In August, when I spoke to Whiskey Dick's co-owner Brian Moore, of V Bar and West Side Tattoo repute, the New England Culinary Institute grad summed up the virtues of his family's new dining establishment with descriptors of Pabst Blue Ribbon, loud punk rock, good whiskey and "amazing" food.
Sure enough, the PBR flows into $3 pints, $5 mugs and $10 pitchers behind a small bar decorated with an array of neon-papered reproductions of old punk show fliers. The music's actually not too loud, but tinges of counterculture can be felt in everything, from the chain-link fence as half-wall border to the graffiti-like font on a large chalkboard menu.
Top-shelf whiskies and bourbons from the likes of Breckenridge Distillery and Death's Door Spirits balance out the lesser list of $4 whiskies that are offered as options with each meal purchase. The concept is lovably approachable: Everything on the menu is $10, which includes a beer, shot, whiskey drink or soda.
It's a one-cook, one-bartender operation that's got the right DIY feel and smug attitude — though service is attentive, informed and excellent — without being obnoxious or too cool for school. (That said, it wouldn't hurt to post hours or contact info on the door, or to set up voicemail for off-hours info.)
But in regard to the booze-friendly grub, I can't say the "amazing" characterization holds. Past a couple standouts, most of the dishes lack the simple execution to match Moore's comfort-food vision.
One thing's clear: The cook's got a heavy hand, as even our Pound YO' Nacho plate delivered chips burnt around the edges. The Momma Dick's Meatloaf Burger sported a charred-black, well-done patty on both sides, and the meatball penne pasta with PBR marinara and mozzarella could do with a little less baking to soften the noodles.
Aside from a unique, pleasant, semi-acrid tartness to the PBR pico de gallo relish, the instances where whiskey, bourbon and beer show up as ingredients are actually pretty mute. The concept sounds cool, but you wouldn't know any of the drinks have been added to the items without reading it on the menu.
The best dish available (offering yet another dick joke) is the Just the Tips rib-tip array, bearing a delicious "Dick's own whiskey barbecue sauce" and bleu cheese mashed potatoes. That same sauce makes the Whiskey Tyme Swine pulled pork sandwich shine, with a notable sweetness and a mild vinegar tang. Unfortunately, its coleslaw side is fine-chopped, bland and watery.
The Señor Richards Big Girth burrito, ordered with beef, benefits most from a great, spicy green chili, and is gut-bomb good. But ours was served on the room-temperature side, with shredded cheese not even melted on top. Meanwhile, the Hung-Over Burger with pepper jack, green chili and a fried egg on a conventional bun (versus the meatloaf's flat-top mashed potato "bun") fares fine. And after a sampling of five of the $4 offerings, I can recommend the totally respectable Kentucky Beau and Beam's Eight Star whiskies, especially over the rubbing-alcohol-esque Rich & Rare and viscous, mouthwash-y Dr. McGillicuddy's Mentholmint Schnapps.
In concert, the whole effort is solidly punk: It's rough around the edges and not always in key, but with commendable, rebellious heart behind it.