This September, King & Rye debuted in Jackson 20’s former space in The Alexandrian hotel. The cozy spot from executive chef Peter McCall celebrates the food and flavors of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic regions, making it a perfect fit for scenic and historic Old Town Alexandria.
King & Rye’s cocktail menu is chock full of bourbons and whiskey-forward drinks presented in two categories: classic and craft. Classic, as the name suggests, features fixtures like boulevardier, sazerac and Old Fashioned. Craft, on the other hand, is King & Rye’s option for those who don’t typically lean toward whiskey and bourbon, or anyone in the mood for a truly creative spin on those liquors.
As I do enjoy whiskey but was curious about the unique takes King & Rye offers, I opted for two drinks from the craft menu throughout my meal. I first tried the Smashed & Spiked, the spot’s interpretation of a bourbon smash. Between the spicy ginger beer and house-made shrub paired with mint and blackberries, the drink was surprisingly crushable and refreshing. Next up was the Fall Fashioned, perfect for the chilly fall night I visited the restaurant. Complete with house-made simple syrup with cinnamon, star anise, clove and brown sugar, it made for the smoothest and most festive Old Fashioned I’ve ever tried. There’s truly a drink for everyone on the menu, even if you don’t fancy yourself a lover of brown spirits.
The food menu is equally full of options under the wide umbrella of Southern-inspired dishes. We started with perfectly sized and shareable small plates, including crispy cauliflower, Patterson’s Heritage beef skewers and cornbread. The crispy cauliflower was fried in a beer batter and didn’t have a soggy center, as is the case with many other recipes. Dipped in the accompanying ghost pepper aioli, each bite was spicy, fresh and crunchy. The beef skewers were cooked to perfection and came on a bed of rye berries and winter radishes that paired wonderfully with the bourbon and sunchoke miso-glazed meat. And of course, the cornbread – served hot on a skillet with a pat of butter – was fresh and delicious, a perfect palate cleanser in-between bites of the excellent starters.
For main courses, we tried the K&R Burger and Shenandoah Valley Chicken. In keeping with letting bourbon shine in all its uses, the thin beef patties are presented with whiskey onions, smoked cheddar and remoulade on a soft potato bun. It’s smoky, juicy and ever so slightly sweet, thanks to the whiskey onions. The burger is served with house-made tater tots and sorghum ketchup that’s a stronger, more savory kick than your straight-from-the-bottle variety. Equally savory was the chicken, fresh and cooked to perfection atop a sweet potato puree, shiitake mushrooms and Swiss chard. The seasonal and cozy flavors come together to create a wonderful, colorful fall dish.
Other notable dishes include Charleston Gold Fried Rice with butternut squash, egg, benne seed and Kentucky soy sauce for a great vegetarian option, and the Seven Hills Beef Cheek Pot Roast complete with potato puree, pickled roasted beets and horseradish for comfort food that’s truly savory and satisfying. Of course, King & Rye’s dessert menu is a must. As I looked it over, I couldn’t help but be thankful that while I was definitely full, the perfect portions throughout the night had left me with room to sample some classics and new creations that grace the menu.
A classic banana pudding contains Nilla wafers, but is presented here with a creative twist by way of English toffee, Diplomat cream and a house-made toasted marshmallow. Also worth ordering is the beautifully plated chocolate peanut butter bacon bar, complete with (you guessed it) Skrewball peanut butter whiskey caramel and crispy bacon. Another Southern classic, blackberry crumble with crème fraîche ice cream, rounds out the dessert offerings.
Between the modern twists on Southern classics, extensive drink menu (if you don’t want to try an approachable whiskey drink, there are plenty of beers and wines, too), and cozy ambiance, King & Rye ticks every box for a brunch with friends, cozy date night with your partner or just a wonderful meal to treat yourself to.
In keeping with offering the best of seasonal food, King & Rye will be celebrating Thanksgiving both in their dining room or yours through their take-out option that includes a half sweet tea-brined roasted turkey. As the seasons change, King & Rye is sure to keep up with the times to create more delicious and locally sourced dishes and whiskey-forward cocktails, giving you plenty of reasons to make repeated visits or takeout orders to this new spot.
King & Rye is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5-10 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Visit www.kingandrye.com for more on the menu and holiday hours. Follow them on Instagram @kingandryerestaurant.
King & Rye: 480 King St. Alexandria, VA; 703-842-2761; www.kingandrye.com
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.