I lived in the heart of Uptown for 2-1/2 years … a mere 5 minute walk from Nickel and Rye and only went a couple times. Like a rookie, I allowed those times to be weekends in the wee hours, a time which happens to be the great equalizer of all Uptown establishments (read: drunk people acting ridiculously). I was recently asked to stop in for dinner and did so begrudgingly. Holy shit … was I wrong to have thought like that. Nickel & Rye shattered my previous misconceptions of this gem.
First things first: they have a large and diverse selection of traditional and rare whiskies. (Yessssss.) In fact, they’re so proud of their whiskey options that they even offer their “V. Rye P. Club” that rewards you for trying whiskey. Just try a certain number of whiskeys and you’ll be treated to parties–not kidding. Look for Pappy van Winkle, local options, and some with a little Nickel & Rye twist, all for pretty decent prices.
Beyond that, they don’t settle for the run of the mill cocktails. They infuse liquors, make bitters, and generally do things pretty damn well. And their cocktail list has a little something for everyone.
Nickel & Rye’s Maple Bacon Manhattan is one of their signature cocktails and has been for quite a while, no double because of their delicious bacon-Infused bourbon with maple syrup and the slightest hint of Averna Amaro. Their second most popular cocktail, the Sparkling Cucumber (New Am Vodka, elderflower, cucumber, lemon, and champagne) is light, flavorful, and is a perfect cocktail to enjoy on their fan-fucking-tastic patio.
Beyond their two best sellers, they have a
couple lot of other winners. The Summertime Sadness (Exotico Blanco, mint, roasted jalapeño, cilantro, and lime) was a surprise with a lot of complexity thanks to the oddly, but well-paired flavors. The basic Old Fashioned is even a winner–gotta love the old standards. If you’re bold, let the talented barmen behind the large, concrete bar go crazy. Tell them what you like and what you don’t and watch them work. One of their newest creations from one of these adventures in bartending even uses Blue Curacao (that apparently is making a resurgence … yikes) and a smoked wood plan to give it an oddly smoky sweet flavor.
The cocktails aren’t the only thing that Nickel & Rye is doing right. Their food, all made in-house, is damn delicious. (And their parent company, Kirby’s Steakhouse, would see to that.) They took basic food items and made them either VERY well or just a tinge haute. Site: their Lobster Quesadilla. Eat this now. Also not to be missed is their charcuterie board and their Brussels sprouts. (If you’re a reader, you know that it really doesn’t take much from Brussels sprouts to impress me … but these were so good I almost ordered a second dish. What!? They’re vegetables.)
Of the McKinney Avenue spots, this is one place that you should hit for a happy hour that is sure to surprise. Make sure to log some time on their patio before it gets too hot. Because it will … and all the chilly cocktails in the world won’t be able to make being outside bearable.