Carlisle’s 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion
It’s all very straightforward and comfortable: a simple and traditional American menu, blended with whiskey and history. 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion, located in the heart of downtown Carlisle’s historic district, is built upon an historic theme carried through its menu and décor, reflecting an all-American spirit.
First, a quick history lesson: Carlisle holds a unique place in American history as the site then-President George Washington established for militia preparing to “put down” the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania—a protest by farmers against taxes being levied on their whiskey, a more profitable livelihood than crops. Ringleaders of the rebellion were captured, taxes on whiskey resumed, and this was the only time in history when a sitting president donned a uniform to lead troops into battle.
Today, the only “Call to Arms” you’ll need is on the menu—under which you’ll find appetizers. Deviled duck eggs, one of the most popular choices, come in three delicious varieties—traditional, smoked trout and chipotle gorgonzola.
“It took lots of trial and error until we discovered the best way to hard boil them,” explains Chef Jeff Gilmore. Duck eggs, one of many locally-sourced products featured on the menu, taste very similar to chicken eggs but are larger in size. “People feel adventurous ordering them,” he says with a smile.
Gilmore, a native of Washington, D.C., has been cooking for 34 years and especially enjoys weaving local products into the menu.
“The downtown farmers’ market is an amazing resource for us,” says general manager David McCord. “Most of our locally sourced items are found within a 15-mile radius of Carlisle. It’s a story…behind each locally-sourced product. We inform the servers who then translate that to our guests.”
“For example, last summer when it was hot, the ducks weren’t laying eggs because of the weather. So we had to tell our guests we were out, and why. But they understood—it makes our relationship to agriculture real.”
McCord oversees not only the restaurant but also the adjoining Comfort Suites Hotel. He admits there’s a stigma concerning hotel restaurants, but he says 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion has established a loyal customer base in its first two years of operation, independent of hotel guests. The restaurant’s street-front location makes it highly visible on Carlisle’s bustling Hanover Street.
“This was the site of a long-time department store that burned down in the 1960s,” McCord says. “The area was leveled and used as a parking lot for many years until we built and opened the hotel in 1999. It was important to infuse the building with history, since it’s located in the historic district. Now that the restaurant has been open for two years, we’re hitting our stride with a good, solid menu.”
The sandwich menu (titled “The March”) includes the Liberty Bell melt, a shaved prime rib sandwich featuring local Whistleberry Farm mushrooms and caramelized onions, topped with a melted blend of locally sourced Keswick Creamery cheeses. Rounding out the meal are house fries and a delicious house-made ketchup. Gilmore says he’s often asked for the recipe, which blends fresh tomatoes in season with vinegar, ginger and smoked paprika.
Additional scrumptious-sounding sandwiches include the rebellious Reuben with locally-sourced Swiss cheese, the Mason Dixon crab cake (Gilmore’s personal favorite) and the Molly burger, which highlights locally sourced ginger peach chutney, soft cow’s cheese and organic baby kale on a brioche bun.
Entrees (“The Charge”) are for those with hearty American appetites: 1794 filet mignon, 1794 ribeye, 1794 New York strip, Bastille medallions featuring whiskey butter, and the great buffalo trace—an eight-ounce house-cut bison top sirloin (locally sourced from Gunpowder Bison Farm, Monkton, Maryland) accompanied by a shoe-peg hominy grit cake, plum and bacon demi and seasonal vegetables.
Even the tables are set in true Colonial style, with mismatched plates. “Back in Colonial times, you didn’t have matching china,” McCord explains. “It’s fun for us to continually be on the lookout for new dishes—we keep an eye on eBay, Craigslist and other sources.”
“It’s like an ongoing scavenger hunt,” Gilmore adds. “Many of them are conversation pieces—some even remind me of my grandmother’s dishes.”
The upcycling theme carries over to décor and drinkware. The restaurant acquires wine bottles cut into glassware from a California supplier, Refresh Glass. Several framed maps and pieces of artwork hail from the U.S. Army War College and the area historical society; additional pieces of Americana include vintage roof slates and copper signage created by an area artisan.
Leading the 50-plus selections on the whiskey menu is a small-batch, aged rye whiskey made especially for the restaurant by Big Spring Spirits located near State College, in Bellefonte. Custom-labeled “1794 The Whiskey Rebellion,” is described as “an excellent sipping whiskey.” Also available to wet your whistle: a handful of signature cocktails such as the rosemary-maple whiskey sour concocted from Big Spring Whiskey, fresh lemon, rosemary and local maple syrup.
“Overall we offer a smaller menu, but done well,” chef Gilmore says. “But that makes it easier to perfect what we’re doing.” Sounds like true American spirit.
1794 The Whiskey Rebellion
10 S. Hanover Street, Carlisle, PA