For most craft beer drinkers in Charlotte, mentioning the Duckworth’s brand conjures images of hand-cut fries and Philly cheesesteaks, all topped off with an extensive beer selection. After my trip to their newest concept, The Cellar at Duckworth’s, I’m prepared to associate several more words with the Duckworth’s brand: intoxicating ambiance, impeccably crafted cocktails, and delectable small plate dishes.
This isn’t a hallucination; I didn’t fall down the stairs and hit my head on my way to the Cellar, nor did I arrive at the wrong address. This new concept is honestly stunning.
Located underneath the existing Uptown location (330 North Tryon), the Cellar couldn’t be any more different than its upstairs neighbor. Gone are the bright lights, dizzying array of draft options, and small army of televisions. Instead you’ll be bathed in the warm orange glow of Edison-style bulbs, twenty taps pouring nothing but the best craft beer available, and not a single television in sight. If not for the drinks menu being on an iPad, one could lose all track of the era.
I could write an entire column on the one-two punch of the massive 32-ounce Tomahawk rib eye paired to perfection with the Manhattan-inspired cocktail East Village. Rotating cocktails are reasonably priced as well, ranging from $11-13 with a majority in the median. The iPad menus allow potential imbibers to carefully research their options; just clicking a beverage’s name provides a deeper description of the offering.
Interesting: the mad scientists behind the bar are shifting away from smoking hickory chips in their delectable Where There’s Smoke peach margarita, and are currently experimenting with whole-leaf hop cones. “The one pain I have now is I’m running through screens on my smoking gun,” quips bar manager Ron Oleksa.
Of note are the artisanal cheese and charcuterie selections. The Serrano ham melted on my tongue, the Bayley Hazen Blue exhilarated my senses, and the texture of the 26-month-aged Gouda fascinated. Of special note are the accoutrements, specifically crostini constructed from spent grain leftover from NoDa Brewery’s beer-making.
Steaks are cooked to perfection in a Vulcan broiler at 1800 degrees for a deliciously charred exterior. Roasted oysters get the same treatment and arrive dressed to impress with butter and Pecorino. Don’t get me started on the addictively delectable truffle macaroni and cheese.
Sadly, not every facet of the Cellar is completely ready. The beer engine will be fully operational at the grand opening, but the Cellar’s jaw-dropping bottle selection will debut another month beyond. You’re more than welcome to peruse the eventually-available bottles now on the iPad menus, just beware of that empty ache that results from not being able to enjoy them just yet. Currently, the bottle list is over 150 labels strong and growing, and is potent enough to make the most jaded beer geek weep.
While the upstairs offers promotional pricing on most drafts every Monday and Wednesday, don’t expect the same in the Cellar. Should these coveted beers have been poured upstairs, they’d be ineligible for promotional pricing regardless. Beer Club members, leave those cards at home too; the powers that be wisely wish to promote the beer selection as a whole, and discourage ordering simply for credit-chasing purposes.
Useless trivia: the cold room housing all kegs is located on the top floor of the Duckworth’s space, with liquid travelling through 180 feet of beer lines to reach the Cellar’s faucets.
When this Cellar concept was announced months ago, I was optimistic yet nervous. Could a company known for quality bar food pull off an upscale dining experience? I’m pleased to report that my nerves were for naught. The Cellar will appeal to anyone who enjoys fine beer, cocktails, food, and service, all wrapped in a charming timeless package.
The Cellar at Duckworth’s will open to the public on July 20th. Regular operations will be every day from 5pm until 2am, with a limited food menu after 11.