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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

A sneak peek and taste of the Capital Cocktail Classic

We’re only 10 days away from this year’s Capital Cocktail Classic, an upscale pub crawl that treats you to signature cocktails paired with special tapas-style plates at four downtown Charleston restaurants.

Chipotle-citrus pork sliders with mango slaw and pickled Serrano corn
Chipotle-citrus pork sliders with mango slaw and pickled Serrano corn from Black Sheep

And I have it on good authority that guests at this year’s event are in for a real treat.

That authority is me. I’ve been sipping and tasting the drinks and plates that await in advance because, well, SOMEONE has to take one for the team. I got you.

In case you missed it, the second-annual iteration of this relatively new event got postponed last year – as so many events did – due to COVID.

But it’s back better than ever next Saturday, Aug. 14, with four downtown restaurants serving up special food and cocktail pairings that will compete for multiple awards voted on by you, the customers who partake in them.

Vietnamese Pho Dippers from Ichiban
Vietnamese Pho Dippers from Ichiban

Participants purchase tickets in advance to enjoy the pairings at hotspots Bar 101/Ichiban, Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, The Block and Sam's Uptown Café. Tickets include one tapas-style appetizer and one signature cocktail at all four locations, or you can substitute a glass of house wine if you’re not the cocktail type.

You can visit all four places at your own pace during event hours, and volunteers at each place will be on hand to answer any questions. After you sip and taste each entry, you’ll vote on your favorite cocktail, dish and food-and-drink pairing.

So it’s not just a night out drinking and noshing. There are awards at stake – and you get to help pick ’em!

For a special sneak peek at what’s in store, I’m teasing Bar 101 and Black Sheep’s offerings this week. Come back next week for the scoop on what The Block and Sam’s Uptown Café will be presenting that night.

Black Sheep will be pouring a John Collins, a highball glass full of crushed ice filled with a simple but refreshing blend of bourbon, simple syrup and fresh lemon juice. A little tart but surprisingly light, it’s a great summer sipper. It’s being paired with fantastic chipotle-citrus pork sliders topped with agave mayo, mango slaw and zesty pickled serrano corn. (That shredded pork is tender, juicy, flavorful and just beyond delicious.)

Capital Street Smash from Bar 101
Capital Street Smash from Bar 101

Although the food-and-drink pairing layered really nice tart and spicy notes, I suggested a little boost of sweetness to smooth everything out for the perfect balanced bite.

We hear you, they said, and plan to tinker with the dish a bit more before next Saturday’s reveal.

A block away, Bar 101 will be serving a Capitol Street Smash featuring bourbon and simple syrup in an egg white-rimmed glass dusted with Japanese nine spice and sugar.

For their corresponding dish, Ichiban chef Evan Wilson has created (get this!) unique Vietnamese Pho Dippers made with shredded beef, cilantro, cheese and spicy honey mustard with a Pho-based au jus.

Although I was out of town for Bar 101’s advance tasting, Capitol Cocktail Classic organizer Alan Kuhlman sampled and described it as “a French dip meets a Philly cheesesteak in Saigon.”

I’m so intrigued!

Early bird tickets for next weekend’s event are $50 each, available through this Sunday. After Sunday, tickets are $60 per person or $110 per couple.

  • IF YOU GO: Capital Cocktail Classic takes place in downtown Charleston from 5-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14. Click here for more information or tickets.

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Last week’s ode to some uber-cool Canaan Valley restaurants – including The Billy Motel, Milo’s Café and Farm Up Table – drew lots of love from readers as well.

“We went to Farm Up and had the fries topped with truffle oil and shrimp,” reader Arlene Hudson said. “It was heavenly. We also had the Peachy Keen Salad with fresh ripe peaches and heirloom tomatoes with brie on a bed of kale and romaine with an apricot dressing. It was also heavenly.”

This is in Canaan Valley, y’all.

“We were (at The Billy) last month and loved everything,” Barbara Walker added. “You should also mention that their cocktails are excellent and generous.”

That they are!

• • •

Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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