By: Karen Hendricks
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.