Just a few years ago, when I moved to a small pocket neighborhood on the northwestern corner of downtown Greensboro, this area only offered two places to drink. But when a few friends and I meandered past Boston’s House of Jazz one night — a small, almost windowless box of a bar along the corner of the Grasshoppers stadium — and decided to try it out, we immediately gave up when we learned that the club charged a $10 cover.
“You’re kidding, right?” we scoffed. “This is Greensboro. No f***ing way.”
None of us made that much in an hour, and we could take that and buy 10 beers nearby. And that’s what we did.
We spent the next several years at Westerwood Tavern, which as far as we were concerned, served as the lone nightlife venue in the vicinity. The cooler full of expensive craft options hadn’t been installed there yet, and while the bathroom was decidedly more appealing than the alternative at College Hill another 15-minute walk south, I still held my nose every time I entered.
Obviously much has changed since the vacant parking lots along Smith Street became multi-story apartment complexes, Deep Roots Market moved in, and Crafted: The Art of Street Food showed up along with two breweries. Boston’s moved from the periphery into the heart of downtown, and then was displaced again thanks to the planned performing arts center.
The odd building at the corner of Smith and Edgeworth became Local House Bar, a dive whose best quality was a skeeball machine and a deal for a free beer if you scored high enough. One night my girlfriend, sister and I rolled so well that we started offering our winnings to other patrons, unable to keep up ourselves.
That terribly named joint didn’t last long, despite a relative boom in the neighborhood.
With Local House’s closing, Westerwood again became the only place in the area open after midnight — even when Joymongers is jamming on a Saturday night, that place will clear out as if everyone inside is Cinderella racing the clock. Preyer and Crafted naturally seem to quiet down earlier, and the lights go off at the latter before a lot of twentysomethings even have their Friday night outfits picked.
Enter Smith & Edge.
After a drawn-out vacancy at the former Boston’s and Local House digs, signs of life emerged as a cartoonish black & white mural flashed up onto the building’s long side wall. Then, earlier this month, the completely renovated space quietly opened its doors, injecting some energy shortly after baseball season’s end.
Inside, the only thing that makes Smith & Edge recognizable as the same space is the building’s shape and lack of windows on the main walls, which give the bar a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the front and slits in the back wall allow for some external light, but given the lack of adjacent commercial properties, it’s basically an island in the night.
Owner Timothy Smith, who also runs Chakras and Table 16 downtown, redid the bar, extending it to wrap around a corner in the wall. Finished dark wood, metal tables jutting out from the wall, mood lighting and a rather entrancing back bar give the space a copper, glowing hue that suggest this is a place to relax rather than get rowdy. A friend tells me it reminds him of Surf Club in Durham, but it calls to mind a cross section of so many cocktail bars that I can’t put my finger on the closest corollary.
The cocktail menu is limited, at least for now, to six classics, though Smith & Edge adds its own twist to several, including a negroni with gin, Campari and Cynar (rather than vermouth). Beers run from $3 Miller Lite to a $9 draft, but most are in the middle. The back of the drink menu prices out specific liquors and brags a small wine collection, too.
When my friends and I first showed up on a recent Friday around 8:30, we snacked on the pistachios put out in small dishes and commented that not many people seem aware of Smith & Edge yet, noting the slow business.
But that changed around 10, as we realized that couples and friends had trickled in and decided to stick around, posting up where a Golden Tee-type golf game used to stand or at a Last Supper-style table at the back of the room. There were still plenty of open low tables along the sidewall, but there was a jovial mood permeating the place.
After a while we did what used to be impossible in this area and walked to another bar. But when Joymongers closed promptly at midnight and we instinctively knew we weren’t done yet, we walked back.
By then Smith & Edge had quieted down some. A musician and her girlfriend smoked cigs on the small front step. Tim Smith, who’d greeted us earlier in the night before returning to a corner of the bar, had saddled up with a lawyer who lives nearby, and they snacked on pistachios lost in their own conversation until I interrupted.
You don’t have to ask if I liked the bar; after all, I went twice in one night. But I do look forward to Smith & Edge cultivating and honing its own cocktail menu, and hopefully following through on plans to add a fire pit or two outside.
I can afford the cover at Boston’s — now in “Uptown” on the east side — these days, and I’m certainly glad it’s still around. I miss the skeeball and drink specials at Local House Bar once in a while, especially when an out-of-town friend who got drunk there with me asks after it. And while I still go to Westerwood now and then, I’m glad there’s another place open late, another spot with a liquor license, somewhere I can momentarily forget my surroundings and try something new.
Visit Smith & Edge Tuesday-Sunday at 422 N. Edgeworth St. (GSO) or find it on Facebook @smithandedgegso.