TORBERT STREET SOCIAL
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Guy walks into a speakeasy bar in Miami Beach. He likes the vibe and strikes up a friendship with the manager. They bond over hometowns – he’s from Delaware, she’s from southern Jersey. He asks if she’d be interested in moving back home for a job. (“At first, I was, like, ‘Not really.’”) But then he flies her up and shows her a space that’s not much more than an empty husk of a building, but she falls in love with the possibilities inside.
That’s how Eric Sugrue from the Big Fish Restaurant Group wooed Victoria Reed to come back north to open Torbert Street Social, a quiet speakeasy down a forgettable street that you probably thought was Mikimoto’s parking lot. Victoria planned for a quiet, hush-hush introduction to Wilmington … and then the doors opened…
“It was an explosion. We opened at 4 o'clock on a Thursday and we’ve been so busy since. I think because our location is so close to businesses and banks, everyone came right after work. Every Thursday is like that. Fridays are ridiculous. Saturday tones down a little bit, especially in the afternoon, but it's still very busy.”
Sunday night is a great night to come, because it's not as busy and you can have a conversation with your bartender and learn more about the cocktails. I'm a super geek when it comes to that – why this rum tastes different than that rum, and how one region of Scotland produces smokier, peatier whiskys compared to the Scottish Highlands and Islands that have more of a sea salt taste. Letting people explore their palate is something I really find pleasure in -- opening someone's eyes to what might be their new favorite gin, or their new favorite rum.”
“For cocktails, I really like the Señorita Roselia, made with mescal and tequila and orgeat – that’s an almond syrup -- and a rosemary liqueur. The syrup is sweet, there’s smoke from the mescal, something herbaceous from the rosemary – it tickles all the tastebuds. And the Butterfly Me to the Moon is popular. It has butterfly pea syrup – that’s a flower from Thailand that makes a pretty blue sapphire color, until you add citrus and it changes the pH levels of the drink and turns it from dark blue to violet-purple. Which is really cool.”
“Everyone seems to like the smoke. We can smoke any drink. You get a couple hickory chips, light them on fire and put the fire out with the cup, and as you see the smoke coil up inside, it smokes the inside of the glass. Flip the cup over, pour the drink in there, and it’s like drinking whisky by a bonfire. A smoked whisky sour is really yummy. We smoke Manhattans, margaritas, anything you like.”
“Torbert should be a place to meet people. Everything on the menu is designed to be shareable, so when you come in with a group of friends, you can grab something and everyone can take a bite off of it. The garlic feta French fries are delicious, with the garlic oil and cloves of roasted garlic. Then we have escargot. There’s a cheese board and a brat board. And the lobster grilled cheese with brown butter aioli – that really sells.”