Sit and Stay Awhile At This Intimate Carrboro Bar

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Atlas Bar is the newest venture for Acme chef Kevin Callaghan

Unnamed cocktail at Atlas Bar

Words and photo by Jessica Stringer

“Someone told me a long time ago,” Kevin Callaghan says as a song by The Avett Brothers comes on, “that bars and restaurants should feel like the way you want the rest of your life to be because you want to sit there and [think], ‘I’m living that life.’” Atlas Bar certainly has that intimate je ne sais quoi. With thoughtful touches like hand-painted walls, eclectic local art and paper-mache dragon heads, the bar he opened just a short walk from Acme last March feels like an elevated escape from the everyday. There’s even a bookshelf brimming with selections for the taking or, for those sipping solo, reading at the bar – an activity Kevin encourages. (“For me, personally, if I’m at a bar and I’m doing this,” he says as he mimes scrolling on a phone, “I’m not really enjoying the bar.”)

The menu features classic cocktails by and large, with offerings ranging from palomas and daiquiris to the French 75. Lead bartender William Clark says he relishes the opportunity to serve customers their first New York sour or Tom Collins, knowing it’s going to be made correctly. “When you have a great cocktail, that sort of haunts you,” he says. “That person is going to have that as their first memory – the platonic ideal of the cocktail – wherever they go.” Other patrons will tell William that they’ve already had everything on the menu. “And that’s when the bartender really has to take their preferences and push them in a direction, such as modern classics or things they just come up with on the fly,” he says.

In the spirit – or rather, lack thereof – of Dry January, Atlas Bar has you covered with options, too. Served in a lowball glass, Return to Sender, with its club soda, Coke and lemon juice, gains umami thanks to undetectable soy sauce.

Or, tell William you want to try the refreshing not-yet-named drink (pictured above) made with guava shrub and grapefruit.

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Jessica Stringer

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