OBC Kitchen is the latest offering from the Bluegrass Hospitality Group, which has launched several restaurant concepts — Sal's Chophouse, Malone's, Drake's — from its Lansdowne redoubt.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a gastropub with the emphasis on spirits rather than brews. There's plenty of beer, and wine, at OBC — which stands for Old Bourbon County — but bourbon is the star in this small restaurant where the televisions show bartenders mixing delicious adult concoctions, not sporting events.
I enjoyed both the food and drink I sampled at OBC Kitchen and would happily return. But it is not a restaurant for someone seeking a light salad dinner with a wine spritzer. When you come to OBC, prepare to eat well and heartily and have the salad tomorrow.
A popular appetizer is the oddly named bacon in a glass ($9). I'd read about this in online forums and, of course, on OBC's website and had an unappetizing image of soggy bacon that had somehow been cooked in a glass. Far from it.
The crisp, upright honey bourbon bacon, coated in a sugar glaze, is just served sticking up in a glass, like breadsticks, with a cup of peanut butter on the side for dipping. It's worth trying but one warning: only order it when you have a group of four or more. One slice of this sugar and fat-rich treat is plenty. More than that and you'll know why Elvis died young.
On a lighter note, OBC also features oysters, serving them raw, baked, grilled and fried on the main menu. At dinner I ordered a pairing menu that included the fried oysters with a poblano tartar sauce. They were excellent. Fresh oysters, fried to perfection with a crisp outer crust and a tender, almost raw interior.
A menu standard, the grilled hanger steak ($22) served over what the menu describes as a cabernet onion marmalade, was also part of that special menu. This group of restaurants has built a reputation in part based on the quality of its beef, and this was no exception. The meat itself was very good, and it came cooked perfectly. The onion accompaniment complemented it well.
We tried the maque choux ($6), a Cajun vegetable mixture of corn with some jalapeño and bell peppers and tasso, a spicy, bacon-like pork often found in Louisiana cooking. It was good but, for me, emphasized a weakness on this menu. I know it's about rich, indulgent food, well prepared, but wouldn't it be possible, given it honors an agricultural county, to have a few vegetable offerings with a light touch?
Another vegetable offering were the fries, featured as both what OBC calls an accessory ($6) with ketchup, and a separate menu item as "hand cut frites" with a choice of sauces ($8). I think it's a good development that higher end restaurants have gotten serious about fries, producing an offering like this where good potatoes are fried perfectly and served hot.
That little menu confusion on the fries, though, brings up my final nitpicking with OBC Kitchen. At the bar, where we ate, you're given an electronic menu to scroll through. I found this, plus the odd terminologies (accessories, small plates and shares), made it hard to do the menu browsing that's part of the pleasure when putting together an order for a meal in a good restaurant.
A final kudo: OBC's craft cocktails are just that. Mixed by hand, they will open your senses. Prices range from $9 to $12.