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Bar Lusconi Soft Opening

Posted by MEZ 25 Apr 2013 9 Comments

Bar Lusconi is a downtown beer and wine bar that soft-opened this week, so don’t expect perfection or a wide food selection just yet. However, I was very happy with everything we tried last night and can report no kinks in the service. There’s a great article in the Herald-Sun that covers the details of the bar opening. It’s owned by Timothy Neill and Jesse Gerstle, who opened Peccadillo last year, which is a somewhat secretive cocktail bar in downtown Carrboro. Bar Lusconi is at a readily accessible streetfront location, but right now, the main sign there’s anything going on behind the butcher-paper-covered windows is the sound of an animated crowd when you walk by. Eventually, those windows will be covered with curtains, but it’s one thing at a time for this bar. So far, that’s been renovating the space, keeping the beer and wine list stocked and the bartenders well versed in its particulars, and working on a selection of small plates from Chef Eric Akbari that will hopefully be expanded soon, once logistics of their tiny kitchen space are worked out and more dishes make their way through the bartender-approved quality assurance method.

The space is narrow, loud, and lively, and it feels bright although the lighting was mostly a warm glow from candlelight and a few overhead ceiling fans. It was packed until late last night with a crowd of mostly 30-to-40 somethings.

Owner Timothy and Dean James, one of the super friendly and knowledgeable bartenders you must make friends with, gushed about the distressed walls and white tin ceiling. We particularly liked the wood bar that lines one wall and was made from reclaimed wood found on the property. Tim is especially excited to open the small beer garden space in the back once the weather cooperates and allows him to finish renovations for it.

The beer and wine list has been chosen with care, though it is on the pricey side.

Local is not the emphasis here, but have no fear, the staff will not steer you wrong in selecting the import that’s right for you and whatever you may be munching. Beer prices vary widely depending on the size of the bottle, and the wine is available by the glass at $10 or by the bottle as well. I was entertained by the beaker used to decant our Buil & Giné 2008 Baboix Spanish red blend.

The beaker is a nod to Peccadillo’s lab-coated bartenders in Carrboro. The Manoir de Montreuil Pays d-Auge was an absolutely delicious French cider, but we did not try any beer this evening.

We did try a charcuterie and cheese plate compliments of the bar.

It was quality fare, especially the soft cheese that Dean recommended with the cider. We were also surprised with a pot du crème and some delicious dark chocolate toffee.

The pot de crème had the perfect amount of salt sprinkled on top to bring out its richness, and that toffee is to die for.

Bar Lusconi has great potential for stellar beer and wine choices without pretension. It buzzes like a NYC neighborhood bar and the passionate staff will impress you with their friendliness and skill. I’d say it’s best for starting or finishing a lively night downtown with a small group of friends who don’t mind getting cozy enough to hear each other over the din and want someone knowledgeable to guide them toward some great food and drink discoveries.

Bar Lusconi
117B East Main Street
Weds – Sat, 5 pm – 2 am


  • RonK said:

    These prices are so incredibly elite that only what..2% of Durham’s population can afford to come here? I’m sure its a cool spot and the owner’s have worked hard to open this. But I think preferred it as a vacant space.

    Keep Durham Dirty.


    B replies on April 29th, 2013 at 2:11 am:

    You mean like the 2% (maybe) of Durham that reads this blog? You might have better luck aiming your populist outrage at the NC state government and not a <2k sqft bar.

    It looks like a cool date spot. I love warmly lit, small bars. Very intimate.


    David replies on June 4th, 2013 at 12:50 pm:

    Keeping durham dirty means keeping it independent, keeping it gritty, keeping it honest.

    it doesn’t mean keeping it cheap. They are not a franchise, and frankly they “keep it dirty” with the space, taking advantage of the older tin ceiling, exposed concrete etc.

    frankly, im willing to pay for quality, and guys like Dean, over at Lusconi knows a ton about mixology.


    David replies on June 4th, 2013 at 12:50 pm:



  • Div said:

    Yeah, this place looks expensive, pretentious, and ridiculous.


    Jeff replies on July 23rd, 2013 at 2:11 pm:

    I don’t know about the wines, but those beers are not generic, and they are priced appropriately for a bar. Also, notice that many of them are 750 mL.


  • E said:

    This place carries imports that you won’t find elsewhere in Durham, thereby adding something new to the local bar scene. I don’t plan to become a regular or to order the most expensive beer on the menu (in fact I ordered the cheapest one), but I for one am happy to see this bar open up and I think Durham has room for it.


  • John said:

    Also, remember that the more expensive beers are usually the same size as a bottle of wine, so they can be shared. Plus, they are really good. I had a beer for $9 that was a 550 ml that I’ve never tried and it was the best beer that I’ve ever had. If you guys don’t like it, don’t go, but I’ll go as much as I can.


    MEZ replies on April 28th, 2013 at 12:20 pm:

    Definitely agree, John, that it’s somewhere to order an option off the list and split it with friends over the evening. I think the drink list is designed more for just that than for everyone getting a single glass of wine or beer.


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