Kade Mislinski and Ronnie Spece didn’t intend to wind up running a donut and whiskey bar. When Batch Café & Bar opened its doors on Congress Street two years ago, most people focused on their made-fresh-daily donuts and whiskey pairings. But their menu extends beyond whiskey and donuts: They offer gourmet and build-your-own grilled cheese sandwiches, a couple of impressively large salads, and bar food and small plate staples, such as pretzel bread, mac ‘n’ cheese, and a tomato bisque.
That said, Batch is unequivocally a whiskey bar. With more than 120 whiskeys from an international range of producers, plus a handpicked selection of cocktails, local and craft beers, and eight wines, there is something for everyone to drink—especially if what they like to drink is whiskey. I sampled the Arizona Old Fashioned ($13), made with Batch’s single barrel release of unsmoked Whiskey del Bac. In addition to featuring local whiskey, prickly pear juice, and a candied slice of jalapeño, the Arizona Old Fashioned also makes use of a locally produced bitters called Mi Casa, made by Chandler-based AZ Bitters Lab, which adds an herbal element along with the cinnamon spiciness. I also sipped the Penichillin’ ($9), made with Monkey Shoulder scotch. The lemony Penichillin’, served with a candied ginger garnish, has its fair share of heat, thanks to Iconic Cocktail Co.’s Spiced Honey, which is made in Phoenix and combines ancho chiles, black peppercorns, Szechuan chile pepper flakes, and cinnamon.
We also tried Batch’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. The sandwiches are made using a panini press, so the bread stays lighter and less greasy than if they were pan-fried. The Billie June ($8) features cheddar cheese, chicken, smoked bacon, and ranch dressing on ciabatta bread. A whole lot of bacon flavor mixes with the sharpness of cheddar cheese, with extra body thanks to the chicken. The Knuckle & Claw ($16) is arguably the most exotic of the grilled cheese sandwiches: Between two hearty slices of white bread lies a healthy share of lobster meat, complemented by marscapone, provolone, arugula, onion, lemon, and sambal. The spice added by the arugula and sambal was a nice addition to the shellfish, as was the bright note of lemon, and the marscapone, provolone, and onion provided a rich backdrop for the more dominant flavors. Paired with the sandwiches were house-made potato chips, which are thinly sliced with a mandolin and then crispy fried at Batch’s sister restaurant, Classic.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Batch without a donut, and I opted for The Stud ($2.75), a yeast donut with chocolate icing, sprinkled with bacon, and a thick maple and bourbon Bavarian cream filling—a rich treat that both asks to be devoured and demands to be savored.
I asked Mislinski where he found inspiration for Batch’s menu. He says the restaurants’ concept is connected to his childhood memories, with the goal being to create emotionally connected, fun, childhood-inspired food. Memories of his grandfather sneaking booze past his grandmother by adding it to breakfast cereal, combined with an interest in reimagining milk cocktails popular at the turn of the century, led to the inclusion of a boozy breakfast cereal option on the menu.
Going forward, he hopes to increase Batch’s appeal as a neighborhood bar, to make it not just a place that people visit for special occasions, but also somewhere that people can pick a sandwich up during their lunch break or stop by for a quality casual meal and drink. He has hired two new cooks and anticipates unveiling a new menu within the next couple of months. Batch has also resumed lunchtime hours (11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday). Whether you come for the whiskey, stay for the sandwiches, or are drawn to the daily donut specials, Batch is certain to have something for you.
Batch Donuts & Whiskey
118 E. Congress St.
Tucson, AZ 85701