The tobacco-toasted sky waned in the west through the small glimpse of evening between downtown buildings. Freezing December gales crept around street corners like criminals, stealing through warm coats. It’s a strange walk we do in winter, one with chins tucked down into our collars, eyes fixed statically on the sidewalks in mindless concentration, hoping to meditate our bodies out of the cold. My hands found the massive gold revolving doors of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel and the cold was exchanged for a gust of warm air. Suddenly, I could forget where I was. What city is this again? What time and what place?
The Katharine Brasserie & Bar rests on the ground floor of the Cardinal hotel on Main Street in Winston-Salem. Named after the wife of tobacco pioneer RJ Reynolds, the Katharine is beneath 20 floors of the historic Reynolds Building, built in 1929, but renovated in 2016 into a hotel, office spaces and condos.
Every minute detail of the restaurant’s interior benefited from close attention in its design. From the detailed patterns on the tiled floor and floor-to-ceiling windows to the steel-top bar and dark wooded liquor shelves, the bar at the Katharine luxuriates in classic French style, while still holding a modern, industrial vibe.
Walking down the marble steps into the sunken bar, there is a clear sensation of being transported through time and into a restaurant that seems unlikely to exist in the Triad. And yet, even though the elegant room is enough to make you feel high class for an evening, it is not as far away as it seems.[pullquote]To see full menus or make reservations, visit katharinebrasserie.com.[/pullquote]
Much thought went into the cocktail and dinner menus, with items such as steak tartare, baked escargot, Pâté Grand-Mère and Cotelette De Porc emphasizing the restaurant’s classic French pedigree.
Yet while it might be easy to become overwhelmed by the vintage elegance of the restaurant, one can take solace in the brasserie aspect of the bar. Modeled on the traditional French bar, a vast array of bourbons, scotches, vodkas and gins allow for the Katharine’s signature and classic drinks to become something beyond the ordinary. The view from the bar allows diners a close-up of mixology as the bartenders shake and stir.
The suggestion of a rye Manhattan from the bartender pushed the coldness from my bones for a short while. The openness and quite atmosphere make for a perfectly contemplative evening over a drink – a scene most fitting for a bar such as this.
There is much to be admired for the Katharine’s reaching for unique dishes, including their raw bar situated at the end of the bar. Dishes such as Le Grand Plat Katharine, complete with 1/2 Maine lobster, oysters, jumbo shrimp and snow crab claws heighten this feature of the restaurant.
A last view from the bar give a grand visage of the downtown streets just through the windows. A quick look at passersby or a gaze at the evening sky are all seen from a seat at the bar. Unlike many establishments, the room is a fresh change for diners in the Triad. Truly a clean, well-lighted place, the bar at the Katharine is not far from the art-deco, vintage restaurants one might have always wished to go. But now, such a destination is much closer at hand. The ability to transport guests and customers into a new and different world is something truly remarkable. To walk in from the sidewalk and to be transported into an entirely new experience is a quality coveted by restaurants and hotels alike. To enter a new realm of dining experience is something in high demand, and it is here that the Katharine succeeds.