Submitted by Red Rover — Correspondent
Rover Rating: 2 out of 4
What's not to love about a sleek, sexy underground haven for house-made hooch? Unfortunately, in this case, more than the peeps behind downtown's newest sip spot Fox Liquor Bar would probably like.
Truth be told, I honestly couldn't wait to go to Fox a much-anticipated part of Poole's-famed Ashley Christensen's trifecta that now corners Wilmington and Martin streets (Chuck's, Beasley's and Fox). Now, while food is a draw when you're picking a hang-out spot, Raleigh is palpably lacking on bars that are just bars-sans-eats (minus a few stapes like Isaac Hunter's, Foundation, etc.) that just* serve* drinks*. Clearly, the capital city's come a long way from the days of TGIFriday's that turns into a nightspot late night, but it's still littered with tavern-type pubs (albeit good ones). All said, the big-city motif of cocktail lounges is still largely missing. So filling a gap in the market, in steps very mod, very Manhattan-ish Fox with sexy, sustainable sips (only fresh, seasonal ingredients) and specially frozen cylindrical ice. It's all very alluring albeit with a pretentious lean. And ... then it takes you 45 minutes to get a drink. And suddenly, it's not so sexy. Remember, the appeal of Raleigh's not-so-New-York-ness, is not waiting so long for service.
To be fair I mean, new places have kinks I even went twice to make sure my experience wasn't an anomaly. Alas, it wasn't at all (although the ticket time came down to 30 minutes on my second visit). And asking around, the wait seems to be pretty status quo. I appreciate the nod the bartender gave me as I sat at the bar: "I'm working on some things, so I'll be right with you." Perfect. Everybody likes to be acknowledged. But once "right with you" becomes 30 minutes, the nicety starts to feel a little like mockery. Or indifference. Or worse yet, incompetence. Why did it take 30 minutes for him to make the drinks at hand? Short staffed? Are the drinks too intricate? I mean, the art-in-a-glass concept is good and all, but for customer satisfaction, those supply-and-demand basics will always apply.
And since I had all this time to spare, I couldn't help but notice the jigger-dependent bartenders (a clunky, time-consuming way to measure out liquor). Yes, it'll save in cost ... that is, until your patrons go somewhere else altogether. Not to mention that the jigger seemed incongruous with the vogue-ish concept ... giving it kind of a corporate, overly-economical feel ... not cool when you're charging $11 a cocktail.
Clearly the problem with a long ticket time and a parched palate is having the time to notice these sort of behind-the-scenes details that would usually go unnoticed - especially if one were able to focus on having a good time, drink in hand, and achieving that good tipsy feel that successive, timely drinks afford. On our second visit, my buddy (who had been there a few times before without me) said, "I feel like I have to order two drinks just to make sure I'll be able to get the second one when I'm ready." No bueno.
The bottom line? Why go to Fox when you can go to Foundation? The upshot? This is a much larger space with a sexy appeal and an avant-garde take on mod mixology and with a few tweaks could be a go-to (if you have dollars to spend). Just please, give a sister a drink in less time than it would take to drive to Durham and back.