The first words I heard walking into the North Lounge? "There used to be bras hanging from the ceiling." I've never left my undergarments at an establishment before, but I can appreciate a place that not only accepts but encourages it. The bras are now gone, but I have no reason to think that the North Lounge doesn't still like to party.
Once the site of Mugs, the North Lounge's owner Jeremy Denno has turned the spot into a bad-ass darts bar.
If you're a darts person (I, like many before me, am a darts person after about three beers), this place is incredible. Not only do they host Friday-night dart tournaments every week, but they also have a handful of dart boards that are networked, allowing patrons to play against people worldwide. So the chances are good that at any given moment the North Lounge is open, you can take advantage of some drunk idiot in Singapore, and he can't come fight you afterward. America!
The North Lounge is located at 4396 Old Raleigh LaGrange, which means that one route to get there takes you past the Raleigh Cemetery, aka a part of Rockin' Raleigh that I do not want to see rock. You also have to brave scenic Austin Peay Highway, which might do you good if you really want to know Memphis. We cruised it with the windows down and nicknamed one stretch "The North Memphis All-Smells."
But if you can make it past competing highway odors and a truly frightening cemetery, you are rewarded with delicious cold beer. They do not serve liquor but allow folks to bring their own and pay $3.50 for the set-up. What they lack in liquor they make up for in a wide selection of domestics and Jack Daniels ciders. Bud Selects are currently on special for $1.75 each. I sense they're having trouble ridding themselves of these, as no self-respecting Raleigh citizen would be caught drinking a low-carb beer.
The delightful thing about the North Lounge is its history. At one point, there were in-ground hot tubs in the restrooms. They were finally filled in with concrete in 1998. I suspect health code violations are to blame, which really bums me out. A hot tub in a bar? Imagine the possibilities! The scandals! The buffoonery! The Chandler Parsons Instagram posts! ... The risk of accidental deaths.
Anyway, the hot tubs are a thing of the past, but this place still rules. There's a deejay booth where the walls are just a huge picture of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Near one of the pool tables is a The Color of Money poster, lovingly framed. Album covers plaster the walls. It's also huge. This is the type of place where, when it's packed, you stand to make an ass of yourself in front of a couple-hundred people.
The North Lounge is a little off the beaten path, but this is what I propose: Grab some friends, head that way, and order a bucket of beer each. Then dare a bro (I assume everyone has at least one bro in their friend group) to either chug a Smirnoff Ice in front of the bartender who looks like Willie Nelson or spend two minutes in the Raleigh Cemetery. Long story short, you're going to have one super-Iced bro on your hands and a crowd of people who know how big of a wimp he really is. Then play some darts or some pool, hit the jukebox (the soundtrack the night I was there started with Guns N' Roses, so check yourself before you punch in a Bieber jam), and mingle. Bonus: The graffiti on the fence outside reads "Her Loves Him," meaning at least one romance has blossomed within those walls.
Big ups to Jeremy for reopening this place and, as he puts it on the North Lounge's Facebook page, making Raleigh rock again. The domestics are cheap at only $2.50, and there's a full menu of pizza, burgers, and fried ravioli. Arrive late, get weird, and throw down with people who definitely don't care that you went to the Pilgrimage Festival last weekend.
The North Lounge, 4396 Raleigh LaGrange, 410-8530