I’ll admit: When I first heard the name, I said WTF (and not because Rumcow owners are also behind adjacent Grace Street establishment, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a.k.a. WTF).
Platypus & Gnome. Foxes Boxes. Rumcow. Whatever happened to classic bar names like “Cheers”? After setting foot into Rumcow, plopping myself down in their remarkably comfy bar seats, and enjoying one hell of a meal, I couldn’t care less.
Unsurprisingly, WTF isn’t co-owners Joseph and Abigail Obvey’s first successful venture. It started with a bar in Greensboro, which sprouted a cocktail lounge in Wilmington, which led to modern, rustic Rumcow where frothy concoctions meet global cuisine. With a menu heavily inspired by the Obvey’s travels, diners can expect influence from all over the world (predominantly Asia) in the dishes and drinks.
During some light research of Rumcow, I discovered everything from fluctuating forms of traditional rum cocktails to sake, kombucha, and prosecco … on tap. (Yes, they have prosecco on tap!) Their name derives from a popular island drink made of rum, vanilla, bitters, sugar, and milk, which, yes, they serve. They also serve cordon bleu fries and Vietnamese chicken-salad lettuce wraps with pickled veggies.
But was it all talk?
Nope! Socks officially blown off!
I’m a fan of the tap cocktail trend, as long as the product flowing from the line is high-quality. I spotted local Panacea Craft kombucha and Bushido Way of the Warrior sake and immediately knew I was in good hands. My date and I wanted to give Rumcow a seasonality test, so we went halfsies on a classic Mai Tai and their Fig Town cocktail. As someone who vacations in Hawaii frequently, I have high standards for Mai Tais. If any ingredient in the drink is from a pre-made mix, it’s game over. Rumcow’s was thoughtfully constructed with Plantation Rum, fresh lime juice, orange liquor, orgeat syrup (a blend of almond and barley), and a topper of Myer’s. From the skinny Collins glass to the generous dark rum floater, every strong, citrusy drop was perfection.
The Fig Town was a marriage of Bulleit Rye, lime, demerara syrup (a deeper, caramel-like sweetener), fig jam, and orange bitters. Earthy from the cinnamon fig jam and tart from the lime, it tasted as if an Old Fashioned and a Whiskey Sour made love on a cool winter night.
Without wasting too much space (so I can leave room to rave about the food), let me say Rumcow’s service was spot-on. The owner was keeping an eye on the restaurant while chatting with guests and shaking drinks. Our bartender and server couldn’t have been friendlier and gave us great suggestions on which drinks would work better with food and which were made for after-dinner sipping. Much appreciated.
Onto the tots…
Combining Far East ingredients like toasted sesame and peanut with crispy potatoes seems like a no-brainer; though, I don’t believe I’ve spotted Asian tots anywhere nearby. What a freakin’ flavor bomb. Each crackly round was elegantly drizzled with a nutty peanut sauce, speckled with sesame seeds and steamed edamame, and decorated with shredded cabbage. The sauce was liberally sweet, so I would have loved a savory hit of heat—but the raw jalapeños didn’t do it for me. Personally, I would have opted for pickled jalapeños or a different kind of heat, like a trickle of Gochujang.
However, holy chicken and waffles, Batman! First, I think the plating of this dish deserves some serious recognition. Nearly every time I’ve ordered the sweet-and-salty combo, it’s a pile of fried chicken on top of a waffle. I usually end up separating the two or transforming the dish into something that resembles an explosion. Rumcow dishes out their Nashville fried chicken and waffles as a sandwich. It’s ideal for sharing between two (hungry) people, and enclosing the fried chicken between two waffle triangles made for a handheld I didn’t need (and didn’t want) to put down. The Sriracha hot honey was like the sassy sister to traditional syrup, and the maple butter was absolutely addicting. Most important, the succulent chicken pieces were well-seasoned and juicy, and the waffle was impeccably crisp and fluffy all at once.
After reviewing the menu ahead of time, I was rooting for the pork-belly naan pockets. Once we decided to throw a burger into a feast, though, I swapped in a lighter-sounding shareable: blackened shrimp toast. The concept is fairly straightforward: a spin on avocado toast. The goat cheese guacamole mousse was easily the star: creamy, tangy, smooth as silk. The shrimp were generously sized, plump, and had some gentle back-of-the-throat sparks from cayenne. The dish’s description was described with “Easter radish and micro basil,” but I spied shredded red cabbage and cilantro. I still got the floral notes and crunch I wanted, but I’d steer clear of putting super seasonal ingredients on any menu, as foodie snobs might take note of what’s missing and feel disappointed.
The Rumcow Burger was under the “Not to Share” category, but after all of those small plates, I had very small pants. Though I didn’t ask what types of meat went into the burger mixture, I was certain I was tasting a superior, high-fat blend (exactly what I wanted). My preferred medium-rare temp was leaning a bit more toward rare, but I was totally cool with it. It was a superior patty served on a fluffy brioche bun, with artisanal fusion of toppings—crispy prosciutto, smoky housemade bacon aioli, arugula peach rum chutney (the latter which they use in a cocktail BTW).
The burger was so satisfying that the fries could have absolutely sucked. They were, instead, one of the highlights of my entire meal. Double beer-battered, sizzling hot, and with a cloud-like fluffiness at the core.
I would go back for the fries and Mai Tai alone. But I know I’ll be bellying up to Rumcow’s like Frasier Crane at Cheers. Prepare to know my name, Rumcow.