The Whiskey

Orlando’s “Restaurant Row” is a cluster of upscale restaurants — some chains and some locally owned and operated — along Sand Lake Road in the toney Dr. Phillips area, east of I-4 Exit 74, close to touristy International Drive and the Orange County Convention Center.  I honestly try to avoid this side of town, but I end up  out there from time to time, between catching up with visiting friends staying near the theme parks and my annual trips to nerd Mardi Gras, also known as MegaCon Orlando.

Years ago, I visited one of the more casual restaurants on Restaurant Row and thought it was just fine, but never reviewed it or returned… until recently.  My oldest friend and I staggered out of the busiest day of MegaCon 2023, famished, exhausted, and feeling very middle-aged.  He wanted to get a late lunch somewhere with table service, where we could sit down and be served and relax.  He specifically requested comfort food and a refreshing cocktail, but I would have been content with free refills on soft drinks in air conditioning.  That restaurant immediately came to mind as the perfect choice, and I was excited to give it another chance after all these years.  So we went to The Whiskey (, which specializes in gourmet burgers and cocktails and boasts one of the largest whiskey selections in Orlando.

We were hungry, so we started out with Whiskey chips ($11.50): house-made potato chips topped with chunky smoked blue cheese sauce, smoked blue cheese crumbles, bacon crumbles, balsamic glaze, diced tomatoes, and scallions.  I think I must have tried this on my earlier visit years ago with my wife, because it seemed very familiar.  It was awesome, though.  Totally hit the spot.  I always appreciate fresh potato chips, and I love balsamic glaze and good blue cheese.

All the burgers at The Whiskey are eight ounces, and they are a blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib.  My friend and I were talking about how we each make tasty burgers at home, but we both use ground chuck, and that can’t compare to the blend of different cuts of beef that you get at steakhouses and upscale burger joints like this.  Sometimes it seems like a cop-out to order a burger when there are all kinds of interesting dishes on a menu, but when you see that blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib, you know it’s going to be a next-level burger.  And when you’re at a dedicated burger joint, you just can’t go wrong.

My friend ordered the black n’ bleu burger ($16), a house burger patty cooked to medium, seasoned in blackened seasoning, and topped with arugula, tomato, whiskey onions, smoked applewood bacon, and more of that great chunky smoked blue cheese sauce.  He wolfed it down with gusto.The fries that are the default side that come with the burgers are awesome at The Whiskey.  They are battered, so they have a lightly crispy outer coating, making them one of my favorite kinds of fries.  The menu warns they are not gluten-free, for those who need to know such things.

I’m almost positive I ordered this same burger on my earlier visit years ago: the Southerner ($18.25), a house patty cooked to medium rare on a bed of whiskey onions and arugula, topped with bacon, pimento cheese, and two fried green tomato slices, and drizzled with balsamic glaze.  It’s a perfect combination of things I love — creamy, melty, smoky, crunchy, tangy.  I laid waste to it.

Did I mention how good the brioche-style buns are?  They are lightly toasted on the grill, as all burger buns should be.

I upgraded my side from fries (even though the fries are really damn good) to Whiskey onion rings for $3.25, because I am The Saboscrivner, and I must try onion rings anywhere that serves them.  I even have a recurring feature in these reviews called RING THE ALARM!, where I go into detail about the onion rings I encounter.  I am pleased as punch to say that these are “the good kind” of onion rings — battered, not breaded — that I search for everywhere.  Perfect thickness, consistency, crispness, color, and everything.  When people ask me to recommend restaurants that have good onion rings, I will definitely add The Whiskey to the top of my list.

By the way, my friend loved his old fashioned ($12.50), Don Draper’s favorite cocktail.  The Whiskey makes its version with Single Barrel Jack Daniels whiskey, orange bitters, rhubarb bitters, raw cane sugar, fresh orange, a Traverse City black cocktail cherry, and a rock candy stir stick.  He is an aficionado, so I take his word for such things.

I am now convinced that I was in a bad mood on my first trip to The Whiskey, all those years ago with my wife.  I don’t know what my problem was that day, but I spend too much time in a bad mood, and I deal with depression too, which doesn’t help.  I don’t think I had started this blog yet, but I’m glad I didn’t write a half-hearted review way back then.  Instead, I’m thrilled to write an extremely positive review now, and I really do recommend this place to all.  Even vegetarians can get an Impossible burger here, and there are plenty of vegetarian-friendly apps, sides, and even a few salads.

Even though I try to avoid the International Drive and Dr. Phillips/Restaurant Row area, I would happily return to The Whiskey whenever I find myself down this way.  As tempted as I would be to get that terrific Southerner burger again, I would try other options on the menu, including a smoked brisket grilled cheese sandwich that tempted me, and a camel burger made with actual ground camel meat.  That is one animal I’ve never eaten, but I might have to make a special trip back for it on some future Wednesday.

Because Wednesday is “hump day,” and I would be eating camel.

And we all know that nothing makes a joke funnier than having to explain it, so I guess I’ll stop here.


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