Join us April 9 for Bourbon Salon at Oxmoor Farm with Kentucky Artisan Distillers

Gary Crunkleton is one of my heroes in the service industry. He is very knowledgeable about spirits and makes sure his staff is well trained as well. When a customer comes into his bar, that customer is going to leave not only after having a great experience, but also most likely with some new knowledge about what he or she drank. Gary is also the person behind North Carolina law being changed so he could sell drinks from old bottles of spirits that he purchased from collectors. Even so, when Gary told me that he was expanding and opening a second “The Crunkleton” in Charlotte, I was skeptical as to how good it would be compared to the original bar in Chapel Hill. My experience has been that a second location rarely lives up to the original. Adding to the difficulty is that this second location is a two-hour drive from Chapel Hill. Gary would not be as available to oversee the place. After visiting the new location, I will have to say that Gary has pulled it off in a top-notched manner. I recently did a Bourbon Country Institute at this new location and enjoyed it immensely.

The Crunkleton, Charlotte is different than the original in that it is a restaurant and bar, not just a bar. Gary has chosen two local partners, Blake Thompson and Zach Goodyear, who are well experienced in the food industry. The third partner, Rob Hord, is a financial partner, and Gary speaks highly of him. The four partners have established a restaurant bar that they should be proud of. North Carolina is a control state, but Gary has put together a bar that is as good as anything in Kentucky as far as selection of Bourbon and Rye is considered. There is also a selection of vintage whiskeys that will grow as the restaurant continues.

Blake and Zach have opened a restaurant that has great cuisine and a wood-fire kitchen, visible to the dining area. The BBQ served at lunch was excellent — chicken and pulled pork. The sides were mac and cheese and baked beans — both very good. The dinner menu has a wide variety of dishes at a range of prices. In the open kitchen we saw the staff prepping giant tomahawk steaks that could feed two or more people.  

The staff in Charlotte is new to Gary and he is still training them —  one reason I did the class in Charlotte. Even so, I could tell that Gary has spent time with them and they have a better than average knowledge of whiskey. Rosemary and I had excellent Manhattans after the class, indicating to me that they know how to make good cocktails.

Gary does not use whiskey tasting glassware at the bar. He has found that it is too expensive as branded Glencairn glasses seem to walk out with customers. Gary is not the only person to discover this fact, but it is a shame. Experiencing a vintage whiskey really is better in a whiskey tasting glass. They do offer flights and the prices looked reasonable.

In my scoring of the new The Crunkleton in Charlotte I would start by giving it 2 points for selection. I would give them another 2 points for staff training. I would give them 1 point for the generous pours and another 1 point for the well-made Manhattans and cocktail menu. The atmosphere of the restaurant/bar is very relaxing and friendly so that is worth another 2 points. This gives them a total of 8 points. I have a feeling that when I go back there in the future, they will worked out the kinks in the new business and score even higher.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller