Whether you work in the service industry or have long hung up your apron, you've built a roster of bars you frequent and suddenly know nearly everyone in town. Which is what makes our local watering holes great. But when you'd like to get a drink with a new romantic partner, Tinder match, or old flame, you don't necessarily want to introduce them to half the bartenders working downtown. Here are some spots in Raleigh and Durham to hit up if you're looking to keep a low profile.
Want a throwback to those college-day feelings? Cozy up in a wooden booth at Mitch's Tavern and order a bowl of black bean chili. Then peruse the very decent (and very affordable) beer selection. Ask about the daily drink special ($3 highballs, anyone?). The service is quick and attentive, and the food is delicious (and, again, affordable). Bordering N.C. State's campus, expect the hustle and bustle of a college-aged crowd. It's your spot if you're looking to keep it casual, grab some drinks or snacks, and catch news and sports highlights.
Located in the Warehouse District, this is the place to play pool and show off your skills (or learn them). With multiple pool tables (including a tournament size), it's easy to snag one on the weekdays. But if you have to wait, or pool isn't your thing, this is still a great bar for a little one-on-one conversation with your date. There are several couches to slip into, and a cozy corner out on the patio, with heat lamps in the winter. Bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, with a decent house cocktail list and an extensive beer list.
Tucked away in Charter Square on Fayetteville Street, this is an easy craft cocktail bar to forget about, but not one to miss. The ambience is cool, with the décor and soundtrack lending itself to a vibe landing somewhere between modern and Victorian with a spin of hip-hop. You can find $12 craft cocktails—or slightly cheaper classic cocktails, and punch bowls, which are great for a double date, recommended for three to five people. Drinks are served in lovely glassware, and if you go in late afternoon, the light in the space is gorgeous. And the bartender might even hand you a coupe glass full of goldfish crackers.
SKYE Tower Restaurant & Bar (at The Holiday Inn)
OK, so it's a hotel bar (and not a fancy hotel bar), but it does offer one of the most amazing views of the city from above, stiff drinks, and anonymity. If you're looking to catch up with your BFF or partner and not be interrupted by music, friends, or TV, this is the spot. Sure, some of the food is overpriced, and the lighting is a bit high, but none of that matters when you watch the sun set while sipping on a boozy martini. And the bar offers a bowl of house-made pub chips that's hard to put down.
Watts & Ward
Yet another basement cocktail bar, sure. But walking into this one feels more like stepping onto a movie set or back in time. It is a labyrinth of rooms with several bars positioned throughout, jazz notes stretching through the speakers. Grab a pour of your favorite spirit, your date's hand, and wind your way through the nooks and crannies until you find a room to get lost in. Think: leather couches, velvet armchairs, pianos, low lighting. The prices are on the high end, but if sipping scotch in the library room with good conversation is your thing, don't miss it.
Green Room has it all: quick, not-too-chatty bartenders, a large bottle selection, and an array of activities, whether you choose to partake or not. The large half-circle booth tucked in the front corner is a great place to sit and chat. If the conversation gets weird or boring, or you just want to do something other than looking attentive, play darts and pool. Most nights it's not too crowded, unless it's league night, in which case all the tables are full and the regulars don't have time to wait for your cute/awkward/terrible pool game to end.
A No. 1 spot for dates or girls' nights. The staff is over-the-moon hospitable and pleasant and the solid drinks are cheap. This is definitely the kind of place to take someone if you want to show off a "hidden Durham gem" (all the cool kids already know about 106 Main) and also want to get to know each other. Comfy booths ensure it doesn't get too rowdy. When it's warm enough to sit out front, it's a great place for people-watching.
Simply put, the Tavern is fun. It's usually pretty popular for the forty-to-fifty-year-old crowd and Dukies. The drink list is jam-packed with cocktails and shooters that'll lead to super endearing tales of college (even if reflecting on your first Blue Motorcycle makes you nauseous).
Ponysaurus's sprawling patio allows for finding a faraway table to chat unbothered. Good beer and wine are reasonably priced. There are often cute dogs to pet and young children to laugh at as they stumble across the grass. Food trucks frequent the lot, too. Stop in on a Tuesday evening for Chirba Chirba and a couple of pale ale pints, plus all the Swedish fish and Whoppers you could ask for at the bar, at just one dollar a scoop.