24 August 2009

Dining Out Delights: Tavern Law + Oddfellows

This Friday, I finally checked some places off the list that I'd been wanting to visit for some time.

The night began with a gamble: My cohorts and I wanted to explore the throwback bar Tavern Law--on opening night, no less. In a pleasant surprise, we got in straightaway (this was before 7 pm; by the time we shuffled out after 8, the place was getting packed).

I dug the vintage vibe and retro decor, especially the hidden upstairs room that made me feel like a 1930s girl in a speakeasy -- but much, much classier. Before taking us up the secret staircase, the hostess picked up a phone next to the stairwell to alert the barkeep at the top. I thought this a charming -- and practical -- touch. By the time we ascended the stairs (paneled in wood, decorated with old nudey-girl pictures), our seats were ready. As we sat sipping our cocktails, the retro wall phone chirped occasionally, the vest-wearing bartender peeking around the intimate room to see if any tables had freed for new guests. All very sophisticated.

The difference between the two storeys is in the menu: Downstairs you can order off the full menu (including nibbles) + partake of Tavern Law's recipes of signature drinks. Upstairs, there's nary a menu in sight. (No food, either, though on Friday the table next to us was feasting on a smorgasbord... I'm quite sure they were in the inner VIP circle.) To order a drink -- made of top-shelf liquors -- is a delicate dance between customer and waiter. I told the waitress that I was a gin gal, and she proffered up a couple of suggestions from her cheat sheet. We landed on a potion of gin + Lillet + a citrus twist, poured into an old-school champagne goblet that had first been washed with absinthe. The result was slightly sweet and tart; not at all 'foofy' yet very sexy. A perfect aperitif.

Next up, we strolled up to Oddfellows Cafe and Bar, one of the latest in Linda Derschang's empire. Not to play up the name too much, but it was rather odd to be in this space...A decade-plus ago, this was the setting for many post-punk/hardcore shows. I hold dearly in my memory the night I saw Treepeople play to maybe a couple hundred eager fans in this hall. Now, any rock-band sightings would be diners (or maybe servers).

The space is open, almost cafeteria-like, and casual-cool in the way Linda does best. We started off with some low-cost beverages (another staple in Linda's repertoire) and ordered a few items to taste off the menu. The tuna tartine sandwich was rather plain (tasty, mind you - just not anything out of the ordinary); the roasted-beet salad similar. No real complaints here, as the prices were more than fair. The only disappointment was dessert: We shared two (pictured above) -- a s'more concoction (brownie-like) and one of the house-made puddings (almond and berry). Both were dry and dull. I'd much recommend walking around the corner to the newly opened Molly Moon's ice-creamery instead.

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