by Eric Ginsburg
Greensboro’s new — and only — whiskey bar is the type of place to start out an evening. By 8 p.m., the well-lit space is usually brimming with people, so much so on its second day of operations on a recent Thursday that there was an hour wait for a table and hardly any standing room left around the copper bar.
It can be a little easier to snag a table at 913 Whiskey Bar on a Wednesday, one of the four nights of the week that the joint is open, though the bar itself is an appealing perch to watch the action for parties of two. Through the long main room, which is decorated with shiny metal siding at points and unfinished wood at others, is an expansive back patio, a finely furnished place providing some legroom but that could use a couple heat lamps this season.
The main reason to come here — as I’ve managed to do three times in the two short weeks it has been open — is the whiskey, especially given the six-page list of choices. The options are broken into categories including bourbon, rye and scotch but also Irish whiskey and products from Japan and Canada.
While there aren’t prices next to each item, it’s a relatively safe guess that the older stuff is pricier, though there’s a fairly wide range so it can be worth asking. On a separate cocktail menu, the drinks come with price tags — almost all $10 — and eight of the 11 options include whiskey.
Of those I’ve tried half, preferring the Sparrow the most. The apple-infused Knob Creek with vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks comes served with a slice of apple and seemed stiffer and more even-keeled than some of the others I sampled. One friend compared it to a bourbon-flavored soda.
But despite the selection of whiskey cocktails, with such a vast and unique array of choices on the six-page menu, it seems to make more sense to focus there.
While whiskey may be my favorite liquor, I make no claim to being anything other than a novice. The categorized menu, with a brief description of each whiskey including the proof, age and profile, makes decision-making easier, though the best approach may be bringing a pretentious friend along or asking a bartender.
I had been meaning to try Defiant, a 6-month-old, 92-proof masterpiece made in North Carolina. It’s described as having malt, vanilla and honeyed fruit flavors, but all my palette could tell was that it’s delicious and very smooth. At $8.50 it was easier for my wallet to handle than the fantastic 12-year-old Japanese whiskey Hibiki 12, which is also on the menu. It just depends what you’re going for.
913 Whiskey Bar could also function as a last stop for the evening, though the reasonably priced Southern food that could be an excellent snack is enough for dinner. The shrimp & grits flatbread with bacon and gorgonzola cheese and the whole fried okra are among my early favorites, though there’s nothing quite like the smoked mac & cheese grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork. It’s one of four grilled cheeses on the menu, which also includes salads and small plates such as cornbread sliders with pulled pork and fried chicken.
Sign me up.
Find 913 Whiskey Bar on Facebook or at 913 Chapman St., (GSO) Wednesday-Saturday nights.