Downtown Sanford’s newest restaurant, the Smoke & Barrel, is set for a grand opening tomorrow night, complete with live music from Burlington folk band Be the Moon.

Ahead of the big day, the Rant had a quick chat with co-owner Jeff Towson, a Sanford native who lives in Pittsboro, where he’s also the owner of the City Tap.

Towson said the Smoke & Barrel is kind of a logical next step from the smaller City Tap, and will feature a menu heavy on smoked meats such as beef brisket. The full bar will offer various bourbons and North Carolina craft beers. Like at its Pittsboro forebear, live music will play a regular role at the Smoke & Barrel.

The opening comes at an exciting time for downtown Sanford. Work has just begun on the city’s streetscape project, which was approved by voters in 2013. Artistic murals depicting Sanford’s past are popping up, turning old buildings into colorful attractions.

“I think there are a lot of good things coming for downtown Sanford,” Towson said. “We’re excited to be a part of it.”

The Smoke & Barrel joins a roster of downtown dining options which have thrived in recent years, including the Steele Pig, Local Joe’s Tap and Grill and Kathy’s Java Express. The Rant applauds the important role all of these businesses have played in making downtown better, and welcomes the Smoke & Barrel to the fold with high hopes for the future of our little city.

Below are some of the first public images of the new restaurant.

Made from reclaimed wood by an artist in Ayden, the outline of North Carolina greets diners as they enter the building.
The Smoke & Barrel will have 12 taps, with a heavy focus on North Carolina craft beers.
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The restaurant’s retro neon sign has been in place for several weeks, adding a new wrinkle to downtown Sanford’s after-dark look.
The Smoke & Barrel is located on South Steele Street, in the old Red Sofa building.