The Founding Fathers held their initial meetings in a neighborhood tavern, which explains why the Declaration of Independence's first draft had a long, rambling subsection devoted to how powdered wigs are a natural icebreaker. Revolt against the tyranny of boredom with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of bistro fare and signature drinks at Branch Whiskey Bar.
Chef Scott Shampine helms the staff at Branch Whiskey Bar, where locally sourced ingredients are mixed together to cook built-from-scratch bistro fare. The establishment pairs its hearty grub with signature cocktails poured from a 50-strong selection of bourbons and scotches. The menu rotates regularly, like the lineup of a heavily penalized hockey team, and the roster of recent cuisine creations has included duck-fat fries and aioli ($6) that foretell entrees such as grilled hanger steak with blue cheese and ranch ($17). Bartenders liquor up glasses or any upside-down umbrella presented by patrons with inventive whiskey cocktails such as the SB Whiskey Sour ($8), in which Eagle Rare single-barrel bourbon fraternizes with egg whites and lemon bitters. The Brown Derby libation ($8) undulates with Maker's Mark bourbon, maple syrup, and orange bitters, which combine with grapefruit and lime juice to traverse sweet, savory, and sour taste buds with a sense of mixological adventure similar to the antics that followed Marco Polo's first shot of absinthe.
While enjoying sips of fine spirits and bites of well-prepared cuisine, guests can peer from their spot at a high-backed booth toward the whiskey bar's glossy wood tables, above which hang yellow light fixtures and across from which the bar displays a cornucopia of bottled goodness similar to the scene at a milkman's distribution center.
The chefs at Branch make everything from scratch—including butchering their own steak, curing their own bacon, and smoking their own poultry—to put their distinctive stamp on traditional dishes. Classic comfort foods take on inventive transformations to result in such unusual plates as Maine lobster dumplings and macaroni 'n' cheese gratin with Oregon black-truffle oil. On their side of the establishment, the bartenders take the same artisanal approach by infusing their bourbon with fresh local fruit and concocting their own whiskey liqueurs. The full bar features an extensive whiskey list with more than 150 whiskeys from around the world available in single glasses or tasting flights.