I imagined my twenties would play out like a sitcom. I’d be living in some unfamiliar city, working a job that barely paid. I’d become friends with someone impossibly cool. They’d have impeccable taste in music and live in a cool apartment furnished with great care and aesthetic intention. They’d also say things like, “Here, try this cocktail. I’ve been playing around with homemade bitters,” even as I rummaged in the fridge for PBR. Invariably, they’d graciously host house parties for all their incredibly diverse and interesting friends—a modern salon, really.

My twenties definitely didn’t play out that way, but it doesn’t matter because EXILE exists.

Stephen Phillips and Nick McSherry—the owners of EXILE—are the impossibly cool and generous friends from my fantasy, and they’ve created a bar that oozes the lived-in familiarity of a casual house party. It helps that EXILE feels like one big living room. Low, mid-century modern couches and coffee tables are set up in little vignettes, not unlike the corners of a house where you might go to escape the party’s thrum.

“Comfort and community is really what we’re looking for,” says McSherry. “We wanted to go beyond being approachable,” Phillips adds. Both owners are transplants to Greenville, and the focus on comfort and community is a nod to their outsider status. EXILE, in name and concept, is intended to be a place you can belong when you don’t belong anywhere else.

In practical terms, that means there’s no pretense about what you can or should drink at EXILE. Cheap beer, classic cocktails, inventive house creations, and mocktails share equal space on the menu. It’s an intentionally democratic take on the drinking experience. “If you can get an organic, locally sourced meal on a Tuesday, why can’t you get a nice cocktail on any old Wednesday?” Phillips says.

I think what made my imagined sitcom so appealing was that the rootlessness of living somewhere new underpinned blooming confidence and limitless possibility. And while I’ve grown out of that naivete, EXILE manages to capture the best of it: the opportunity for serendipitous convergence, easy and excellent drinking, unpretentious familiarity, the good vibes. It’s my favorite kind of nostalgia—the kind that comes without baggage.

 

CLASSIC COCKTAILS

The Last Word (gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo, lime juice): “The Last Word for ten bucks? Come on, that’s unbeatable. That’s a steal,” McSherry says of his favorite drink. Boozy, tangy, herbal.

The (H)opening (Old Tub, Old Overholt bonded, spiced syrup, Angostura aromatic bitters, orange bitters, Combier, smoked Palo Santo): A nod to the cascade of delays that preceded EXILE’s opening; presented with glass capped by shaker, and removed to release the Palo Santo smoke.

 

 

 

SPECIALS ($6-$7)

Bang, meet buck. With the Stoop Kid or the Shot o’ Beer, it’s variations on a theme: a shot of house whiskey or rye paired with a 10oz pour of Birds Fly South beer. Drink however you please, but Phillips and McSherry recommend knocking back the shot and sipping on the beer. With the I Know the Owner (a shot of rye and a shot of Fernet), it’s best to sip on both at your leisure.

EXILE COCKTAILS

I Dream of Jiro (Beefeater, St. Germaine, Jiro shrub, Peychaud’s & orange bitters): The house-made Jiro shrub (made with cactus and yuzu) owes its name to the first Japanese-American cowboy. Clean, crisp, cute, and pink

Photography by Paul Mehaffey. EXILE, 9 Anderson St, Greenville. Open Wed–Sat; exilegvl.com