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Step back in time at Whiskey Street

Published December 27, 2013 9:22 am

Bar exam • There's a turn-of-the-century feel in this new bar.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With more than 130 whiskey selections on its menu, the name Whiskey Street Cocktails & Dining fits this new bar in Salt Lake City.

The bar's owners also liked the legend behind the name, which is that LDS Church leader Brigham Young, around 1857, dubbed the stretch between what is now 200 South and 400 South along Main Street as Whiskey Street, for all of the bars operating in the area at the time.

Most recently the bar Whiskey Street was the fleeting CO2 restaurant. Long ago it was a French-Italian restaurant. With a little legal sleight of hand, the liquor license from the shuttered Green Street was transferred here, and on Nov. 22, Whiskey Street opened for business.

"I don't think there's anything quite like this in Utah. … What I tell people is that this space reminds me of a bar you would have walked into around the turn of the century," said bartender Cory Dudis. "It has that feel to it — and I really appreciate that."

A visit to this unique bar, at 323 S. Main, is a bit like stepping back in time.

The male barkeeps wear white button-down shirts and tucked ties. The female staffers are dressed in black.

Wood is wherever you walk, sit or set a drink around here. The tradeoff is that it can be a tad loud. In warmer weather you can sit outside in a recessed area of street-side seating.

On the inside, a 50-foot wood beam from a bridge is now a row of narrow tables down the middle. Six woods were used to make the booths along the wall. Wood for the long bar comes from a single Dutch cherry tree. And behind the bar, coves of knotty alder hold a very impressive display of booze.

Locally owned Urban Vintage designer Josh Wheatley's touch can be seen throughout.

"The whole goal … was that it would feel like a place that's been there all along, not manufactured or contrived, but something that feels comfortable, like an Old World bar," Wheatley said. "It came out beautifully."

The menu is done in a burned-edge look. Booth lamps are old-timey. Antique-looking ceiling fans hang from a high ceiling. Bare light bulbs with visible filaments cast a warm glow here and there. Hand towels and audio of old radio shows accent a visit to the restroom. Mercifully there are only two flat-screen televisions, which no one on a recent Friday night seemed to be watching.

Whiskey Street General Manager Eric Kammerer said the response in this first month has resulted in crowds or packed houses almost every night.

"It's been phenomenal," said Kammerer. "A lot of people I have talked to have said, 'Oh, this reminds us of someplace in San Francisco or New York.' "

But this bar is more than just about looks as it seeks to find its culinary chops. The offerings are chef-driven by Matt Crandall and designed to be a step above the usual gastropub. His Hazelnut Dusted Calamari ($8) is right on and his Jack Daniels Black Bean Buffalo Chili ($5), paired nicely with a Shiner Bock, is a treat worth many return visits.

The Gorgonzola Stuffed Figs are a great start, made with fresh black mission figs, Gorgonzola and prosciutto and drizzled with pomegranate molasses for $7. And for only $2, the Bourbon Bacon Caramel Popcorn is a savory side made even better with a freshly pulled Bohemian Cherny Bock.

Staying dark with the drink, a draught Uinta Baba Black Lager goes well with the $10 Whiskey Burger, which comes with Parmesan truffle fries, salad or soup (try the Roasted Corn Crab Chowder — well worth it). The burger is 8 ounces of hand-pressed rare bison meat, topped with smoked Gouda, caramelized onions, grilled tomato, ancho chile aioli, a pile of arugula and a Whiskey Street BBQ sauce.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, a whiskey should be in order.

You can go cheap with a Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, or you can splurge on a $68 shot of 25-year-old Scottish Macallan Scotch whisky. Bar co-owner Jason LeCates also pointed out that the menu features a particular highly sought-after Kentucky bourbon named Pappy Van Winkle, which comes in the 10-, 12-, 15- and 20-year variety. Park City's own High West whiskeys are also on the menu.

About half of the whiskeys are priced under $10, which keeps the tab somewhat affordable here.

"We wanted to create an environment where you get a great experience — food- and cocktailwise — and when you get your bill, you don't fall off your stool," said LeCates, who also shares ownership with the same partners in nearby Bourbon House. "We want to be a place where you can come once a week and not once every two months."

Whiskey Street also has a long list of bottled wines, and the trend of tap wine has caught on here. Four chardonnay varieties are chilled to 39 degrees, next to four reds steadied at 69 degrees. Beer drinkers can rejoice to the tune of 190 bottled varieties and 27 on tap.

This place is new, and it is getting mixed reviews online. The harshest comments are aimed at the service — a little premature in a place where the 30-plus employees are still trying to learn each other's names, let alone the names of hundreds of beers, whiskeys and wines. Once Whiskey Street hits its stride and the lines associated with its newness subside, it could easily become a staple for locals and a destination for visitors. —

Whiskey Street Cocktails & Dining

A throwback bar with old-timey accents and more than 130 whiskey varieties to go along with 190 bottled beers, 27 draught beers and a long list of wine, including tap wines.

Where • 323 S. Main St., Salt Lake City

When • 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week

Contact • 801-433-1371 or http://www.whiskeystreet.com (it may still be under construction)