It would be easy to miss it. Enter the recently opened S&W Steak & Wine restaurant after 10 p.m., and there might be just a few remaining diners on the ground floor winding up their meals. But take a left and go up the old stone stairs, and you’ll find quite a different scene. There is, in fact, a true bar up on the concourse overlooking the dining room, nestled there just right.
The male patrons during a recent week-night visit sport machine-perfect tans, golf shirts and machismo, their female companions also perfectly bronzed.
They don’t seem averse to consuming substantial amounts of alcohol: shots, pilsners and half-empty double Old-Fashioneds are lined down the bar like wounded soldiers on the march, soon to be joined by an advance guard of quickly downed Lemon Drops.
In the middle of their revelry, a man comes over and pats the other four patrons on the back, offering to buy everyone a drink. “Sorry about that,” he says with a wide, white grin. “I act like an obnoxious redneck sometimes.”
No one has any idea what he’s apologizing for.
The view from this spot is splendid: half-moon windows set off by classic stonework overlook Haywood Street and Pritchard Park. The décor is mostly modern, and a piano is off to one side. On Fridays, someone plays it live.
The bartender, who introduces herself as Megan, seems pure cool efficiency. The sidecars are a little on the sweet side, but that is the vogue nowadays, and with drinks like a Black Seal, the S&W has put itself on the short list of places that can make a decent drink with rich, dark rum. The prices on most offerings are reasonable, running $7 to $10 for a high-quality drink.
If one is looking for more classic than current fare, S&W keeps up the proud steakhouse tradition of maintaining an excellent scotch and bourbon selection.
How long does the S&W’s bar stay open? “Until whenever,” Megan says, as she pours Glenlivet, adding that “whenever” is rarely past midnight. This is an after-dinner or pre-late-night spot.
As the crowd files out amidst laughter and stumbling, the voice of Sam Cooke croons from the sound system: “Don’t know much about history … .”
For a few minutes, the bar hangs in near silence as the remaining people finish their drinks and the closing crew goes through the evening’s last motions.
The song ends and a new one begins: “That’s the sound of the men, working on the chain gang. All day long they work so hard … .”
S&W is located at 56 Patton Ave. and opens at 5:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 505-3364.