When Southern Efficiency officially opens on Saturday, it’ll be the third bar on the 1800 block of Seventh Street, Northwest for Derek Brown. Like the sherry-themed Mockingbird Hill and oyster-cocktail den Eat the Rich, the new spot is small with a keen focus. In this case, Brown and his team have turned their eye towards the South.
“Sherry appeals to my intellect,” says Brown. “The cocktails and oysters at Eat the Rich appeal to my gullet. But whiskey speaks to my heart.”
Country tunes drawl from the sound system, old tractor seats top the stools, and curved wooden ceiling beams give the impression of drinking inside a bourbon barrel. Chef Julien Shapiro looked to circa-1950s Southern eateries for menu inspiration (see a sample below), and you’ll find more unusual dishes than the ubiquitous fried chicken or shrimp and grits. The sample drink list of 30-odd American whiskeys, bourbons, and Scotches also contains rarer finds, but bartender J.P. Fetherston has a taste for the often under-appreciated classics like Wild Turkey and Evan Williams. Strong drinkers can sample flights, while house-made sodas and cider are on offer as mixers. You might try switchel—Brown describes the gingery non-alcoholic brew as 19th century Gatorade—which Fetherston spikes with blackstrap. His house-smoked cola and white whiskey cocktail on-tap is also well worth a try for those skeptical of the un-aged stuff. Regardless of drink preference, northern charm is nowhere to be seen.
Southern Efficiency. 1841 Seventh St., NW. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 12:30; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 1:30; Sunday 5 to 11:30.
Sample Food Menu
Chicken livers and gizzards (as a spread and in duck fat with pickles and cornbread)
North Carolina Trout (smoked with deviled eggs)
Pimento cheese (chili pepper colby and grilled bread)
Virginia Peanut soup (button mushrooms and sweet onions)
Blue Catfish (cornmeal porridge, shrimp, and fried pickles)
Country Captain (curried chicken with Carolina Gold rice, almonds and currants)
Pulled Pork (on bread with bourbon soaked figs and chow-chow)
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (puffed barley and buttercream)
Bourbon Balls (pecans and vanilla sugar cookies)