Beyond chicken and waffles at Snack Bar

by Brian Clarey

The Texas reuben at downtown Greensboro’s Snack Bar sets crumbly brisket on an onion roll that’s been given the garlic-bread treatment. (photo by Brian Clarey)

Downtown Greensboro loves a new restaurant, and there are those who rush to each debut, eager to be the first to spread the skinny about the next big thing.

I generally prefer to bide my time, allowing a new business to work out the kinks in their systems, tweak menus and solidify staff before making my appearance. It’s usually a good policy, but sometimes the months get ahead of you.

That’s what happened to me with Snack Bar, which opened to much fanfare on South Elm Street in March of last year. News of their chicken and waffles, well stocked bar and comely waitstaff spread quickly, yet I didn’t make it through the doors until last week.

Unlike many restaurants wedged into downtown storefronts, Snack Bar is actually smaller than it looks, but smart design makes good use of the space. The kitchen occupies a hidden quadrant of the floor, allowing the bar to nestle at the end of the L-shaped dining room. A banquette, booths and a slim bar top along the long wall give it a respectable seating capacity. And the room shares a color palette — black, white and red all over — with the newspaper you hold in your hands.

The place bills itself as a restaurant and bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and whatever comes afterwards. The menu is essentially bar food, though to leave it at that would be doing it a disservice. This is great, creative and adventurous bar food: sandwiches based on Boars Head meats, a hoard of sharable appetizers, all-day breakfast and Buffalo everything — from wings to shrimp to nuggets; they are one of the few places in town that serves chicken and waffles.

About that: Who doesn’t want a nice plate of chicken and waffles, drizzled with syrup and all mashed together? But because of an unfortunate experience with some fast-food chicken late last year, I am off fried chicken completely. Can’t even look at the stuff. Naturally, wings don’t count.

On a recent visit I veer into the sandwich section of the menu. There are numerous house options and a make-your-own list, but I opt for the Texas reuben, made with beef brisket.

It comes out on an onion roll that has been transmogrified into garlic bread, with lots of melted pepper-jack cheese and carmelized onions. The brisket has been heated so it crumbles like in a cheesesteak, though it has all the seasonings and flavor you’d expect from Texas’ most famous cut. It is delicious, if a bit heavy, but honestly, I’m not here to count calories — which is a good thing, because the sandwich came with about a pound of crinkle-cut, seasoned fries and a cup of Cuban cole slaw.

My server tells me it’s the red cabbage that makes the slaw Cuban; more important to me is evidence that it was made in house.

For a moment., I consider loading my sandwich up with the small cup of slaw, but it’s so good as it comes that I hold back. Ketchup, too, I think, would serve this sandwich well, but I’m too enamored of it to sully it with the Heinz.

All in all, Snack Bar is a solid addition to the downtown scene, and on my next visit I should probably explore the menu some more. But right now, I’m still thinking about that brisket — and also my aversion to fried chicken.

wanna go?

Snack Bar Greensboro 356 S. Elm St. 336.279.1166