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Music-Minded Meet in Jackson Ward

Shari Barnes, the upstairs bartender during the weekend DJ dances, tosses off a “Hey, how ya doin’?” as newcomers stop in. Margaret Epps, a former journalism graduate student at the American University of Cairo and a Peace Corps veteran, smiles from her stool, her arms covered with beautiful Bedouin silver bracelets. Behind the bar, manager Sandra Nicholson puts down her chicken wings to serve up the vodka and suds and offer a simple menu of burgers, sandwiches and entrée platters. The list is pretty straightforward, with fish (fried or baked) and pork-chop dinners with side veggies running $7.50. Nicholson recommends the wing-dings, which she notes are Crossroads’ best sellers.

Soon the talk turns to the Thursday open-mic nights that have been a staple at the bar in recent times. Lamont Menefield, guitarist in the house band that backs those Tyrone Davis and Aretha Franklin hopefuls, says, “Everybody has a good time, even the ones that try. We always tell ‘em. ‘It’s not the Apollo.’”

A few stools down the bar, a DJ named Bigge E agrees. “There’s people that don’t know how to sing, people that develop themselves into a decent vocalist over the years.” Plus, he adds, “The later it gets, the better it gets.”

Bigge E drives from Chesterfield to host one of the upstairs weekend DJ sessions from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. He plays oldies and Top-40. Mike C also mans an upstairs weekend DJ slot, and he features urban and hip-hop sounds. With a dance scene upstairs and live jazz and rhythm and blues downstairs on the weekends, all agree Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights can get hectic. They also agree that the Crossroads offers something for anyone 25 and older, as long as you keep a mature attitude.

“I been a lot of places,” Mike C concludes. “Here, it’s a family.” — Ames Arnold

The Crossroads Restaurant, 217 W. Clay St., offers live jazz and R&B and recorded dance music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Thursday is open-mic night. Cover for all entertainment is $5. Times of entertainment and operation vary. For details call 643-2060.

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