It’s taken months longer than expected – it was supposed to open in March. But before Dot Dot Dot, the cocktail lounge in Park Road Shopping Center’s rapidly filling Backlot, officially opens Tuesday, there’s something you need to know:
It’s not a bar. It’s not a restaurant. It’s a private club (they’re calling it “a cocktail parlor”). And that means you need to get a $10 membership to get in.
So save yourself some time right now and go to www.dotdotdotcharlotte.com and sign up, to make it easier.
You’ll be in good company: Owner Conrad Hunter says 1,300 people have already done it. (It’s too soon to say how the age groups are skewing, but he’s noticed at least half have been women.)
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With the preview weekend coming up for media, friends and family, I stopped by Wednesday afternoon and got a look around with Hunter, owner of the Foxcroft Wine Co., partner and drinks genius Stefan Huebner and general manager Stephen Toth, who’s come over from the Ballantyne to run the place.
While I got a look at the first menus, I agreed not to post them yet: The media preview is Friday night and it’s not fair to undercut the competition. Expect classic cocktails in the $12 to $14 range and house creations to run $12 to $18. Food will be small-plates style, from $12 to $15, and covers salads, seafood (fritto misto, oysters, gravlax and barbecue shrimp) and “land” (charcuterie, steak tartare, bone marrow, drunken chicken skewers, pork spiedies and beef kefta).
A few other things I learned:
▪ Why a club? Under Mecklenburg rules, 60 percent of sales have to be from liquor and at least 40 percent from food, or you have to charge a membership and become a private club. Rather than deal with tracking it, Hunter decided to just go the club route from the start.
▪ Where the heck is it? Save yourself frustration: Go into the back of Park Road Shopping Center (past Rocksalt), drive toward the new Midwood Smokehouse (in the white building) and look to your left. It’s in the corner, just under the Flying Biscuit deck. The metal sign will be lit at night, but it’s very understated.
▪ This is not a sports bar. They considered adding a TV – briefly. But the look and the feel of the place are distinctly clubby, and that’s how they want it. “The two Duke/Carolina games a year, we’ll be slow,” Huebner says with a shrug. “Maybe we’ll close for the Super Bowl.”
▪ Whiskey geeks will be happy. Huebner is still getting in bottles, but he’ll open with 400, and 260 or so will be bourbons and single malts. “We’re a puppy with big paws,” he says. “We’ve got room to grow.”
▪ Bourbon geeks will be even happier. The house bourbon is 12-year-old Elijah Craig single barrel. Hunter and Huebner went to Kentucky and bought a barrel. (The barrel may end up in the club, but right now, it’s at Heubner’s home, which smells “like a rickhouse.”) It should last about 9 months, when they’ll get another barrel from another distillery, like Four Roses or Woodford.
▪ The look: A really classy library. Tucked under Park Road Shopping Center in what used to be a storage room, it’s distinctly clubby, with low, coppered tin ceilings, polished wood, leather-bound books and red leather banquettes. Bring a selfie light if you want to Instagram those cocktails.
“We wanted to achieve intimacy,” Hunter says. “You don’t want it so hipster, it’s fake.” So no suspenders and faux-1920s costumes on the servers.
▪ Consider Uber. Parking will be tight, especially in the busy pre-dinner and after-dinner hours. You can’t make reservations, but they’re using an app that will give you a wait time and text you, so you can wander around. Get a bag of popcorn at Blackhawk Hardware and hang out, Huebner suggests: “You can kill an hour in that place, easy.”
▪ The menus will change. There’s no point in posting menus first, because they plan for them to change. Huebner started with a simple focus on classics, he says, to get started, but he plans to break loose once they’re open. Molecular Night in November? Maybe.