The charming grit of a well-worn local bar definitely has its place. I have spent many an evening reminiscing with old friends over pints of beer in places where the walls and furniture were marked up with carved-in reminders of the endless wild nights the establishment had seen over the years. And while I love those come-as-you-are type pubs, once in a while it can be fun to go a bit posh while Pub Scouting. That is why this week I chose to scout out the Ram’s Head Inn, winner of the A.C. Weekly Nightlife Readers’ Choice Award for Best Swanky Bar.(tncms-asset)47489bfa-0a69-11e7-9d55-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
For the unfamiliar, the Ram’s Head Inn is a historical building of the highest class, standing in the same location since the 1930s. It oozes Colonial charm in a way not unlike The Smithville Inn, but with a noticeable, more old-fashioned stuffiness. Not that it’s a bad thing — in this case it seems to add to the overall elegant charm of the atmosphere.
Upon entering, the smell of apples greets you in the most pleasant of ways. I looked around to find an actual basket full of fresh apples sitting a few feet from the gorgeous fireplace that accents the front room. Little touches such as that are what make a place stand above the rest. Of course, the Ram’s Head Inn stands out in many ways, as one could likely spend an entire afternoon nosing through their extensive collection of books and knickknacks, many of which are elegantly displayed on shelves and in glass cases.
The bar room keeps on the old-fashioned charm with wrought iron trim overhead and a leather-bound bar rail. I came out on a Sunday night for a few drinks and apps, narrowly — and regretfully — missing their happy hour. I had a few friends join me on this outing. We opted to grab the corner of the bar to make conversation easier. One of my main pet peeves at any bar is being forced to navigate a three-person conversation when you are all seated in a row; therefore the corner spot is the ultimate score when it comes to bar-room seat snagging.(tncms-asset)29e78e25-63ae-56db-a396-e0dd72d7d3ee(/tncms-asset)
We ordered up a mix of beers and cocktails, including a Warsteiner — which was a pleasant surprise for a bar having only two taps — along with a gin and tonic and a cranberry margarita. The gin and tonic was heavy on the gin, making for a drink that, while still tasty, was ultimately a bit strong. The cranberry margarita was supposed to be made with cranberry puree, but to be honest, the thinness of this drink made me suspicious. It appeared to just be cranberry juice in the cocktail, but I can’t say for sure, as I was not able to get a good enough look as it was being made. It was flavorful, but lacking inspiration.(tncms-asset)6982e9a8-0836-11e7-9a98-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
We wanted to relax and order some apps with our drinks, but I must admit that the vibe we were getting from the bartender was clearly that they were closing and trying to rush us through. I would be a bit more understanding had this not taken place at about 8 p.m. That’s a bit early to be calling last call, regardless of how fancy you might be. If you are supposed to be open till 9, then be open till 9. Don’t make your customers feel pushed out the door.
Luckily, the food made up for the somewhat-unwelcome vibe in the place. The crab cake appetizer was near perfection with sweet crabmeat and lots of it, and just the right balance of breading and spices. We also shared two salads, one of which had smoked duck alongside greens and tomatoes, while the other contained a mix of pears, greens and a subtle fruited vinaigrette that was wonderful.(tncms-asset)d55154d3-22f1-5042-8889-fa20674a96a2(/tncms-asset)
The cocktail list kept calling my name, so I decided to give it another go, this time opting for their signature cocktail, the Galloway Apple. Made with Crown Royal, hand-pressed apple juice and cranberry juice and garnished with a large apple wheel, this drink lived up to the hype. Flavorful without being overly sweet or sugary, the Galloway Apple made for a perfect after-dinner cocktail.
Musically, there was not much to speak of on this particular evening, but they often have jazz and lounge music here, their Wine down Wednesdays with vocalist Beth Tinnon, who also won an A.C. Weekly Nightlife Award for Best Casino Lounge Act, being particularly popular.
Despite a few bumps in the road, the Ram’s Head Inn made for a quiet sophisticated evening. If you are looking for the perfect place to have a drink with a touch of class, the Ram’s Head is your best bet. Just come early.