Phone: (864) 233-6173
304 East Stone Ave • Greenville, SC 29609

Press Coverage

Dinner and a Show:

The Handlebar gets food-savvy -- and hungry
stomachs are all the better for it

Reprinted from Creative Loafing
The Upstate's News, Arts & Entertainment Weekly
Sunday, July 8, 2001

BY S.C. DAVIS

Creative Loafing picture

Whatever you might have said about the old Handlebar location in Greenville's aging Mill Centre, you wouldn't have called it snappy. Or sharp. Or elegant. But cool? Yes. The old Handlebar had a rustic charm, a coarse, creaking authenticity that, for the longest time, made it the most interesting place to hear live music in Greenville. It wasn't polished, but it was our place, and we loved its dusty wood floors and dank smells.

That's why so many of us weren't sure what to expect when the Handlebar shuttered its Mills Centre digs and announced plans to open at another location near the intersection of Wade Hampton Boulevard and Stone Avenue.

But I'm happy to report that the new, expanded Handlebar looks great (snappy and sharp, actually). It's also placed a new emphasis on food without sacrificing its bread and butter: live music. That in itself is a change for the better. As many times as I spent entire evenings at the old Handlebar, I never ate a single bite of food there. It's not that they didn't serve food; it's just that I was never really sure if the kitchen was open or if certain menu items were available. More often than not, I simply didn't think about eating there, and the Handlebar never put the spotlight on its eats long enough to make me take notice.

But with a new locale comes a new philosophy toward food, and now it's not unthinkable to stop by the Handlebar even when the music isn't playing. The Handlebar is serving lunch and dinner these days, offering a full menu of hearty salads and sandwiches that provide a counterpoint to the frou-frou fare available at any number of downtown's specialty sandwich shops. In fact, you'd almost call this guy food. The sandwiches fill up the plates and the stomach, arriving at the table sporting big, thick bread, plenty of cheese, and piles of fries, chips and other sides. Meanwhile, appetizers include favorites and standbys like wings, chicken tenders and onion rings. All in all, there's enough here to make eating more than an afterthought if you're headed to a concert or simply out for a round of drinks.

Speaking of appetizers, the onion rings are golden brown and devoid of the pinkish,
pre-fabricated batter popular at fast-food joints and drive-ins. The ones I tried were toasty hot, topped with sprinkles of parmesan cheese and particularly good when dipped into a wildly energetic honey mustard sauce. What they could have used was a bit more crunch, being a touch on the chewy side and a little short of onions to round out the batter.

The sandwiches, on the other hand, aren't short of much of anything. The chicken parmigiana sandwich comes on healthy slabs of bread and is layered with melted cheese and plenty of zesty marinara. The chicken's slightly flat and thin, but there's enough of everything else to keep you satisfied, and there's no scarcity of french fries on the side, either. The turkey and swiss sandwich is a scrumptious mouthful, featuring the reliable cornerstone ingredients plus handfuls of shredded lettuce, tomato, oregano, and a tasty oil-and-vinegar mixture that livens up the dish. Heck, even the pasta salad at this restaurant is hearty. Chopped onions, mushrooms, olives, peppers, and fat kidney beans swim in a bed of tri-colored rotini pasta, the beans lending an earthy mellowness to a standard side item.

But hands down, the best thing I tasted at the Handlebar was an epic slice of Kahlua-and-cream cake , which may well  rank as one of the top four desserts I've eaten in Greenville restaurants during the last year. While the rest of the food at the Handlebar is comforting if not terribly surprising, the cake packs the kind of expertly blended flavors that startle you in your chair. The Kahlua offered only a faint tug on the taste buds, and in the middle of the slice, my fork uncovered an undercurrent of chocolate moistness that spread through the cake like magic. In fact, there's not a dry spot in this moist little miracle. Even if you don't think you're up for a full meal, by all means ask for something sweet when you stop by for the music.

Food or no food, it's good to have the Handlebar back. And now that we're no longer uncertain about whether meals are actually served here, it's easy to make a night out of it. Not many music halls double as credible restaurants. And with divine desserts, drinks and plenty of muscular live music, it doesn't need to be anything more than that.

 

Best Concert Venue:

The Handlebar gets food-savvy -- and hungry
stomachs are all the better for it

Reprinted from Creative Loafing
The Upstate's News, Arts & Entertainment Weekly Volume 8, Number 25
October 17, 1998

The Handlebar has been open for several years. It brings more critically acclaimed performers to the Upstate than any other venue in the region — and that includes the Peace Center and the Bi-Lo Center. What is really impressive about The Handlebar is that it doesn't only specialize in one thing. While acoustic music often gets top billing, many of the best touring rock bands play there, as well. On both fronts, The Handlebar does Upstate fans of good music right. In just the past few months, it has been host to wonderful shows by Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Richard Thompson, to name a few. As for rock and roll, summertime shows by Southern Culture on the Skids and Jason and the Scorchers had folks jumping. Regional rock heavyweights such as Albert Hill and Jump Little Children also make regular stops at The Handlebar. We are hopeful that our readers' vote indicates that Upstaters know how fortunate we are to have The Handlebar.

[The Handlebar is now located at 304 East Stone Ave. in Greenville.]