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Meet The Northern Spy: a unique bottle shop, restaurant, and full-service bar concept that one local has never been able to pull off—until now. Recently opened by the Colorado-born Stem Ciders company, this newly revamped spot (in another life it was known as Black Twig Cider House) is focused on carefully-crafted sips and environmentally-friendly ingredients that are both locally and humanely sourced.
In addition to delectable farm-to-table fare, they’ve got 500+ drinks to choose from, including everything from specialty ciders, draft cocktails, and mocktails, to locally-made boozy seltzer and budget-friendly bottles of wine. They regularly rotate their roster of both high-quality local drinks and unique international finds, so we hope you’re feeling thirsty and—more importantly—decisive.
It’s a casual, come-as-you-are kind of place with warm wood, deeply-hued teal walls, and exposed Edison bulbs. There’s patio seating outside (read: dogs are welcome) and the interior walls are lined with clean coolers sporting racks on racks of gorgeously designed bottles.
Now, Northern Spy knew they wanted to serve dope food and drinks that matched their higher mission of sustainability, but the bottle shop? That distinct add-on was a happy accident. The long-loved Sam’s Bottle Shop shuttered its doors just as Northern Spy started planning their debut, so they stepped up to the plate, added “bottle shop” to their docket, and pulled off a concept that’s otherwise virtually unheard of in NC (blame our super-strict ABC for that). As a result, Stem Cider has stumbled upon a pilot concept, and we’re guessing that if it does well, this spot may be the first of many.
Dedicated to small agriculture and sustainability, Northern Spy’s delish menu proves you don’t have to sacrifice taste for ethics. They’ve got a small, Southern-inspired menu of shareable snacks and entrees, and what they lack in size, they more than make up for in taste.
Before you settle down, go ahead and get an order of Anson Mills Heirloom Popped Corn going. Made with coconut butter, it’s 50% salty, 50% sweet, and 100% addictive. Word is it’s fairly normal to ask for a second round.
The scratch-made Tomato Pie is also TO DIE FOR. Served in a baby cast iron skillet, it’s got a buttery, flaky crust, caramelized onions, sweet tomatoes, and lots of ooey, gooey cheddar cheese. Messy to share? Yes. Worth it? Hell freakin’ yes.
Their Fried Pickles are brined in-house, dredged in a light cornmeal batter and fried-to-order. Served with a homemade dill remoulade, these babies are bright, briny and magically gluten-free (Celiacs, rejoice!).
On the heartier side, their most popular item—hands down—is the Fried Chicken Sandwich. Served on a rich, homemade buttermilk biscuit, it comes with fried-to-order (and naturally gluten-free!) fried chicken, sweet apple butter and freshly-made fennel slaw. It’s an incredibly crispy sammie with complex layers of flavors that’ll forever ruin you for KFC.
Of course, we can’t talk about Northern Spy without calling out at least some of their 500+ drink options. You’re welcome to buy any can or bottle off the wall and sip it on site. They do legally have to charge a tiny corkage fee, but it’ll still be cheaper than a draft brew or any bottle you’d get elsewhere.
Northern Spy’s owners, Stem Ciders, made a name for themselves in the cider-world through their innovative combinations (their seasonal Salted Cucumber is something else), and *actually* dry ciders (these aren’t like the Martinelli’s you drank as a kid). So, naturally, they’ve got one of the largest and most unique cider selections in the Triangle.
Our top draft pick? On tap (and in the coolers), you’ll find the Real Dry and it’s their flagship cider for good reason: it’s super balanced and bone dry (there’s literally zero sugar per serving), with just enough apple flavor to make you believe you’re not simply sippin’ on champs. [ED NOTE: it was so good, it even converted this previously-devote non-cider fan]
They’ve also got colorful Cider Cocktails if you’re looking for something with a lower ABV. The Salty Pimms is an earthy, sweet and rich drink that’s layered and unexpected, while the Cider Spritz is essentially a play on the on-trend Aperol Spritz.
Beyond cider stuff, they’ve got tons of beer, wine, a full bar, mocktails, and draft cocktails.
In terms of draft cocktails, we’re big fans of the Jackson Pollock, which gets its name from the tiny dots floating in the drink (in reality, they’re pink peppercorns). It’s a 10 out of 10 on creativity, artistry, and taste. The Bull City Luau is another fave as a gorgeously layered drink with tropical flavors and Hibiscus cider.
And if you’re not a drinker, know that their mocktails are good enough to make your boozing buddies jealous. Heck, even if you are a drinker, you might want in on one of these complex concoctions.
Take your time before buying! There’s a lot to process and there’s no rush. Plus the staff is super knowledgeable and happy to guide you through your visit.
Most of their six and twelve-packs are also available as single cans so you can try before you buy.
Wine drinker? They serve vino at basically wholesale prices, so you can drink an entire bottle on-site for as little as $12. They put as much thought into their wine list as they do beer and cider. You’re sure to find many wines here that you can’t get in stores.
They’ll happily pour you a draft sample to taste—just ask.
They have 12% ABV beers if you’re looking for a unique find that packs an extra punch.
There's free WiFi if you're the type who prefers boozy to espresso while they work.