Let the Good Times Roll
Music and other delights you ought to know about
By Billy Eye
With downtown rebounding, here are some good times Eye wanted to share with you.
Local musical legend Matty Sheets has resurrected his long-running Open Mic Night (still on Tuesdays), this time at The Green Bean on South Elm. Sign up starts at 6:30 p.m., performances begin at 7 p.m. Two decades ago, this weekly happening started at Flat Iron, where it was held for 12 years before relocating to NYP (New York Pizza, obviously) and, six years ago, to Westerwood Tavern.
“There’s something cool about The Green Bean,” Sheets tells me. “I’m psyched not to be in a bar. I love that they have wine and craft beers, of course, but it’s just a more mellow vibe.” The Green Bean has undergone a transformation after new owners Amy and Galen Foresman reopened the place in February. Musical performances are happening again, art is on the walls, and they offer baked good creations from Veneé Pawlowski’s Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie. (You read about Pawlowski in an earlier issue of Sazerac, semi-famous after placing first in a Taste of America recipe contest.)
Many local luminaries got their first taste of audience appreciation or took advantage of the opportunity to try out new material at Matty Sheets’ Tuesday open mic, including the likes of Kasey Horton, Jennifer Millis, Laurelyn Dossett, Sam Frazier and the late, great Taylor Bays, who is dearly missed by so many.
On Saturday evening, wandered into Lao — located in the 300 block of South Elm — to hang with my good friend, Robert (such a “good friend” that I don’t even know his last name!). He bartends there on weekends. This guy is so popular, patrons will ask the front of house if Robert’s slinging that night, then turn around and leave if he isn’t.
Lao serves superior Laotian cuisine and features a spacious bar, where I enjoyed Nam Khao, wonderfully zestful lettuce wraps filled with a mixture of crispy rice, grated coconut, in-house cured pork, cilantro and green onions. Oh boy, was that great. It’ll make you forget P.F. Chang’s. For real.
As delicious as that Nam Khoa was, I was just as eager to sample Robert’s mixology skills, asking him to “surprise me.” The initial cocktail he prepared was a bourbon concoction called Crime of Passion that I can only describe as transcendent. Served in a highball glass, Old Forester Signature Bourbon (100 proof), Plantation Original Dark Rum, Luxardo, Licor 43, passion fruit, lime juice, pineapple juice and sugar are blended and served on ice.
Lao’s specialty is a margarita that is in such high demand they have to juice dozens upon dozens of lemons and limes before the in-crowd arrives. The twist here, alongside the lemon and lime juice, is the blanco tequila, which is shaken with agave nectar and coconut then finished with a Thai chili for an added kick.
For those of you that imbibe, Robert is on the scene Friday and Saturday nights at Lao and other times at Dram & Draft, a watering hole that prides itself on its far-out cocktails. Another acquaintance, musician /songwriter David Lavey (who’s last name I do know!) is a member of the wait staff. Just a few weeks ago he released a new solo album, PROXY, available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music. Check it out.
Billy Eye is OG — Original Greensboro.