Pickled eggs and peanuts are so passé. These bars take traditional pub snacks to transcendent levels.
by Graham Averill
ASHEVILLE, N.C.: Gourmet Chip Co.
Forget Ruffles: Large handmade potato chips are sprinkled with gourmet seasonings and toppings and dished in street-food-style cones in this downtown Asheville snack bar. DRINK: Only local beers in a bottle here: Go with Highland Brewing’s Gaelic Ale, an easy-drinking amber ale from Asheville’s first brewery. SNACK: Try the Nori, lightly fried chips cut from a massive taro root, then sprinkled with seaweed, sesame, cane sugar and sea salt. Dip them in the red chili aioli. TIP: Go on Saturday afternoons, when live, but low-key bluegrass is played from the corner of the shop.
SAN FRANCISCO: Wexler’s
Suits flock to this upscale barbecue joint in San Fran’s Financial District, which serves elegant dishes inspired by Southern ’cue, along with a small but thoughtful beer menu and classic cocktails. DRINK: California brewers dominate the well-curated beer menu. Try the light and crisp Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Summer Solstice in a bottle. SNACK: Wexler’s takes an innovative approach to the Scotch Egg: Instead of the traditional hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, Wexler’s version is soft boiled, wrapped inside a thin layer of tender brisket trimmings, then flash-fried. TIP: The sandwich-heavy lunch menu has become legendary, prompting financial types to line up an hour before opening on weekdays. Show up at 1:30 and you’ll miss the rush.
CHICAGO: Paddy Long’s
The full name of this pub is Paddy Long’s Bacon and Beer Bar, which should tell you everything you need to know. Paddy’s is best known for its monthly beer and bacon tastings: five different cuts of bacon paired with five seasonal craft beers. DRINK: Balance all that bacon with a can of Half Acre Daisy Cutter, or stick with the bar’s Irish theme and order a Guinness on draft. SNACK: So much bacon, so little time. The Bacon Bomb, a quilt of bacon stuffed with four pounds of sausage, may be suicidal, but the Beer Battered Bacon Strips (think French fries, but made from bacon) are just right. TIP: Paddy Long’s is a den of soccer enthusiasm: The management records big matches overnight and shows them the following day. Ask nicely, and they’ll nab even the most obscure soccer or rugby game.