There are three things I like in a bar: bartenders in bow ties, moose heads on the walls, and a really perfect Old Fashioned cocktail. So The Crunkleton in downtown Chapel Hill is perfect in every way. When I was a grad student at UNC, this was always the place I liked to grab a drink before or after dinner or a concert. But don’t take my word for it. My favorite bar just turned up in Southern Living’s 2013 list of the Best Bars in the South.
If you’re a bourbon or a whiskey drinker, this place has the best selection in town. But they’re famous for the cocktails. Try the gin-based Elderflower Sour with elderflower liqueur, lime, and cucumber, or the Brandy Crusta with orange and cherry. Or put yourself in the bartender’s hands – the bartender’s choice is never bad. The cocktails will set you back $10-14, but they’re the kind you’ll want to savor, so it’s worth it.
The ambiance is perfect for me – not a dive, but not pretentious. It’s a jeans-and-heels kind of place for gals, a sleeves-up button-down shirt place for guys. The bar runs along one side of the place, and there are boxy booths across from the bar. In the back, there’s a pool table with more high-top tables and chairs. I don’t usually have trouble finding a place to sit or getting served, because I’m usually there fairly early (like 9pm or earlier). If it’s later than 10, it sometimes feels like the entire town is there on Friday and Saturday. Literally. I saw two of my professors hanging out at the other end of the bar once. So strike up a conversation. Who knows? You might be sitting next to a future Nobel Prize winner!
Note: In North Carolina, places that serve only alcohol (not food) are private clubs and require a membership fee. You pay a one-time $5 fee to become a member for a lifetime, and you can bring 3 guests in with you.