Do you seek out adventure, or perhaps fancy yourself an explorer? There’s a cave you can visit that presents all sorts of interesting and adventurous opportunities, and it’s right here in town. Well, technically it’s the Cavern Tavern, but most locals affectionately refer to it as just “The Cave.”
The Cavern Tavern is the oldest bar in Chapel Hill, and customers learn quickly just how this legendary watering hole got its name. After descending a steep flight of stairs straight off the Franklin Street sidewalk and through a door, patrons encounter a dark, pleasantly dank space that smells of decades of booze and secrets. The stories this bar could tell, and the things these low ceilings have seen!
A meager PA and a stage-less stage has welcomed local music legends and touring bands alike. A small capacity means that space is tight when a band is playing. Shows at The Cave are interactive, for better or for worse, and audience interaction is heavy. When everything clicks, though, you have a band at their best, feeding off the energy of the crows and giving it right back. Trading a raised stage for the down-and-dirty appeal of The Cave gives a working-class vibe that’s hard to beat when the bar is fully stocked with local folks and college students looking for a good time on the cheap.
A back room with pool tables and a jukebox seems to get little use, as most folks saddle up to the bar and order the Cave’s trademark “Smilin’ Spelunker,” a boilermaker of Pabst Blue Ribbon with a well whisky back. Veteran bartender Dave Robertson mans the bar during daylight hours, guiding early spelunkers into the night with ease.
The theory behind the Smilin’ Spelunker is that after a shot and a can of PBR, you’ll be well on your way to smilin’. In truth, it’s the combination of history, lack of natural lighting and prevalence of natural atmosphere that helps to rearrange the mindset of cave-divers new and old alike.
What adventure awaits you on #thirstythursday? Where do you go to escape from the real world? What do you drink? Leave us a message or send a tweet.