Best Wine Selection
A Southern Season in Chapel Hill wins the contest in terms of stores that sell wine; Enoteca Vin in Raleigh takes the prize for the selection on their menu. With the explosion of wine appreciation in the Triangle, it's great to know we've got such good access to the stuff.
Fowler's Gourmet in Durham doesn't have the largest selection in the Triangle, but it does have the best. How do we know? When the wine guys have sampled most of the wines and can tell you little something about each one, we get tres impressed. Plus, the go outta their way to get stuff one one else carries. Prices are reasonable, and they also very amenable to opening a bottle for you (provided you pay for it) and loaning you some stemware if you want to enjoy it on their back porch.
Best Retail Beer Selection
The winners in this category are both longtime favorites and won an extraordinary number of votes: Peace Street Market (which people still refer to as the 7-Even) in Raleigh and Sam's Quick Mart in Durham (which other people refer to as the Blue Light because of its cool neon sign, left on top of the building from way back). Chapel Hellions shop at Whole Foods (which some people still refer to as Wellspring). If you can't get the names right, maybe you should cut back on the drinking?
Best Bang For Your Buck
There are many venues in the Triangle that purport to have it all for a low price. But do they really? If getting sand kicked from a makeshift volleyball court by a 21-year-old Eminem wannabe with a shaved chest into your $10 Long Island Iced Tea is entertainment, more power to you. If you're lucky, you'll happen to find yourself at Kings, which is truly the epicenter of Raleigh's rock scene (but of course Durham and Chapel Hill bands are representin' as well). You'll soon realize that this is the best entertainment value in the area, Monday night trivia is extremely popular (cover-free for members), Tuesdays brings "I Like to Watch"--various movies and popcorn, which are more often than not for are mere buck (save the A/V Geek monthly showing when donations are suggested). Recent showings have been everything from a film about swingers, to a tribute to New York Dolls' rock legend Johnny Thunders. Karaoke ($2 for members) comes to town last Thursday of the month. Cover charges are significantly lower than other area nightclubs, save the rare out of town act that demands a tad more moolah.
Entertainment abounds at this venue, recent weeks have had an alternative circus, a ZZ Top cover band (and a damn good one at that), various record label show cases, DJ nights and not to mention the annual Gong Show and Great Cover Up. There are old school video games for those who prefer a solitary outing, pool tables for the more social set, and probably one of the greatest jukeboxes on the planet. So if you're in the mood for a cold and cheap beer ($2 domestic, $3 imports), and there is more lint than change in your pocket, head on down to 424 S. McDowell St. and treat yourself like royalty for a night. Kings Barcade, 424 S. McDowell St., Raleigh. 831-1005. Daily 9 p.m.-2 a.m. .
Sadlack's should be in the history books--and probably is--for its long history as a dive at the corner of Enterprise and Hillsborough streets, right across from N.C. State's Belltower. It's the dive that helped raise musician Ryan Adams, much to its denizens' disdain. In Durham, the Down Under Pub takes the prize: Cheap booze and lotsa locals make it hard to beat. The Cave wins by a hair in Chapel Hill, beating Hell by one vote.
Nestled in the same building as Pam's Farmhouse restaurant on Western Boulevard, The Goat has all the makings of a dive--brick walls, cheap drinks ($2 domestics; $3 microbrews, and $3.50 well liquor drinks), classic rock, and shady characters (a fellow who went by the moniker Captain Ron held court the last time we visited). This is a dive without the slime. Proprietors and veteran Raleigh bartenders Mandy Levy (Pantana's) and Brandon La Roque (Old Bar/Charlie Goodnight's) have gussied up the joint, albeit a small one at that, with mod metal tables, colorful lighting, and icy cold Jagermeister on tap. The crowd can vary from die-hard drinkers, regular folks, college kids, and the ever present hipsters making for a cozy nook to nurse a cocktail, or get absolutely loaded. The Goat, 5111 Western Blvd., Raleigh. 233-4143. Hours 4 p.m.-2 a.m. http://www.thegoatbar.com
Greg Beatty of Woody's in Chapel Hill is our big winner--and the only winner--in this category. It seems that people are unfamiliar with their local bouncers; the only answer we received for Durham's best bouncer was "fuck Durham." Ouch. Get friendly with your doormen. They deserve acknowledgement for their hard work keeping y'all in line. Go Greg! Whoo hoo!
Billy Johnson of Cat's Cradle in Carrboro is our pick for Best Bouncer in the Triangle, and we mean it. At a recent show, Southern Culture on the Skid's bassist Mary Huff got him up on stage to shake it up to their fried and greasy favorite "Eight Piece Box," and this beautiful giant mega-man had the women dripping off of him (and a few in the audience wanting to bounce on stage, too)!
Oh, but we mean the other kind of bouncing, too ... Of all the times we've seen anyone getting "bounced" from a live music venue, it's never been with more pleasure than watching Billy doing his thang. The overly rowdy never stand a chance, and many don't even bother putting up a fight. If you've seen Billy, you probably know, there is little anyone could do in that position. He means business, in everything he does.
And when you're lucky enough to be on his good side, you know that his heart is just as big as his million-watt smile. There are an awful lot of things about Billy that are the Best in the Triangle.