Two new bars, both former staples of local mayhem, have snuck onto the scene quietly.
Peccadillo (www.peccadillo.us) in Carrboro is a tiny bar down Brewer Lane off Franklin Street, just before the train tracks. With no sign, its metal door bears a "100A" stamped in stencil and formerly opened directly into clamorous live music shows at Go! Studios and later the Reservoir. Both were intimate venues, places where you'd stand swaying side by side with a stranger who, by the end of the night, would be your favorite new drinking buddy.
Now the heavy door reveals a soft, orange glow and a bare-bones bar void of its former stage, loft and pool tables. Timothy Neill, Peccadillo's owner, gutted the place in May and, by word of mouth, opened in December.
In black, rusted red and Brazilian cherry wood, a 14-foot-long table and 22-foot-long bar provide the base for a new drinking hole evoking a casual, European vibe. No fancy cocktails grace the menu. There are only three—martini, manhattan, negroni—all of which Neill and his bartenders execute impeccably. The manhattan offers a quick pyrotechnics show: Neill pinches a sliver of orange zest over a cigarette lighter, engulfing the juice in flames for a quick second before the rind hits the cocktail. "We flame the twist," he says, "because it sits further back on your palate that way. There is a vibrancy without the flame twist, but the twist calms the drink and binds the ingredients."
A simple menu offers six types of quality whiskey, four vodkas, three gin and rum offerings and two tequilas. Neill pours "oodles of vermouth," using only bottles that are literally hours old so as not to become sour or bitter. "You're tarnishing a lot of liquor if you use spoiled vermouth, a lot of good gin."
Peccadillo, meaning "small sin," offers a short but impressive wine list, in glasses and bottles. (I found a Portuguese reserva I rarely see elsewhere.) No juices are used and the necessary ginger ale, tonic, soda water and Coca-Cola all come out of bottles.
And you can still stumble into your new favorite drinking buddy in the tight quarters. Neill, who grew up in New Zealand and started working in pubs at age 18, says, "We like people to have a good time and to get rowdy."
In Chapel Hill, the former jazz-night and hip dance-party haunt that was Henry's and, later, Fuse has been taken over by local brother-sister duo Nick and Annie Williams as The Standard (on Facebook: is.gd/TheStandard). Nick, who worked at Henry's previously, teamed up with Chef Ryan Coombs to create a pizza bistro menu that beckons to be savored.
A favorite is the Huevos y Pollo, a fresh, zesty, 10-inch pizza topped with grilled chicken, corn, arugula and fried egg. Eight small slices for $9.95 make it a great meal for two or three people. Coombs, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, interned at Acme Food and Beverage, as evident in his commitment to local, fresh, innovative ingredients. Citrus and cashews spruce up salads; lime and basil awaken a fried chicken breast sandwich. The pistachio fritters—fried balls of Yukon potato drizzled with a pistachio cream sauce—are a must-try, along with the homemade black garlic aioli.
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