Downtown bar becomes hot weekend hangout spot
By Anna-Claire Terry
“A lot of people say it’s Opelika’s version of Cheers,” said Mike Patterson, owner of Eighth and Rail. A cultural melting pot, the downtown bar offers a collection of things not often found in the same place; unique cocktails and beverages, sushi, gourmet cheesecake and jazz music.
The bar opened in 2002, and Patterson took over in 2012. With more than 25 years of restaurant experience, Patterson is responsible for all of the food. When he is not rolling sushi, he is whipping up a variety of more than 25 cheesecake flavors including maple bourbon bacon, Almond Joy and strawberries and cream. “The sushi idea really just came from the logistics of the building,” Patterson said. “The building doesn’t have a full kitchen, and we needed something to offer customers. Sushi really wasn’t offered anywhere else in Opelika.” He said he began making cheesecake when the local business he used to buy them from went out of business. Patterson added that he believes it is important to support other local businesses. “We can be each other’s best advocate. If we all work together and help each other, we will do well,” he said.
Lately, Eighth and Rail has turned its focus to craft beers from all over the Southeast. “Craft beer is fairly new to this region, and it has just really been an explosion,” Patterson said.
Aside from food and beverages, another important aspect of Eighth and Rail is music. According to Patterson, the reason he got into the bar business was to become involved with local music again after being a part of a band in the 90s. “That was a part of my life that was missing for 15 years,” he said. “We offer some kind of live music every night that we are open. Entertainment is big for us.” Tuesday night is jazz night, Wednesday is open mic night and Thursday is what Patterson calls an “open jam night.” The bar features local musicians and singer/songwriters. Eighth and Rail has become a popular hangout spot for adults of all ages. Although some bands bring in a younger crowd occasionally, Patterson said the typical crowd is in their late 20s and up. “What we typically try to cater toward is the young professional crowd. what we are also looking at is the Opelika demographic,” he said.
Patterson credits the success of his establishment to the atmosphere that has been created by friendliness and said that is what makes Eighth and Rail unique. “My head bartender Tiffany and I try to make it feel like a relaxed place where you can come hangout with your friends,” he said. “We’re going to learn your name, we’re going to know who you are and greet you when you come in.”
Eighth and Rail is open Tuesday- Thursday from 5 p.m- 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m.- 2 a.m.