A Winston-Salem Primer

(Author’s Note: a travel magazine asked me to write this piece, then rejected it. They dictated the format, the title of the four sections, and so forth, all to no avail. “Notes From A Local” is literally me quoting a friend’s text message. I think this article turned out okay – not amazing, but okay – although I’m not quite sure what they were looking for)

A Winston-Salem Primer


Guide Section

NAME: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

SEASON: Late Spring/Early Summer

IDEAL CONDITIONS: Weekends, preferably

LODGING RECOMMENDATIONS: Summit Street Bed & Breakfast; a friend’s couch; your car

INGESTIBLES: coffee and gelato (Caffe Prada), shrimp and grits (Mozelle’s), beer, wine
While not nearly as well known as some other North Carolina cities, I would say I’ve had as much fun partying in Winston-Salem as anywhere. It was recently rated by Forbes magazine as the #2 downtown in all of America, which validates my theory that it’s a secret on the brink of exploding.

Naturally then, downtown is where you start. Foothills Brewery on 4th Street is the recommended point of entry. If in season, Sexual Chocolate is a noteworthy pint, although any of their 17 selections will impress, particularly Hoppyum IPA. I would suggest downing a few before dipping back for a peek behind the scenes, as brewmaster Jamie encourages folks to chat him up, and you can grab a 64oz growler to go.

Recreations Billiards, just up the street, has been around since 1947 with good reason. They offer an astounding 108 beer selections, and manage to feel part mobster hangout on ground level, part modern hipster dive in the basement. Plenty of felt here for the pool enthusiast, live music on weekends, and no shortage of eye candy.

Also on 4th, Imbibe magazine recently rated Tate’s craft cocktail lounge one of the South’s Top 100 Places To Drink. Enjoy a martini on the front patio, fashioned from their homemade sweet vermouth, or try a citrus-y signature drink whipped up from fresh fruit squeezed daily – no bottled syrups here – all at a price you’d pay elsewhere for unimaginative well mixes. Reaching further for that upscale, metropolitan feel, a divine appetizer platter, be it a signature cheese or antipasto, provides some substance to avoid collapsing in the street.

If it’s the 1st Friday of the month, then stagger your way through Gallery Hop, a district loop with plenty of wine handy to keep you squinting at artwork. Otherwise, fear not, for there’s always some festival revolving around slight variations of this theme. The Salute! Wine Celebration rocks downtown in early summer, with cooking demos, food pairings by local chefs, and plenty of vino, while the Twin City Taps Beer Fest brings local craft and home brewers out every August. In between, head to Tanglewood Park for NC Wine Fest, a weekend dedicated to live music and more than 30 region wineries, and, of course, should you feel the urge to tap your inner drunken hillbilly, Twin City Rib Fest awaits in the midst of such madness.

I could go on (Rock The Block, etc) but aside from stumbling up 4th Street and/or attending downtown festivals, other options abound:
– I briefly dated a girl from Winston. She was ultimately not a keeper, but the venue picked for our first night out, 6th And Vine, was worth filing under the brim. Intimate seating, of both indoors and courtyard variety, are serviced by extremely knowledgeable yet unpretentious staff who can pick out exactly what your vibe is from a huge wine menu.

-Rustle up a fistful of homies and rent a luxury suite at a Winston-Salem Dash game, the local minor league baseball affiliate. Good fun and a great change of pace for getting sloshed on a budget.

-Though requiring you know a membership packing native, either Break Time Billiards location broadcasts every sporting event known to man on wide screen televisions, has oceans of tables, darts, and a healthy brewskie selection

Notes From A Local

District Roof Top is a pretty cool place to eat and drink. Try Johnny And June’s Ultra Saloon (crazy ass country bar, foam party) or Single Brothers Whiskey Bar (name says it all). Old Winston Social Club has the best overall tavern feel. That’s my spot.

Firsthand Fiasco

Though generally sensible enough these days not to get thoroughly blasted, one evening awhile back I managed to personally derail an anniversary party with some out of character antics, in Winston-Salem.

The mix-n-match sixer I ingest before we even hit downtown, picked up earlier at a small market, doesn‘t hurt. Still daylight, we start at some quaint patio restaurant in a residential neighborhood near downtown. I remember scarfing down some amazing spinach n’ artichoke dip on an otherwise empty stomach as we kick off ceremonies here with a wine tasting.

Matters begin getting cloudy as we’re leaving, and our party piles into two vehicles bound for downtown. We pull into Silver Moon Saloon – this great, funky, standalone building I’ve frequented before – and find the fenced in back patio, grabbing a table. We order our first round, yet the instant it’s delivered, I pass out face down on said table.

Attempts at reviving me prove unsuccessful. Two buddies carry me to the Flex, where I’m thrown in back, and though it’s never explained to me why this spelled our festivities’ end, I’m forever held responsible for ruining this soiree. The guests of honor, sadly the two most sober, are forced to retrieve my car from the first spot. Everyone else piles into the Flex and heads home. I recall none of this, waking up the next morning in a spare bedroom. Ill tempers abound.

The Verdict

I’ve yet to find a great dance club, but Winston has everything else, cheaply and in close proximity. A fantastic party Mecca.