South End’s newest speakeasy is now open. Backstage Lounge is located in the back of SouthBound, the California-inspired taco and tequila spot that opened last year at 2433 South Blvd. thanks to partners and investors behind Mac’s Speed Shop. While a number of the same partners are behind the Backstage concept, the public relations representative declined to comment further.
Backstage quietly opened in January, with a series of soft-opening nights.
Backstage can be found by walking through the side door of SouthBound adjacent to the taco stand entryway. You walk down a strip of red carpet, past more artistic murals that the taco joint is known for, and through a small, red-curtained doorway. Pick up the phone at your right, to be connected to the hostess inside.
We missed the part about picking up the phone and knocked on the door instead — amateur mistake.
“Instructions” on how to enter Backstage
The wooden door in front of you will swing open, and you have arrived.
Backstage is an intimate, handsome space with wood and brick walls, red-leather accents and lighting so low it’s hard to scan the menus. The bar is backlit in blue, and amber light glows from lamps on the bar top.
In addition to bar seating, there are about six high-topped tables and six booths, with faux flickering candles on the tables.
The space pays homage to music halls that have closed in town, with signage for Amos’ Southend, The Pterodactyl, the Double Door Inn and others gracing the decor.
Black and white images of classic performers adorn the walls, from an Avett brother, to Jonny Cash, to Jim Morrison. The mirror behind the bar bears the words “Morrison Hotel,” a nod to the fifth studio album released by the Doors. Oldies and rock and roll tunes emanate from the speakers. The vibe is relaxed.
But let’s talk about the drinks here.
Every time you sit down, you are served a small glass of complimentary house punch, which changes frequently, to sip while you scan the menu. The one we tasted was infused with cinnamon, matcha and bitter liqueurs — delicious.
Backstage is a private club, and patrons pay $20 for an annual membership, which allows them to bring up to three guests. There are about 200 members at this time.
Small bites are offered at Backstage, including Cuban bites, fish and chips, mini chili dogs and more. These items range from $10 to $19. Although we didn’t indulge in the food, we recommend trying the charcuterie and cheese board (chef’s weekly offerings) and pork potstickers (crispy pork gyoza, Vietnamese dipping sauce) to start.
Backstage’s Vegetation, Proteins and Carbohydrates
Cocktails ($10 and up) range from classic, to signature, to house barrel-aged. We recommend The Fizzy One ($13), featuring Method, standard strawberry vodka, passionfruit purée, egg white, house-made orgeat and yellow chartreuse.
Backstage’s Signature Variances
There are also wines, mules, pairings, hops and ciders by the glass, some for under $10. (Wine lovers, we recommend The Stag Cab, $15).
The servers and bartenders are chatty and warm — and clearly excited about the space.
One of our servers informed us that they were hosting a Super Bowl party where the large mirror on the back wall turns into a TV. That could lend itself to more parties in the future.
Oh and if you leave to use the bathroom? Exit through a side door that sends you back into SouthBound. Just remember the code you have to punch into the door to get back in.
We know the combination — but we’ll keep that a secret for now.
Backstage is open from about 5 p.m.-2 a.m. (depending on crowds) Wednesday through Sunday. Typically, you’ll be low-key jamming to one of their rock, blues or funk stations of their choosing from Pandora. There is also a DJ spinning vinyl on the weekends, starting at 9 p.m. Thursdays, through the weekend.
Reserve your seat at http://backstageloungeclt.com/.