Watershed Kitchen & Bar
1145 Chesapeake Ave, Columbus, OH 43221
I was ecstatic to hear that Ohio changed its laws in 2016, allowing distilleries to open restaurants and make cocktails on-site at their production facilities. With some wonderful local spirit-makers calling Columbus home, the race was on to for distillers to open attached eateries. Last week, Grandview-area Watershed Distillery achieved that goal. Since I already loved their bourbon, nocino, and visiting their tasting room with Columbus Brew Adventures, when Watershed’s Kitchen & Bar opened last week I was itching to check it out.
First recommendation: get reservations. We strolled in right when the space opened at 4, to learn all reservations were booked already. We happily ate at the bar, but it’s clear that the buzz around Watershed’s restaurant is huge. The space itself is well-appointed and simple. A glass wall connecting the dining room to the distillery allows you to peer at the gleaming tanks while you nosh, a fun touch, and the plenthora of candles and dim lighting makes this an intimate date night locale.
The cocktail menu is printed in a playful booklet with photos of each drink and trivia tidbits, which lets you see what your drink will look like before you select a choice. No more asking your seat neighbor, “what are you drinking?” For a winter warmer, the Bon Apple Tea (Watershed vodka, apple, lemon, dry curacao, honey, ancho chai spice, winter potpourri) is poured into a floral mug. Harken back to your childhood with the Nostalgia & Moxie: bourbon, ovaltine, cream, chocolate bitters, and more, all topped with torched marshmallows. Fans of libations on the rocks will adore the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, an effective blend of bourbon, luxardo, angostura & peychaud’s bitters, and of course, absinthe. There wasn’t a disappointing drink on the menu, from my perspective. Local draft beers are also on tap, as are a generous selection of wines.
The food offerings are a mix of comfort dishes and eclectic bites. Options include buttermilk fried chicken accompanied by whipped pig butter, house hot sauce, and pickles, or we loved the fried Brussels sprouts, crispy brown and swimming in a peppery-sweet sauce with mint and citrus. The main selections are twists on classics as well, such as the Watershed Burger, a beautifully messy concoction of bourbon-glazed onions, tomato jam, and Brie. Dip the fries on the side in the addictive aioli. It seems like every restaurant has short ribs on the menu lately, but the dish stands out here with punchy pickled cabbage, cauliflower, and miso polenta. My pick for the next visit? The Duck Confit, plated with celery root, potato gnocchi, walnuts, and prune demi-glace.
Culinary Clue: Don’t forget to catch a distillery tour or pick up some merchandise in the gift shop. Their pre-mixed Old-Fashioned blend is great for lazy people (me) when you want a fabulous cocktail with minimal effort. The other bottled spirits like the bourbon-barrel gin and nocino are also available for sampling and bottle sales!