10 Best Restaurants of 2019: #3 Watershed Kitchen & Bar
Look up “watershed” in a dictionary, and you’ll find a description of a turning point. Look for Watershed Kitchen & Bar near Grandview, and you’ll find the point where an industrial park turns into a chic distillery-meets-restaurant where executive chef Jack Moore—a onetime southern Ohio auto mechanic—shoots out Midwestern fare souped up with sophisticated flair. Bonus: Watershed’s glossy pamphlet-style seasonal cocktail menus are consistently stocked with knockouts.
Beverage director Josh Gandee ensures each cocktail tells a story.
When Watershed’s beverage director Josh Gandee talks about cocktails, his background in creative writing pours out. Here’s Gandee describing one of his thirst-quenching inventions: “It tastes how clapping tongs together two times feels.”
That libation—called Kiss the Cook—was inspired by grill-tenders, their aprons and on-the-cob delights, and fashioned with Ohio corn whiskey plus salted-butter syrup. It was part of the elaborate booklet titled “Yard Sale” that Gandee and his team assembled for their warm-weather cocktail menu.
Producing the semiannual menus is a monthslong undertaking. For “Yard Sale,” 27 new cocktails were designed, then thematically grouped with various evocative backdrops and stylishly photographed. Think: Ikea catalog meets sensational happy hour, and you’re getting the idea. (In fact, one of their past menus was a mock Ikea catalog.)
Mirroring Watershed’s dishes, the cocktails often feature a farm-to-glass character. “We work hand in hand with the kitchen,” Gandee says. “They’re the front line of what’s fresh, seasonal and plentiful.”
Gandee, who affectionately calls chef Moore’s beloved Pickledillies “hillbilly sushi” (country ham rolled around pickles and cream cheese), alludes to another rhyme between Watershed’s food and cocktails: Both tell personal stories. That’s why Gandee and his team start the cocktail-creation process “by harvesting memories, flavors and colors” of the seasons being celebrated rather than experimenting with spirits.
Consequently, the youthful joy of an after-school snack comes back in adult form through a liquid poem called Ants on a Log—a rich, Manhattan-esque cocktail with celery bitters, golden-raisin bourbon and peanut butter notes from Madeira.
The idea for Melk Punch, an elegant riff on the Painkiller cocktail made like clarified milk punch, blossomed while relaxing in a hammock with a tiki drink. That “e” refers to a “Midwestern mumble” and the milk-free recipe (coconut cream is substituted).
Gandee says his next pamphlet might be rife with preserved summer fruit, akin to the peach shrub invigorating the utterly refreshing Shrub A Dub, Dub.
Read about our other Best Restaurants of 2019:
2. Wolf’s Ridge Brewing
4. Service Bar
5. G. Michael’s Bistro & Bar
7. Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop
8. Gallerie Bar & Bistro
9. The Guild House
10. Ambrose and Eve
1145 Chesapeake Ave., Ste. D, Fifth by Northwest