PERFECTION BY ALEX DIXON
At Raleigh’s popular Whiskey Kitchen, executive chef Clayton Anderson is building a community staple. Chef Clayton Anderson is standing in the rickhouse at his restaurant, Whiskey Kitchen, surrounded by barrels aging various things for both the kitchen and bar. He lists off the contents of barrels with cocktails— Godfather, Pink Panther, Midnight Manhattan. One has hot sauce, and another has something called “barrel candy,” what’s left when a barrel-aging cocktail evaporates and the ingredients leave behind a candy-like residue. “It’ll leave smoke in your mouth for days,” Anderson says. It’s no surprise that Whiskey Kitchen utilizes smoke in nearly every dish and drink it can. It boasts a menu of more than 200 whiskeys, but fans of the restaurant know executive chef Anderson and his team approach food and drink pairings with nuance and depth—creating a showcase for regional ingredients and being as resourceful as possible, from chopping up used oak barrels and using the pieces for smoking duck breast to sourcing local mulberries for a vinaigrette.
In just three short years, Whiskey Kitchen has grown in popularity alongside a booming Raleigh restaurant scene. Food sales are up double-digits since it first opened, and while the restaurant has built up a steady stream of regulars, it continues to attract new guests. In fact, Anderson says the ratio of new and returning customers is about 50/50. Anderson and his team are a driving force in building up the community and the region as it develops a national identity, all the while giving back as often as they can. The restaurant is constantly drumming up business outside of its long service hours, from special events to its Supper Club series, which are sporadic, ticketed themed dinners open to about 100 people. These supper club events have ranged from a Japanese whiskey and cuisine– focused dinner to a ’70s old school steakhouse dinner complete with prawns thermidor. “One of our mottos around here is onward and upward. We are not ones