Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Checking in at The Whisky Grill & Smokehouse

I'm not a whisky drinker.

In fact, I'm not even a spirits drinker except for good tequila.

But I am a smoked meat eater, so when a friend invited me to a new place with an emphasis on smoked meats, I enthusiastically accepted.

He was talking about McCormack's Whisky Grill & Smokehouse over on Robinson Street, the old World Cup and former Ninja Sushi building.

Let me just warn you that when you walk in, you will see a back bar that is a monument to drinking.

Three large shelves support double and triple rows of booze and not just the pedestrian and slightly obscure varieties.

Sure, there are $80 and $90 bottles, but there are also selections far more expensive than those.

There's an entire shelf devoted to obscure spirits that go into even more obscure drinks, but it's the owner's intention never to be without a drink ingredient, no matter how rarely used.

There's a southern slant to the simple menu, including using Earl Grey tea for the sweet tea, but we were there for smoking, so I got the Brisket with collard greens and my companion got the Carolina BBQ with fries (baked beans are the third side).

Clearly someone in the back knows how to smoke; we were told it's one of the two partners.

Both of our sandwiches were extremely well executed, the meat succulent and well-flavored atop the appropriate rolls.

My collards could have made a collard green lover out of anyone. They had just the right amount of tang with enough sweetness on the finish to assuage those who fear that tartness.

The place is full of owner Mac McCormack's music and movie memorabilia (he's a long-time bartender) with a particular emphasis on Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

My favorite was an Italian movie poster of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

The place has been completely renovated; only the cream cart from the World Cup remains, but the owner intends to put a plaque over it indicating its historical significance.

You can joke that Richmonders can't leave their history alone, but I love the sense of continuity that designation will give the simple stand, especially to those who were World Cup regulars.

Leaving The Whisky to the mixed drink crowd, we strolled down the street to Metro Grill for dessert.

I've been in Metro maybe three times in the past decade, and my most recent memory had been of a smokey environment full of loud and obnoxious drinkers shouting over the TVs.

Last night we were the only customers in an empty bar playing some pretty classic 80s music, so it was perfect.

I got the truffle plate and my friend the banana creme brulee, each with a glass of red wine.

My plate consisted of four pieces, a dark chocolate covered coconut truffle, a white chocolate-covered chocolate ganache truffle, a nut covered dark chocolate truffle and a piece of chocolate bark studded with toffee.

It was a nice variety of intensely chocolate treats; I left only the white chocolate outer shell, not caring for something that neither looks nor tastes chocolate.

Should you be a fan of the cocktail, The Whisky's $42,000 bar is a must-visit for the sheer spectacle of it.

The martini glasses alone are worth seeing; the glass is a stemless cone shape which rests in a bowl-shaped glass of ice to maintain a perfect chill.

The whisky selection is unparalleled in rva I was told by a nearby whisky lover.

And if, like me, you're not a cocktail type, that brisket sandwich alone is worth the visit.

But be warned: they don't have desserts yet so you'll need to allow time to go elsewhere to scratch that itch.

They're working on it, though, and if they succeed half as well as they do with smoking meats and slinging drinks, The Whisky could be a great little place for an interesting meal.


  1. Ok, seriously, get out of my brain. Every time I have an idea about something, or have gone somewhere and want to write about it, you are there too! I went to both the Fan House and the Whisky bar this week! We only popped in at Mac's place for a bit on Saturday to warm ourselves and check it out, but the bar-to-ceiling shelves of liquor and lighting WAS impressive.

    So nice to finally put a face to a name, even though now the mystery is gone (which was kind of fun too :)

  2. Oh no! Did our clandestine meeting on a dark street corner disappoint?

  3. No no, of course not! I just like to think of the air of mystery that comes from only knowing people from afar and never meeting them. Like in "You've Got Mail," where Tom Hanks is referencing Meg Ryan's unmet pen pal, and saying "it could be that guy, or that one right there"

  4. I didnt know that Metro had such a variety of desserts! The food there is always delicious and since they went non-smoking along w/ most of Richmond the "cloud" affect isnt an issue anymore. Love that place!