Wide Open Bluegrass is back this Friday & Saturday with banjos and barbecue in tow! What goes better with the twangs and tunes of this international festival better than some good ol' bourbon? Step out of the free weekend-long streetfest to drink up some whiskey nearby at these downtown Raleigh joints!
Aptly named, Whiskey Kitchen boasts over 200 varieties of whiskey from the familiar Jim Beam bourbons to the rare-cask scotches of the Highlands. Previously a garage, the lofty space is lined with benches and picnic tables and a bar that stretches from the entrance to a cozy book-shelved alcove. Behind the bar, the vast display of whiskey lines the wall like trophies in a display case drawing your eyes upwards to the sky light and the string lights that lead you to the outdoor patio space. It is not hard to see that the kitchen is just as impressive as its whiskey counterpart, as small plates of cracklin' biscuits pass you by. If you want to tuck in into heftier Southern fare, try the fried skate sandwich or smoked beef ribs.
201 W Martin Street
Dram & Draught
A quick rickshaw ride away from the streetfest, Dram & Draught is a former auto garage turned neighborhood whiskey bar (total coincidence - I swear). This private club also has a vast library of whiskey within its intimate industrial space, and the patio sits conveniently across the street from Chargrill and Snoopy's if you're looking for a quick bite. The selection of whiskey allows for themed flights such as the "Konnichiwa Flight" - an assortment of Japanese whiskies - and a trio of Johnnie Walker called "Here's Johnnie." If you want to mix it up, the cocktail menu changes by the season and food trucks are regularly onsite. With live music on Fridays, and its knowledgeable and attentive bartenders, Dram & Draught can easily become your home bar away from home.
623 Hillsborough Street
The Blind Barbour
Further away from the busy center of downtown is a little known secret that is the Blind Barbour. It's another neighborhood bar that keeps a high count of whiskey and regular bourbon tastings. Its location is unassuming within a suburban strip mall but its signature set of whiskey-themed cocktails will never let you forget it. The B.O.B. (Bourbon over Bourbon) pairs Evan William's and Baker's with bitter and orange accents, while The Crooked Agent cocktail is a bourbon twist of a Moscow Mule with strawberry preserves. The rustic interior, live strings, and warm barkeeps will make you feel welcome and that you haven't strayed far from the bluegrass downtown.
3055 Medlin Drive
Rye Bar and Southern Kitchen
Rye Bar and Southern Kitchen is in the midst of Wide Open Bluegrass and is welcoming its attendees with a "Bluegrass Blueplate" special for breakfast and dinner for less than the price of a mint julep. Rye pushes a North Carolina-heavy beer menu to compliment their whiskey in the form of bourbon-themed "beertails." The bourbon cherry lemonade "beertail" is a shot of Jim Beam bourbon in Red Oak Amber Ale, while you can taste the Kentucky-favorite Woodford Reserve in a blackberry smash or the barrel-aged Manhattan cocktails. Sponge that 43% ABV with their BBQ shrimp and grits or the Southern Fried Turkey Burger.
500 Fayetteville Street
Just around the corner from Armadillo Grill, pair a cigar with the new weekly whiskey at Havana Deluxe. Havana Deluxe is the last cigar bar and lounge in downtown Raleigh. The smoky imported cigars match their infinite selection of fine whiskey during monthly tastings on Wednesdays. Spacious, quiet, and with leather furnishings sprawled throughout this space, it's a perfect place to wind down after a long wild weekend on Fayetteville Street. If you're lucky, you can top off your bluegrass festival weekend with the Sunday Funday meat roasts and watch the game on the big screen.
437 Glenwood Avenue
Written by Renee Baker
Renee is sit-down comedienne and event photographer when she's not at her day job. While it doesn't pay the bills, her talents are an excuse to day drink craft brews on rooftops, get into festivals on Fayetteville Street, and general gallivanting. Outdoors she's usually seen with her default date: her dog Max, scoping out a spot to people watch and heckle passersby. Her mother says the two worst things you can give her indoors are a drink and a mic.