfs and glass cabinets, then a little further down, long countertops towards the rear (where we were sitting). The vibe here was very old school, almost like a classic 1950's cocktail lounge, yet decidedly contemporary with dimly lit candles, tall ceilings, modern music and a brushed steel bar top.
If the name Village Whiskey is any hint, their grand whiskey selection is by far their most impressive asset (with around 200
whiskeys!) From the ceiling (they had VERY high ceilings) to waist height was whiskey all the way down, whiskey, whiskey, and yes more whiskey... I was in heaven. They had so much whiskey that the bartenders actually had to climb up onto the bar to even reach half of it. And they had everything, Irish whiskey, scotch, bourbon, rye, Japanese whiskey, they even had Berkshire Bourbon from our neck of the woods, and a fair amount of local Pennsylvania drams as well. I was impressed if not in complete shock and awe, I wanted to try them all (but Chris told me I couldn't..) Looking at the menu itself (which is over a foot long and double sided), they had an impressive selection of cocktails and beers as well, even happy hour specials! I always forget that pretty much everywhere else has happy hour, but Massachusetts. They also had specials of the month, including a burger, cocktail, and of course, whiskey. The burger of the month for June was the Béarnaise Burger: pepper encrusted beef (made with farm-raised Angus from Maine), tarragon béarnaise sauce, watercress, grilled red onions, and Jambon de Paris (a style of sliced ham). The cocktail of the month looked delicious—but the whiskey of the month, Sazerac 6yr Rye, just seemed to be calling out to me. With a recipe that dates back to the 1800's in New Orleans, Sazerac Rye was the perfect start to this evening. We also decided to try something from their selection of the 'pickled' variety. We went for the pickled truffled cauliflower, served with black olive tapenade, whipped ricotta, and toasted sourdough. The cauliflower was simply amazing, we finished in a flash. When the server came to check in and took the plate away, I held on to the remaining ricotta because it was just so unbelievably creamy. It was just so simple, pickled vegetables and bread, but it was something I can see all these office workers noshing on, while they wait until the rest of their coworkers to join them for a drink. Looking around, it seemed like it was mostly people that just left the office to grab a little bit of food and a cocktail before heading into the busy rush hour traffic of Philadelphia.
Looking over the menu, all of the food looked delicious, I was having a bit of trouble choosing something. After that Sazerac Rye I was feeling a bit decadent. As good as that Béarnaise Burger sounded, I decided to choose the Whiskey King Burger, with a side of duck fat fries (yes... duck fat fries!) The burger was 8oz. of juicy Angus perfection with maple bourbon glazed cipollini, rogue blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and (the cherry on top) foie gras (or the straw that broke the camel's back, haha). Ummm...I think they misnamed this burger, because it should just be called 'Ally's burger', even when I read it on the menu, I thought it was meant just for me. Chris had the BBQ Pork Sammy. With pulled pork shoulder, whiskey BBQ sauce, cole slaw, and fried pickles. Let's just say he inhaled it before I was able to even take a picture of it (I was also too mesmerized by my own burger to give any attention to anything else.) Now that I've had it, I have to tell you that every burger place NEEDS to put foie gras on their burgers. The foie gras (made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened) made my already special burger, well... royalty. It was such a rich, buttery addition to my burger, that instead of inhaling it (as I normally do), I savored every last bite. Until I finished it... and I was just, well, sad, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end.
After we finished our food, we moved over to the bar to try some local whiskey (well I had the local whiskey, Chris had some local beer instead). Village Whiskey offered curated whiskey flights of three, with selections based around Irish Whiskeys, Scotches, local Whiskeys, even whiskeys from all over the world. Rather than a whole flight, I picked out one from the local whiskey flight: the Wigle Pennsylvania bourbon—SO GOOD! Made from organic local wheat and yellow corn and malted barley. This Pennsylvania Bourbon did the trick of cleansing that burger all the way down. Sweet on the nose, but it completely changes when you take the first sip. It has a lingering mineral-y earthiness that offsets the sweet brown sugar notes. Now seated at the bar, I got to take a good look at this whole operation. I noticed they used cubed ice, a big plus in my book, and cubed sugar! They had copper jiggers, lots of house-infused liquors, and many different types of bitters—even rhubarb bitters! (YUM!) Since they had cubed sugar, I just had to try their classic old fashioned. Old grand-dad bourbon (a very old style bourbon), aromatic
bitters, sugar, and lemon. Plus the bitter they used was made in house—interesting. Never really seeing that before I tried to look up how to make bitters myself...but it looked a bit too complicated, so I'll just leave it to the experts.
Village Whiskey really has something special, from the small plates, whiskey selections, beer, cocktails, desserts, entrees, and whiskey flights—they didn't half-ass anything. If I lived in Philly, I would be there every night choosing my next poison (DELICIOUS, delicious poison!) If you live in Philly or are planning a trip down there anytime soon like we did, make sure you get the Whiskey King burger with foie gras on it from Village Whiskey (I still dream about it) or at least try one or.... 5 from their selection of whiskeys! Village Whiskey has something for everybody... and I can confidently say, they definitely have it all.
More Pictures of Village Whiskey down below!
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