Whiskey's is a decades-old Copley Square watering hole located in one of Boston's most touristy areas, directly across the street from the Prudential Center and Hynes Convention Center. It has a large wrap-around bar, about a half dozen TVs and plenty of hokey mock Southern signage, with more than a few references to barbecue. The smaller adjacent dining area includes an aisle with spacious all-wooden booths on one side and much tighter booths for two on the other. Each table is outfitted with barbecue sauces, hot sauces and a large roll of paper towels, so Whiskey's seems to have much more of a barbecue focus now than when I first discovered it a few decades ago. Based on their website, it's easy to conclude that Whiskey's still emphasizes the bar first and foremost, with the second billing firmly allocated to their young hottie servers.
The Whiskey's menu is a predictable assortment of pub food appetizers, sandwiches, steaks and barbecue. Where the old Whiskey's might have had the obligatory ribs and pulled pork sandwich merely as an appeasement to barbecue fans, the (I'm not sure how recent) appearance of brisket and barbecue combos with up to four meats at least hints that they're serious. As further evidence, the menu descriptions claim that the meats are actually smoked.
I had a few errands to run in Boston on Super Bowl Sunday 2010, so I stopped in for a lunch visit and was their first customer around noon.
Dining alone, looming errands, a low degree of confidence and the availability of a four-meat combo all combined to keep this visit to a single course. I asked about the wings and learned that they're not smoked.
Pork ribs were average sized StLouis cut spares (I'd seen photos of babybacks elsewhere), served heavily sauced. Under the sauce was just the hint of a very light crust. Beneath that, the meat was tender but a little steamy, not the slightest bit pink and not the slightest bit flavorful aside from the sauce. There was nothing about them that suggested real barbecue, and if I only tried the ribs, I probably would guess that Whiskey's doesn't use a smoker, despite the claims on the menu.
Pulled pork was also liberally sauced on top but left unscathed beneath. Moist and tender far below the sauce, the pork was actually little too tender, and even steamier than the ribs. On the positive side, the meat had bits of pink, a few tidbits of bark and a moderately pleasing if smokeless flavor.
Unsauced pulled chicken (I ordered barbecued chicken but received pulled by mistake) was even steamier than the pork. But more so than the pork, the chicken brimmed with flavor: some of it salt (a little heavy, but fine by me), some of it smoke (light by normal standards, heavy compared to the other meats), some of it the natural flavor of chicken (very pleasing) and some of it a very unnatural flavor from who knows what (not so pleasing). The slippery texture was a little off-putting, but the moistness without sauce and the mostly good flavor made up for it.
The highlight of the meal—as well as the biggest surprise—was the brisket, also ordered unsauced. It had the most distinguished smoke ring of any of the meats, plus the most bark, with crisp edges to boot. Texture was a little steamy too, but those crisp edges and bright flavor (just a hint of sweet, more than a hint of smoke, slight bacony notes) made it work. If I divided all the brisket I sampled into an above-average group, an average group and a below-average group, this would easily make the middle group. I'd even go as far as saying I would not be opposed to returning for a brisket sandwich.
I give Whiskey's credit for including four sides plus toast with the four meat combo, though I don't give them that much credit for the execution. Fries were frozen pre-packaged restaurant supply style, but cooked to a perfect crisp. Baked beans tasted like a canned and slightly doctored variety. Cole slaw was crisp and overly creamy with too much mayo and not enough of anything else. A one-third ear of corn on the cob was decent. Toast was, well, toast.
On the table in squeeze bottles are two sauces, both of them sweet, dark and thick. "Sweet" is your standard-issue Kansas City style, similar to (or possibly exactly) what you'd find at the store. "Hot" seems to be the same sauce, blended with a little hot sauce.
The bottom line: The meats didn't wow me, but most of them at least exceeded my expectations, and that brisket was surprisingly pleasant. As for value, the $15.95 four meat combo with four sides plus toast was even more of a shocker considering the location. But whether that constitutes a bargain depends on whether you like the food on said combo. So I'll put it this way: I'd probably never start my day with plans to revisit Whiskey's, but if I were at the Prudential Center and wanted a non-healthy lunch, I'd give Whiskey's the edge over anything in the food court. Just know that nearby Bukowksi Tavern (burgers, beer) would get the edge over either option.
Yelp reviews of Whiskey's Smokehouse
Urban Spoon reviews of Whiskey's Smokehouse