By Dr. Ink In an age when tobacco users are relegated to sidewalks, alleys and patio bullpens, there remain few places where smokers can light up with impunity, just like they do in the old movies. Churchill Cigar Lounge is one of them.
Located in a quaint courtyard plaza on Old Town’s main drag, the establishment doubles as a wine and beer bar too. Most of the seating happens to be on a covered, heated patio, which leads into a smallish bar lounge boasting wine shelves and a 60-foot humidor. On any given day, you’ll find a mostly male patronage gathered around silver ashtrays resembling large nut bowls. As expected from a joint that allows for such vices, the vibe is relaxed, non-fussy and welcoming. Happy hour is relatively new. The current deal provides for a glass of Six Grapes Port and a cigar of choice from an attractive grab box for a total of $10.95. The “sticks,” as cigar aficionados call them, range in length, girth and strength. With the help of a friend who never leaves home without a cigar cutter and torch lighter in his pocket, I was guided into choosing a medium-bodied Nica Puro stogie by Alec Bradley. As a neophyte, I learned that the tobacco originates from Nicaragua and that it’s rolled in sun-grown leaves. Beyond that, I had no other benchmark to make comparisons. The blackcurrant overtones of the port struck a seductive match to the toasted flavor of the cigar residing on my lips after each draw. This is exactly what it’s all about: the bedfellow relationship of pure, burning tobacco teaming up with a rich, grapey wine or a good Scotch whisky if it’s on hand. Needless to say, after several awkward puffs that didn’t produce half the cloud coming from my mouth as others around me, I handed over the slow-burning stick for my friends to finish, one of whom rated it as “a woodsy, decent smoke.” The young, semi-sweet port, however, stayed with me until the very last drop. According to the bartender, the wine component in the happy hour program might change to a full-bodied zinfandel or perhaps another type of port in the coming months. The prior deal involved only a glass of vino for $7. As for food, it isn’t sold — although the owner occasionally puts out nibbles, which I didn’t check out on this visit. Churchill’s has a second, larger location at 7094 Miramar Road.