Bar Beat: Mo Daddy’s

You have to give Mo Daddy’s credit for going for something different: In a city full of restaurants and bars, they’re going for the feel of an old-school blues joint.

Blues night: Regular Mo Daddy’s band The Js during a recent performance at the blues-inspired downtown bar. Photo by Jonathan Welch

This is pretty obvious from the renditions of blues greats like Son House and Willie Dixon that line the walls of the Asheville establishment. After 10 p.m. each night, there’s live music (and pretty good music, at that, during the particular night Bar Beat visited).

The drink options (a list that’s being revamped for winter) reflect this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a corn-whiskey martini, but Mo Daddy’s makes an excellent one with Georgia Moon. Crisp, tasty and with a definite kick. Served in the eponymous glass, it’s an interesting way of merging a traditionally “low culture” whiskey with some swank class.

The other drinks impressed similarly. The Harissa Bloody Mary is spicy enough to feel in the nostrils, and they’re wise enough to use the luscious Vya vermouth—which lacks the repellent aftertaste of its lesser brethren—in a classic like the Manhattan.

The bartender, Laura, proved inventive: Asked simply to concoct a “winter drink,” she returned with a variation on the Hot Toddy that is one of the best tea-based cocktails seen in a long time—combining black tea with a stick of cinnamon, a twist of lemon rind and bourbon.

Mo Daddy’s decor is red—a lot of red—with a square of posh red leather couches in the corner that proved the perfect place to people watch and enjoy the beverages. The food complemented the taste well. I’ve had plenty of both fried chicken and waffles in my life, but never together. Both are done perfectly here—and make a better late-night snack than I would have first anticipated.

In a break between ferociously played songs by The Js (Mo Daddy’s Wednesday-night band), one bargoer suddenly exclaimed, “It’s true! A new haircut can make all the difference!” and banged his hand on the surface of the bar. The other people resumed their conversations before music filled the air again.

Mo Daddy’s is located at 77 Biltmore Ave. For more information call 258-1550. Smoking allowed.

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