We’ve been fortunate here in Columbus that many of our institutions specializing in drinks – breweries and distilleries, namely – have been adding full service restaurants to their operations, giving them a new way to showcase their wares while creating new hangouts with thoughtful food and drink pairings. Think of Rockmill Tavern, or Middle West Spirits’ forthcoming Service Bar, and this spot, Watershed Kitchen & Bar.
Watershed Distillery has been around since 2010, crafting excellent vodka, bourbon, gin, and other spirits (we’re partial to their bottled Old Fashioned). Their facility is located down a side street off King Avenue in Grandview, and while they’ve always given tours there, they could only do the most rudimentary sampling at the end. With the change in state laws last June, they were allowed to serve cocktails directly to customers, which meant they could create bars and restaurants of their own.
Watershed Kitchen & Bar has been open since November of last year, and the Watershed team kindly invited us to come have dinner on them to try it out!
Watershed has assembled a solid team for the kitchen and the bar. The kitchen is run by Jack Moore, a chef who worked previously at the Greenhouse Tavern and The Black Pig in Cleveland; the bar program is headed up by Alex Chien, an accomplished bartender who was most recently at the Blind Lady Tavern.
The menu is split into three sections, going essentially from starters to small plates to entrees. You can order a chef’s tasting menu that includes a selection from each + a dessert. Much like Greenhouse Tavern or Rockmill Tavern, Watershed’s menu focuses on creative versions of comfort foods crafted from seasonal items. So take your bar favorites, and kick them up a notch in quality and preparation. For instance: the pork rinds dusted with parmesan and accompanied by a house-made fermented hot sauce.
Or the fried Brussels sprouts with a mixture of peppered honey, mint, and lemon. Very tender. I’m never get tired of Brussels sprouts as a trend.
Of course, we had to sample some cocktails with dinner. We started with the Whiskey Lullaby and the Improved Whiskey Cocktail (the two cocktails pictured at the top), then tried the Sloe Rider.
The refreshing beet salad comes with two types of beets, feta, lentils, and a citrus vinaigrette.
The beautifully plated Four Peel Lox, named for their house-made gin, is an assembly of salmon, fingerling potatoes, crispy sunchokes, pickled mustard seeds, and a red cabbage soubise (essentially a pureed onion sauce).
Then we tasted the beautiful Bendicion.
The buttermilk fried chicken sports a crispy skin and tender meat. It’s accompanied by pickles, more of the house hot sauce, and “pig butter,” a whipped pig fat that packs a huge flavor.
The Watershed burger is top-notch, too: topped with brie, tomato jam, bourbon glazed onions, aioli, and the house pickles.
I was eyeing the braised short rib from the beginning, so it was inevitable we’d order that.
The tender short rib sits atop a miso polenta with cauliflower and pickled red cabbage.
This was one of the rare instances in which we saved room for dessert. And we’re glad we did: first was a rich panna cotta.
Second were the even more memorable truffles, just perfectly concocted and wonderful little sweet bites to finish out the meals.
It sounds like Kitchen & Bar have been busy, and deservedly so. Patio weather is just arriving, too, which means another reason to head over the cocktails and dinner.
If you want to visit:
Watershed Kitchen & Bar
1145 Chesapeake Ave. Suite D (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43212
Find them on Facebook, Twitter (@watershed_ktchn), and Instagram (@watershedkitchenandbar)
Disclaimer: this meal (excepting drinks and gratuity) was provided by Watershed Bar & Kitchen. Photos and opinions are my own.