What is it about a true trip out of town that makes you explore, and taste more of an unfamiliar town than you are willing to do in your own?
Obviously you are freed up on a true vacation and ready to let loose, but there’s no reason you can’t search for treasured entertainment and dining experiences much closer to home.
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I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago when I was traveling back to Dayton from West Chester and decided to make a pit stop for food in Middletown.
Searching for something new online, I happened on several sites recommending a place I had never been to before — Bourbon’s Craft Kitchen & Bar.
The vibe is not what you’d expect for the aging shopping strip it’s housed in — the vibe is contemporary with clean modern appointments accented with some industrial touches. The menu is filled with upscale bar food and the bar — which runs almost the length of the place — screams to be noticed due to its hulking size and the bright wall of bourbons stacked across it.
It’s not a huge space — probably around 40 seats with 14 of those at the bar — but it still feels open and airy.
The straightforward menu features three salads that are generously portioned and flavorful including a terrific Southwest salad ($10) with shredded romaine lettuce, fire-roasted bean and corn salsa, Cajun ranch dressing, tortilla strips, margarita salsa and guacamole on the side. Grilled or broasted chicken can be added for $4.
The burgers are gooey, flavorful and satisfying in a way that your cardiologist would frown on. Each sandwich features two steak patties, made with a blend of beef brisket, sirloin, and New York Strip, or your choice of grilled or broasted chicken if you are watching your HDL and LDL lipoproteins.
Burgers are served on a potato bun with fries or coleslaw. Mac and cheese can be subbed for $2. A Veggie Beyond Burger is a $1.50 upcharge and lettuce wraps are available if you are low-carbing it.
The Bourb’In ‘N Out Burger ($14) made with American cheese, sliced pickles, mustard, thousand island dressing and caramelized onions is sure to hit the spot if you are looking to go classic. If you are on the hunt for something different in your burgers, you might opt for the Bernie Mac ($12) made with bourbon smoked bacon, pepperjack cheese, sweet BBQ and white cheddar mac and cheese, the Barnyard Burger ($14) featuring white American cheese, fried egg, bourbon smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo or the Grippo’s Burger ($12) made with muenster cheese, bourbon smoked bacon, malt vinegar fancy sauce, coleslaw and crushed Grippo’s potato chips. And if you are looking to mix breakfast with lunch, the Belgian Waffle Burger ($12) is an option.
Bourbon’s Kitchen has four hot dog choices on its fixed menu and, depending on the day, features some specials as well. The all-beef dogs have a juicy snap when you bite into them and have good flavor. They are served with fries or coleslaw.
Flash fried cauliflower wings ($9) tossed and sauced with your choice of Parmesan garlic, honey hot, sweet chili glaze, hot, sweet BBQ, honey mustard sauces or encrusted with Grippo’s chips are a good vegetarian option.
The restaurant’s signature dishes are all well priced and include gyro tacos ($10), Asian brisket tacos ($10), chicken and waffles ($14), a broasted Cornish hen ($14) and a broasted tender platter (3 pieces for $10, 5 pieces for $13).
Desserts include a caramel waffle, vanilla waffle, maple waffle and smore’s waffle (all $7).
With more than 70 types of bourbons and scotch and a solid selection of craft beers, this is not only a place to get fancy bar food, it’s a place to indulge in a libation.
Their house Manhattan ($8) made with Rebel Yell Rye, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters, Luxardo cherry and garnished with a burnt orange was on point.
There were a few things I didn’t like about Bourbon’s Kitchen starting with the French Onion Soup, which should come with a warning that it also doubles as a serving of mac and cheese. I found the number of TVs in such a small space distracting as well as the music, which comes from a TouchTunes jukebox that was turned up way too loud.
But these are small issues. Overall, it’s exciting to see a spot like this doing something that you would expect to see in a larger city and doing it well.