Even though Sugarvale (4 W. Madison St.,  609-3162, sugarvalebmore.com), the new basement bar right around the corner from Dooby's, opened back at the end of June, we somehow still hadn't visited, even though we're pretty big fans of Dooby's and were excited to see what owner Phil Han came up with for this second venture. One day last week we managed to leave work just in time for happy hour and jumped on the chance to while away an hour or so at Sugarvale.
Happily, it ended up being the ideal place to unwind after work. It's a small space, with only nine stools at the bar and a few wood-topped tables, giving it an intimate vibe. Sugarvale markets itself as a wine, cocktail, and charcuterie bar, and although it has a respectable-looking list of wines (but don't expect a list as extensive as a full restaurant), we decided to go straight for the cocktail of the day, Bernard and the Hound ($6 during happy hour). It combined cognac, pineapple juice, lime, sage liqueur, rye whiskey, and a sprig of rosemary, and while the pineapple juice was a little too sweet for our tastes, it wasn't too overwhelmingly sugary. We were delighted by the pale spirit ($9), which combined vermouth, mezcal, lime, jalapeño syrup, soda, and cucumber slices for a refreshing cocktail with notes of smoke and heat flavors.
The charcuterie options seemed too good to pass up, so we ordered just a few selections, thinking it would be a good post-work snack. We might have gotten a little carried away with all of the menu choices, though, because we ended up with enough food for a full meal. The summer squash tartine ($4 during happy hour) delivered a large square of bread with thin slices of green zucchini, pesto, and lemon vinaigrette providing a mildly savory counter to a spread of sweet, soft goat cheese. We're always fans of carbs, but Sugarvale's daily bread ($1.50 during happy hour) was especially delicious, with rosemary, salt, and olive oil all providing extra aromatic flavor to the soft bread.
Usually when we order charcuterie meats or cheeses, we resign ourselves to getting single-bite portions, so we were happily surprised to receive four thin slices of duck ham ($4.50) with three crackers, a small portion of pickled accouterments, and a spoonful of house-made mustard and jam to dress it all up. The ham was exactly what we hope for in charcuterie meat—salty and fatty—and piling everything onto a cracker gave us a balanced mix of salty, savory, and sweet. We lingered over the food and bobbed our head along to The Cranberries' 'Zombie' that was piping through the space and decided that Sugarvale was a place we wouldn't mind becoming a regular at after work.
4 W. Madison St., (410) 609-3162, sugarvalebmore.com