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The Foodie

Good time at Sparetime

My first step into Sparetime left me somewhat taken aback by the austerity of the place. Considering its rep as the city’s premiere craft cocktail establishment, my expectations ran to walls of art and comfy chairs.

Instead, I found myself pondering the vibe perched on the edge of a not-that-comfortable bar stool. Then it hit me like a 106–proof whiskey.

It’s the perfect blank canvas to encourage conversation. The right style in which to enjoy the handcrafted and labor intensive drinks. The zone where music matters — without fluff and facade.

Well into my first drink — a concoction of cantaloupe, Boyd & Blair vodka and a hint of mint — I realized the house tunes come from a turntable and a vinyl collection that requires more storage than the bar’s glassware.

Well–played nuance, Sparetime. Well–played.

My bartender Andy plays oboe with the symphony. Besides choosing great tunes for the small Monday night crowd, he also knows his liquor. He quickly discerned my lust for small-batch whiskey and poured a couple of tastes. Tonight however, was a clear liquor night for me.

I groove on gins the way I relish a long B.B. King riff. I was drawn to the Ka–Kaw — featuring a housemade flavored gin, homemade tonic and lemon bitters that were, yes, made in–house. Purists would find nothing in this cocktail resembling gin and tonic.

Again, I was shocked – but that’s the nature of Sparetime. I settled in and rode this Collins glass to the bottom – refreshing, fresh and courageous for breaking out of the Tanqueray box.

The sight of a Neapolitan–style pizza caught my eye and I ordered one topped with marinara, fontina, Spanish chorizo, red chiles. This may well be the best little pie in town.

The small menu allows dishes to be crafted and cooked to order, meaning mine arrived ridiculously hot from the oven and brimming with fresh flavors. Originally, I planned on taking half of it home. I didn’t – I ate the whole thing.

Aah, but don’t fret for me. I washed it down with yet another cocktail: a gin sling dosed with lovingly made St. George gin. This very small California distiller is known for extracting made flavors for its family of gin, vodka and absinthe.

Mango and other ingredients made for a remarkably smooth companion to my spicy little pizza.

Happy hour prices for these specialty cocktails are great values. Non–drinker in your party? No sweat, there are plenty of fresh mocktails to enjoy. The mood is relaxed and easy. Upstairs is often home to live music or DJs — all of which you can find info on at

36 MLK Jr. Blvd.

Coffee, grapes and hops

Landmark coffeehouse The Sentient Bean on the south end of Forsyth Park is a mecca for Fair Trade and organic coffees, music and art. Now, the popular gathering spot is offering a hand–selected menu of craft beers and wines.
Count on an evolving list that is off the beaten path relative to other beer bars. I am a bit put off by the wine descriptions on the website, especially saying that Viognier is “comparable to a Riesling.” Still, I applaud the new options.

13 E. Park St.

More on Leoci at Bonna Bella

Chef Roberto Leoci has set hours and penned his first menu for marshside Bonna Bella Yacht Club. Among the menu items is this tempting dish: A choice of wood–roasted Hunter Cattle pork or shredded free range chicken accompanied by Southern rice – a blend of corn, black–eyed peas and Jasmine rice.

Hours will be 4 p.m. –‘til Tuesday–Friday and noon–‘til Saturday and Sunday.

2740 Livingston Ave.