My recent review of Rackhouse Pub, the restaurant that fronts the Stranahan's Distillery and pairs high-end pub food with bourbon and beer, inspired several readers to jump to the defense of Rackhouse, including this anonymous e-mailer:
As you may have read, Miss Shunk is not respected by your Westword readers, nor by many in the restaurant industry. I was absolutely horrified reading her review of the Rackhouse Pub. Her writing is misleading, inaccurate, and downright bad. I have eaten at the Rackhouse a number of times, even ordering the same dishes as Miss Shunk reviewed. I have since gone in to investigate some of the facts I thought to be incorrect, to find that she had an incredible number of facts about ownership and ingredients wrong. I cannot believe NO ONE at the Westword had spent five minutes to check the facts. The Westword should be embarrassed that Miss Shunk is an employee of theirs and disgusted at how unprofessional the publication has become. I am not including my phone number, but the Rackhouse Pub's, so the actual facts may finally be checked and they are issued an apology from the Westword. In the future, please be more careful and thorough.
Truth is, I did spend more than "five minutes to check the facts" before the review ran. Although the food at a restaurant should speak for itself, it couldn't tell me anything about whether the recent sale of Stranahan's to Proximo would affect Rackhouse. But every employee I spoke with gave me a different story. According to our original piece on the project, Eric Warner was responsible for securing the location, and would be working with partner Chris Rippe. But Rackhouse employees told me that chef Jayson Reynolds is now a partner, too, and offered varying accounts of Warner's role.
To clear up any outstanding confusion, I kept dialing until I reached Rippe, who explained that Rackhouse was originally a joint venture with Warner, but that Warner had exited early on. "Warner hasn't really been involved since the lease," he explained over the phone. "But yes, Reynolds is now an owner, too."
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Since I had him on the line, I asked about discrepancies in some of the dishes I'd tried. The bartender had told me the half-chicken, which arrived atop a cutting board, was served on kale, which seemed odd. "When you had it, it was served on a leaf of Swiss chard," Rippe said. But in any case, the preparation has changed: The chicken is now plated and served with roasted vegetables; although it's never been coated with cornmeal, as I thought, it's still roasted extra crispy.
"They were minor discrepancies," he noted. "I don't think it's anything that compromised what you wrote."
Rippe says he and Reynolds are working hard to get the kitchen staff trained to make the food more consistent. And as for Stranahan's? It's still being distilled in the back, even though the distillery has big plans to increase production, and is still being poured in the Rackhouse's bar. Where, with any luck and some hard work, the food may one day be as consistently good as the whiskey.