Over the past month several people have recommended the Belle Tavern to me, citing great drinks, an impressive bar food menu, and the happy hour, and service industry prices. I had not heard of it before and, frankly, I'm disappointed that you guys held out on me so long. I might not still be in the service industry, but I still have that look in my eye of perpetually needing to unwind. It's the one you get only after years of dealing with the boobs who terrorize servers and bartenders. So sure, it took me a hot minute to discover the Belle Tavern, but I finally made it. Seven of us braved the icy roads over the weekend to seek shelter and whiskey, and God bless them for being open and willing to accommodate us.
Arctic winds and ice would seemingly kill a bar crowd, but not at Belle Tavern. The place was half-full when we arrived and stayed occupied the whole time we were there. The bartender, Q, suggested a hot mug of mulled wine to start and, people, let me tell you, that alone would've made it worth the trip. Friends had suggested the 3 Whiskey Old Fashioned, which we also ordered. It, too, was incredible. One of my buddies had the Bourbon Cherry Limeade. Its color is such that it could be mistaken for an actual cherry limeade, if you need something to pour in an old Sonic cup and carry to your kids' sporting events. The Belle Tavern also has a huge selection of whiskeys, a welcome sight to the snow-drunk masses and connoisseurs alike.
A good bar can get by on the booze alone, but a competent menu never hurt, either. The Tavern used to be a part of Belle Southern Bistro before it closed, and it still maintains a lot of the great grub that was showcased at the Bistro. We ordered the Butcher Board, a selection of meats, cheeses, and more for $15, and it was enough to pass around the whole group. In fact, it was such a large amount of food that the conversation turned to the cost of living in Memphis, with the Butcher Board serving as the affordable housing offered here as opposed to, say, the skyrocketing Nashville market.
The bar itself is both elegant and cozy. There were several tables, a lounge area, and a stately horseshoe-shaped bar (my favorite style of bar, if you are wondering) with super-cushy bar stools. The Tavern is accessible only by alleyway which serves two purposes: One, not as many dummies can find it, and two, it makes me feel like I'm walking into an illegal poker game — something I've yearned for since my first viewing of A River Runs Through It. There is also a huge window that opens into the alley, which will lend itself to awesome alley parties and open-window rainstorms once it warms up. To find Belle Tavern, take a right down Barboro Alley from 2nd and look for the blue neon sign, like a beacon shining bright.
The Tavern's tag line is "The Place Your Friends Haven't Told You About." It's a mix of speakeasy and pub, divey with the alleyway entrance, yet comfortable owing to lack of crust punks passed out in the restroom. It's dark and romantic, but can be dressed down with a little of what I call "yelling about hating Tom Brady in front of strangers." The bar laughs in the face of tradition, booking music Sundays through Wednesdays instead of on weekend nights, when most of the clientele just wants to chill. The place has a huge TV above the bar and another in the lounge area. The bar is open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to 10 p.m on Sundays. Happy hour is from 10 p.m. to midnight (uncertain how this is handled on Sundays). For those of you who deserve it most — the dear hearts of the service industry — happy hour is open to close. Finally, for you New Year's Resolution sorts, there is a "prohibition" menu with mocktails. Hearty congratulations to all of you who have just found your new pre- or post-Grizzlies game bar in the Belle Tavern. Don't spoil it for the rest of us.