Draft margaritas. Strawberry rum jello shots. Wine on tap. Cans of domestic beers on the shelves behind the bar. Six packs in a retail cooler, ready to be taken home by a customer on his or her way out of The Accordion Club, the latest addition to the restaurant and bar scene on Geer Street.
A little more than a year ago, the location “just kind of fell into my lap” says owner Scott Richie, formerly of Whiskey and Vin Rouge, among others. He wasn’t looking for a space, but when he saw the “For Lease” sign in the window of this building – once a part of the La Costena Supermarket – a half block from his house, he wanted to check it out. “Not looking to do anything, just being nosy,” Scott says. After a two-hour showing and a follow-up phone call telling him the space was his should he want it, Scott says he “ran home, told [his wife] Talitha, and she was 100% for it.”
Then he had to figure out what to put in it. “For 15 years now, I’ve been walking by this strip,” he says. “There were a lot of nights that I’d get off bartending, walk home and wish there was a place where I could get a beer and kind of disappear, maybe get a bite of food and a six pack to go. It’s turned out to be exactly what I wished was always here.”
Scott worked on the demo and the carpentry for The Accordion Club – named for his grandfather, a street musician who played the accordion – while Talitha and her brother, chef Aaron Benjamin of Gocciolina, developed recipes based on food they grew up eating in New Mexico. “The whole time Talitha and I have been together, she and her family have raved and raved about Hatch, New Mexico green chiles.” So, they brought in a whole pallet’s worth (1,700 pounds) of Hatch chiles for the club’s now very popular green chile stew and sauce. Currently they are cooking off-site at Gocciolina, but have plans to expand to the basement of the building with a full, on-site kitchen.
A big motivator for Scott is to have the bar be accessible to all customers, which is reflected in his offerings of bottles and cans of domestic beer alongside draft craft beer and wine on tap. “It’s all part of figuring out the way I can get the best price to the customer to make it truly an everyday kind of place,” Scott says. “This was just a natural reaction to what I felt the neighborhood needed.”
“We’ve been labeled a dive bar, but we’re as much a regular neighborhood bar as anything,” Scott says. Open noon until 2:30 a.m. every day, it’s a spot where you can drop in anytime to wet your whistle and snack on a hot dog with all the fixins’ (including Two Chicks Farm kimchi!), Hatch Green Chile Stew or Frito bags, cut on the side and filled with aforementioned chile sauce or any combination of toppings.
Limited outdoor seating (a picnic table out front). That’ll change soon enough, when the back patio is complete. It’s overgrown with weeds at the moment, but come fall, Scott has plans for a relaxed private patio filled with picnic tables that overlooks Old North Durham Park.
Average for food and drink is about $5.
Photography by Briana Brough