Behind the Bar with Melanie Messer

Published Mon, Jul 02, 2012 05:59 AM
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Melanie Messer from Isaac Hunter’s Oak City Tavern. Photo by Peter Musser

Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent

At Hunter’s since its inception as the historied hot spot (named for the original Isaac Hunter’s tavern for which our capitalhood was conferred), the hilarious hooch-houndin’ hostess-with-the-mostest is the tavern’s “bartender with seniority,” she jokes. A local lass, born and bred, it’s only fitting that Messer’s mixin’ it up at Oak City’s token tavern.

Having worked in health care and hospitality for several years before the move to Hunter’s, the dirty-joke lovin’, middle-child with a self-proclaimed affinity for attention has found a home at Hunter’s. “When I’m not working, I’m usually hanging out at Isaac’s, cooking or riding my bike, throwing parties, reading or enjoying anything I can do in the sun,” she says. “I find the bar makes a pretty good stage, and the audience is unlimited. I can tell [dirty jokes] for hours ... and have a joke for almost any occasion. I just love entertaining people.”

So if you’re looking for a spot to belly up for a brew, your options are many. But if you’re looking for a highball with a side of history and hilarity, Mel’s got a drink and a joke for you. Go ahead, try her.


Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.

Isaac Hunter's brought history and 'spirits' to Fayetteville Street in a way that has helped revolutionize the downtown scene. What's your take? I think the whole decision of the General Assembly members at the time to build Raleigh (one of the few cities in the country that was planned and built to be a capital city) within 10 miles of the original Isaac Hunter’s Tavern was one based on the desire to extend a feeling of brotherhood and friendship that they felt at the time at their favorite watering hole. You might not think that alcohol and politics go well together, but perhaps it eased conversation and debate. Maybe if more politicians today could have a drink with one another, the dividing lines might not be so black and white.

I think this spirit of having a good time with one another flows through Isaac Hunter’s and all around it. I think people who live and work downtown wanted and needed somewhere a little more relaxed and carefree to hang out and encourage new friendships with folks who might only go to certain bars and scenes downtown. I hope that we have made patrons feel like they are at a neighborhood bar, where you can meet new people and maybe change some of your opinions about Raleigh’s nightlife. Not a lot of people head to the bar for a history lesson, but I love being able to walk out our front door and point out the Capital Building to someone and tell him or her how it got there … and to tell them how are bar is related to that story.

Karaoke Sundays in three words: Hydrate thoroughly beforehand. Karaoke is quite possibly the most fun we have at Isaac Hunter’s. Everyone gets a turn, or two. It is fairly judgment-free, but I will tell you some take it very seriously. And some are amazing vocalists!

We're thirsty. Why Hunter’s? Why Hunter’s? We have it all. All of our taps (except downtown Raleigh’s beloved PBR) are local to NC and constantly changing. Our Jameson is $4 a shot (if you're in the Jameson Club, which is not only fiercely competitive, but also free to join). We have wine for your mom, flavored vodka for your girlfriend, we can make an Old Fashioned for your dad and we have an atomizer full of Absinthe. You will have to show up to find out what we use that for. Our walls, tables, bathrooms and windows are covered in local art. There is a HUGE patio where we have impromptu cookouts all through the summer. We have skeeball, cornhole, MINIATURE cornhole, shuffleboard and Big Buck Hunter World! We are a fun, neighborhood tavern on weeknights and on the weekends we crank it up a notch. Everyone dresses up, and we have a DJ (who is VERY tired of ‘The Dougie,’ but will still play it for you).

What you love about the Raleigh bar scene: Everything. I love the diversity and that all of it is within walking distance! I love that we have a service in Raleigh that will not only drive you home after you’ve had too much, but that will drive your car, too! There is no excuse!

The “gospel,” according to Melanie: If you can’t be good, be good at it!

On your DVR? I am way too into "Game of Thrones" right now, but I also love "Adventure Time," "Regular Show" and trashy stuff like VH1 has.

Your app addiction: That I couldn't get by without? Google Maps or Where’s My Droid. That I wouldn't want to get by without? Ant Smasher. You can change the ants to your Facebook friends faces and squish them, too!

Your go-to drink: For me? Whiskey, no rocks, no ginger, no water. For a thirsty patron? I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like pineapple upside-down cake shooters.

Never leave home without: Dental floss. I am the sort of person who can’t do anything else until I get that popcorn piece out of my teeth. I have also used dental floss for repairing outfits, booby traps and general string applications.

Attached? I live with my smart, handsome, redheaded boyfriend, Chase, and ridiculously charming and attractive roommate, Jesse.

To relax, you... My home is kind of tucked into the Dorothea Dix grounds, and they are absolutely beautiful, especially this time of year. My friends and I like to throw down a blanket, set the Pandora station to Bridgette Bardot radio, and languish around in the grass. We usually have great snacks and libations as well. The farmers market is a long walk or short bike ride away, and so is Pullen Park.

Your life’s current soundtrack: Dwight Yoakam with some Hot Chip, Hall and Oates and LCD Soundsystem.

If you’re out to eat in the Triangle, we’ll find you grubbing at: How do you choose? Los Tres Magueyes has the best chimichanga I have found. I love Poole’s Diner, Coquette. ... Joel Lane’s Public House has vodka-infused gummy bears. I can make a meal of those...

Best part about being behind the bar? I love people. You get to meet more people in a small window of time than almost any other profession (that is enjoyable). I’m sure DMV workers probably meet a lot of people, too, but they aren’t in such a good mood.

The advice you wish you could give thirsty patrons: If you and your friends are all drinking the same thing, and plan on drinking more than one, why don’t you take turns buying rounds? It is so much faster — not only for you and your friends, but the guy next to you waiting for a drink, too.

Other sip spots in the Triangle you’ve worked: I have filled in from time-to-time at Joel Lane’s Public House, which is Isaac Hunter’s sister bar AND restaurant. They have awesome squash tempura! I haven't really tended bar anywhere else, but I have been a hostess at Gravy, and I had a job at an Italian place in North Raleigh for a couple of days where I was the only English-speaking employee, and they paid me in cannolis.

Isaac Hunter's Oak City Tavern

112 Fayetteville Street

Raleigh, NC, 27601

Phone: 919.526.0060

Facebook: click here

Twitter: @Huntersoakcity


Melanie says come to Isaac Hunter's because...

"I can’t wait to make you a regular."

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