Folks may not originally go to The Aristocrat on Washington Street for the food, but it might just be why they decide to return.
“Our top three menu items are the coastal crab cakes, charcuterie board and Mediterranean hummus dip,” said Ashley Garcia, who co-owns The Aristocrat with her husband, Mo. “All of the items are locally sourced. The charcuterie board has manchego, brie and smoked gouda with prosciutto, salami and pepperoni. It is served with toasted garlic baguette and pepper jelly. This is something a lot of people order to share.”
The crab cakes aren’t from a box either.
“Our coastal crab cakes are made with local Carolina crabmeat, spices and a delicious remoulade sauce,” Ashley said. “And our hummus is made from chickpeas and served with warm Naan bread.”
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The menu isn’t just thrown together, Ashley said. It is carefully selected to pair with the bar’s drink options.
“Our customers really enjoy the small bites we offer as a compliment to their favorite libations,” Ashley said. “Our bartenders are very well-versed in pairing suggestions. For instance, if a customer came in and ordered the coastal crab cakes we would recommend a nice sauvignon blanc or pinot bianco for wine. For the spirits lovers, we would recommend a quality spiced rum or whiskey.”
The Aristocrat has a selection of fine wine from various regions and craft cocktails that reflect the tastes of South Carolina, Ashley said.
While there for the food and drinks, customers can also take in work showcasing local artists, participate in weekly wine tastings and enjoy live music from local musicians.
How did The Aristocrat get its start?
Bar management and ownership is not new to the Garcias, who currently own two other bars – Point Break and Mojo Lounge in West Columbia and ran Rum Runners in Five Points. The Aristocrat is a change of pace and style from their other ventures, however, and offers customers a more refined experience – one Ashley describes as a cross between the Rat Pack and “The Great Gatsby.”
The couple jumped at the opportunity to open a business in the space formerly home to Kelly’s Pub on Washington Street.
“It’s something we’ve talked about for a really long time, and everything just aligned perfectly with the property opening up ,” Ashley said. “We wanted to bring something unique to Columbia that no one else is doing.”
Although it can be tough to open a new bar in a location formerly home to one as iconic as Kelly’s Pub, the Garcias weren’t put off by that challenge.
“Although we draw a different crowd than Kelly’s, it is interesting to hear customer stories about how they used to frequent Kelly’s Pub in their college years,” Ashley said. “I don’t know many people, including my husband and I, who had not been to Kelly’s at one point or another. For most people, once they put college behind them, they prefer more low-key places to patronize, and we are happy to provide that for them – so in essence, the location has sort of evolved with the customers. People are often amazed at the transformation from Kelly’s to The Aristocrat.”
Who eats here?
“Our crowd is mostly professional types, anywhere from their 20s to their 80s,” Ashley said. “We have lots of people come for our wine tastings on Wednesdays. Our themed trivia nights have been a huge success and a lot of fun. We will start doing cigar and spirits tastings on Thursdays in October. We have hosted private wine tastings and happy hours for businesses and organizations. Every first Wednesday we do a benefit wine tasting for different local charities.”
WHEN: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday
WHERE: 1001 Washington St.
INFO: (803) 708-8004; www.facebook.com/TheAristocratSC