Tavern is an overused word in bar parlance, but Asheville’s Smokey Tavern (or just Smokey’s, to regulars) seems to fit the bill. Its got a small, cozy entrance (you’ll miss it if you’re not looking) and an admirably cavernous interior. At present, there’s a slew of Halloween decorations up and a Nixon mask back behind the bar. Smokey’s is a GLBT-friendly bar, so rainbow-colored pride stickers are a presence throughout the joint.
During a recent visit, Smokey’s lived up to its name, as many people at the bar lit up repeatedly while sitting down. Most of them were enjoying a beer, but the margaritas and gin and tonics were flowing as well.
For good reason, too. Despite the reputation of taverns, pubs, and what have you, Smokey’s bartender manages a good mixed drink for a decent price. A Bombay gin and tonic runs $6, about average for Asheville, while the Tuesday special—$3 Long Island Ice Teas—is an outright bargain.
Yes, you read that right, Long Island Ice Teas for $3. Now, bars doing specials on LITs aren’t anything too unusual—people tend to buy them up because they’re a tasty way to get tipsy on the quick. But for that price, quality usually tends to suffer.
Not so here. The Long Island was presented in a tall, frosted glass with a lemon perfectly poised on the rim, and the liquors were mixed just right.
There are pool tables in the back for those of the game-playing variety, but the conversation elsewhere in the bar is also entertaining. Expect to be genially approached by several bar-goers. It’s a multigenerational crowd, including long-time Asheville residents and people visiting from outside of the area, and the conversation is friendly. Topics (at least in my experience) ranged from literature to the accent differences between and within North and South.
Smokey Tavern is located at 18 Broadway. Call 253-2155 for more information. Smoking is permitted all the time.