Digesting the best of Winston-Salem

by Brian Clarey

A chicago dog from Skippy’s, espresso from Krankie’s and the pulled-pork sandwich from Bib’s Downtown. (photos by Brian Clarey)

Bib’s Downtown — runner-up, Best Barbecue (best in Winston-Salem) Krankies Coffee — runner-up, Best Coffee (second to Starbucks), Skippy’s Hot Dogs — runner-up, Best Hot Dog (second to perennial Greensboro favorite Yum-Yum’s Better Ice Cream, best in Winston- Salem) Foothills Brewing — Best Brewery Recreation Billiards — runner-up, Best Place to Shoot Pool (best in Winston-Salem) 6 th & Vine — Best Wine List, Best Wine Bar, Best Lounge The Silver Moon Saloon — runner-up, Best Dive Bar (best of Winston- Salem) The Garage — Best Live Music Venue, Winston-Salem

It`s on bright and balmy days that I miss my office in downtown Winston-Salem most, when drink glasses sweat at the sidewalk cafés and the lofty office buildings let loose a flood of people onto the streets after five, drawn by the promise of spring.

Last week’s Best of the Triad edition brought me back to the days when I worked most of the week at a desk to the rear of the space now known as Single Brothers bar, when on days like that I could blow a whole lunch hour ducking into neighborhood joints for a short sit, a spot of conversation and, sometimes, a sandwich. And in the evenings, when it was time to punch out, it was hard to resist the call of the music, art and other culture that sets a vibe to these downtown streets when the sun gets low.

Last week, after seeing how some of my favorite joints fared in the polling, I made a trip that was long overdue: a drive out to the Camel City with an entire day to burn.

And so it was that I kicked things off at Bib’s Downtown for a barbecue sandwich so beloved by our readers, with white slaw, greens, hush puppies and sweet tea. The sandwich: sublime, with big and tender chunks of pork, the taste of which no sauce could ever improve. And what’s up with those hush pups? Light, airy and peppery… and is that a honey glaze? Yeah, I think it is.

Then it was on to Krankies in the old meatpacking house, where I leisurely sipped a double espresso — second only to Starbucks, according to our readers — and availed myself of the free wi-fi to check e-mails, revise some copy and scratch my Facebook itch in this creative space where so much talent has been expressed it’s seeped into the walls.

It was more of a craving than actual hunger that brought me to Skippy’s Hot Dogs for my second lunch of the day: a Chicago-style frankfurter with the customary accoutrements of banana peppers, pickle spear, tomato wedge, relish, mustard, onion and celery salt tucked into a house-made soft-pretzel roll. Dynamite — and, according to our readers, the only hot dog ever to challenge the stranglehold that Yum-Yum’s Better Ice Cream in Greensboro has had in this category in the history of Best of the Triad polling.

From there, I followed the rich scent of malted barley to Foothills Brewing just down 4 th Street, winner of the Best Brewery readers’ vote, where I told the bartender I wanted a short glass of whatever was making that smell. As I sipped my Seeing Double IPA — got to sip those high-octane beers — I re-established my wi-fi connection and skimmed my incoming messages, then ran into an old friend who made the jump to Winston-Salem from Greensboro late last year.

We did what people do after serendipitous barroom meetings: We moved up the street to Recreation Billiards to shoot the afternoon away at the city’s best pool tables, where I discovered I can still hit a bank shot into the side pocket and decided that I’d be skipping dinner.

I went to 6 th & Vine anyway, on the strength of their showing in this year’s Best of the Triad polling: three first-place awards for best Wine List, Best Lounge and Best Wine Bar. They also may have the best bar menu in the Triad — or, at least, the only one to feature Japanese panko breadcrumbs so promionently.

Then it was the Silver Moon, voted Winston-Salem’s Best Dive Bar and placing second only to Greensboro’s much beloved College Hill Sundries, and then the Garage for a surf-rock show anchored by the Malamondos, then the Silver Moon again, just because.

There were plenty of other downtown Winston-Salem places I could have hit — Finnigan’s Wake, a/perture Cinema, Rana Loca, the Burke Street Pub, Tate’s Bar, Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro and Bob’s Big Gas Subs & Pub all did well in the voting — but I can only do so much in a single day.