Bar Beat: Charlotte Street Grill & Pub

Go to the Charlotte Street Grill & Pub on a weeknight, just late enough, and you will find a snapshot of our fair city. The scene on a recent visit: A couple is seated in a booth, eating and drinking; three friends are at a nearby table, holding an intellectual conversation; waiters are coming in after work; and at the bar, people are huddled over their drinks in a scene straight out of a British pub.

photo by Steve Talevi

It’s not raucous, but it’s not exactly sedate. A bearded man is exclaiming at his somewhat sheepish drinking partner: “No, you don’t understand, if I had another shot of Jägermeister [the special on Wednesday], I’d fall over! But it will wake you up. You’ll see!” The woman sitting opposite him blushes and can’t seem to stop giggling.

It’s fitting that one of Asheville’s oldest bars seems to sum up the city so well. Here you can find almost all walks of life, all ages (over 21, that is), all types of subcultures. It’s hard to imagine anyone feeling out of place there.

You want darts or pool? They’ve got it. Food? Everything from full-out meals to bar munchies (the fried mushrooms are a favorite, if nigh-scaldingly hot at first). There are veggie dishes, meat dishes and some oddities (grit cakes, for example) thrown in for good measure. (What’s more, food service continues until last call.)

The drinks are similarly diverse: everything from the simple to the ornate, and the bar-goers seem equally comfortable sipping on concoctions like extra-dirty, extra-dry martinis or the Zipper Head (Chambord, vodka and Sprite layered just right) as they do downing pints of Guinness.

The prices won’t bust the budget, and the bartenders are friendly and capable, if sometimes rushed by the sheer amount of people who can come in later in the evening.

The decor is all atmosphere: dark-wood paneling, stained-glass lamps, table surfaces rough from name after name carved into them. The location (157 Charolotte St.) housed Asheville’s first drug store in 1920 and has been a bar ever since 1976 (the same kitchen serves the restaurant above the pub). Assorted historical memorabilia lines the walls, with women in long black dresses and men bearing handlebar mustaches looking out onto today’s revelers.

Only two oddly intrusive televisions—one large, one small—might break the mood for some patrons. Otherwise, Charlotte Street Pub & Grill remains true to the form it’s maintained for decades: no gimmicks, no pretensions—just a damn good bar.

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