As downtown continues to grow as an entertainment destination, even established bars are having to enhance their offerings to stay competitive. That's why after more than five years in business whiskey bar Reserve 101 has introduced a food menu that features the now ubiquitous sharable plates, mostly in the form of flatbreads.
"From happy hour until 8, 9 o’clock, we kind of thin out a little bit just because people want something to eat," owner Mike Raymond said in a statement. "Having a kitchen gives people the chance to be able to stay a little bit longer."
No frozen onion rings or fried chicken wings here. If an item runs out, that's it.
While it's easy to poke fun at this bar trend, the standard should be whether the dishes deliver big flavors, and, after attending a tasting organized by the bar's PR reps, I'm impressed by the offerings. Reserve 101 keeps things firmly planted in the bar side of things by ensuring that at least one ingredient in each dish has been flavored by alcohol.
For example, the baby heirloom tomatoes that both top a flatbread and show up in a salad are infused with mezcal for a smoky flavor to balance against the tomato's natural acidity. Figs get a bath in Knob Creek before being added to a flatbread that also includes crispy pancetta and arugula for a combo that's sweet, salty and a little spicy.
A simple dish of cheese fondue with Slow Dough bread for dipping was my favorite of the night. It comes with a small spoonful of Laphroaig scotch that's mixed in when the dish hits the table. The alcohol's smoky, peaty flavors enhance the cheese's richness for a dish that has to be finished.
All of the dishes feature ingredients that are delivered and prepared fresh daily. No frozen onion rings or fried chicken wings here. If an item runs out, that's it until tomorrow. Prices are still being finalized, but expect them to run between $8 and $12.
Raymond has also introduced a new cocktail menu of 28 drinks that he's been developing with his staff over the past four months.
"We went back to a more simple menu," Raymond said. "We’re finding that more and more people coming into the bar aren’t necessarily interested in the real nuanced, sophisticated drinks going on today, so we said, ‘Hey, these are really solid, classic drinks that have been around for a long time.' "
Naturally, the staff can recommend the perfect complement to the flatbread. Just ask.