The underground cocktail circuit here used to mean crusty old nip joints in Church Hill and downtown, but that was then and this is another now. Bartender Bobby Kruger at Julep's New Southern Cuisine hopes to lead the local charge with a vastly different kind of cocktail circuit — not as clandestine as New York City's members-only Milk and Honey or PDT — which stands for please don't tell — places where you enter through unmarked doors or must reserve a space by phone. Kruger has spent some time pulling shifts at those and other speak-easys to learn about this new movement in mixology.
Now he's bringing some of it to First Fridays at Julep's. The prep time is significant: He makes his own blueberry-thyme jam for a gin cocktail, along with an avocado-coconut emulsion, diffused watermelon sour mix, a muddled lemon, lime and cilantro for margaritas, and soon his own bitters and tonics. Although Julep's is known mostly for its seasonal fine-dining menu and charming, two-level setting, its bar is the next frontier.
“We're going for the people who are looking for something really different,” Kruger says — “people who want to tap into the speak-easy cocktail environment with quality drinks that are unique and homemade with fresh, local ingredients.”
Live music helps the booze do its work. Kurt Crandall and True Story play blues, jazz and swing May 1 at 10 p.m., paired with an art show upstairs by Nicole Gomez featuring paintings and illustrations of historic Richmond buildings. See the Web site for the monthly bar menu, information about a wine dinner May 19 and other tidbits. 1719 E. Franklin St. 377-3968. www.juleps.net.
Making the Case
Deli enthusiasts may have already found it, but much of downtown doesn't realize that Third St. Market and Deli has been open some 15 months at 209 N. Third St. between Grace and Broad, selling Boar's Head soups and meats. Manager Wayne Bryant says the clam chowder, chicken noodle soup and chili are personal favorites, the Reuben is a classic, and the fresh tuna and chicken salads are made daily. “We do the right thing and the prices are right,” he says of the take-out-only business. The market also sells groceries, beer and wine, and is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily except Sunday. 643-0540.
The Track: Not sold, owner Chris Liles says. But cChef Marsha Hyatt and other kitchen staff left after a few months and a new staff and menu are in place. The Carytown restaurant remains open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday at 2915 W. Cary St. 359-4781.
Also open: Ignore the blog postings that portend the imminent demise of Sensi. It's still serving dinner nightly with Paolo Randazzo's usual culinary excellence at 2222 E. Cary St. 648-3463. www.sensirestaurant.com.
Louisiana Flair: Warm beignets make the Style staff swoon. Wednesday mornings only at Fourth and Grace streets. Breakfast and Mon. — Sat. 612-9066.