The Ice House
Summerville. 104 E. Doty Ave. 875-5500
Things are getting crowded in the bar scene up in Summerville -- from the members-only pool hall out toward Sangaree to the Irish-themed pubs downtown and the wing joints along the main drags. But one old favorite remains a standout: The Ice House.
"Just put 'Woody' for my name -- everybody knows who I am around here," says Mr. Woody, current owner and operator of the Ice House (a.k.a. "Upstairs at the Ice House"). He's been part of the bar staff there for over 20 years. "Just about everything in Summerville is a chain. There are very few neighborhood taverns any more. We're one of the only really local places up here, which is a nice advantage. We're the 'food and beverage bar' here, so everybody in Summerville who works in F&B hangs out here after work."
Speaking to the City Paper by telephone one recent Sunday afternoon, Woody is difficult to hear, thanks to the roaring pre-happy hour crowd in the background. "There's like 60 people in here right now; let me walk outside so I can hear ya," the new owner says. It's easy to hear why the place was voted Best Summerville Bar by City Paper readers for the eighth year in a row.
Opened in a building owned by the Summerville Journal Scene (currently owned by The Post & Courier) in 1972 by proprietor Bill Collins, the cozy upstairs spot just off the main drag boasts one of the loudest happy hours in town. The two main rooms are cluttered with an impressive amount of old tavern paraphernalia: antique license tags and street signs, snapshots of regular patrons and their families, TV sets, and vintage beer cans. One little table holds a 1951 Webster's dictionary. An "old-school" juke stands to the side, filled with requests from the regulars. The peculiar "Ice House Party Wheel" hangs by two dart boards near the main entrance.
"We always have the party wheel going on," says Woody. "You can come spin it any time."
The bar features over 90 different beers on draft, cans, and bottles. They have a large selection of liquors and a curious menu of "house infused vodkas" made from various fruit, herb, coffee, and spice recipes. Cherry Bomb shooters are a favorite cocktail.
Occasionally, they book local bands, acoustic duos, and folksingers -- usually longtime regulars who casually arrange little late-evening sets by the dart boards. The weekly karaoke nights remain popular, too.
"We do an 'open mic' with Butch as the host every Sunday night at 10 p.m.," says Woody. "Some of the rock and punk bands will set up sometimes -- Handgun Sonata and Steve Hit Mike and bands like that. This is like their home bar."