Shady Pines Saloon, Baxter Inn and Tio's Cerveceria have something in common that makes them so damn fun to drink in. Apart from the fact that the guys that opened the latter two started at Shady's, all these bars are based on an original concept that hasn't really been done before in Sydney and each has an element of escapism. Perhaps I'm overanalysing, but when you walk into these darkened dens, you seem to forget everything else. You forget about what you have to do the next day, or who else is in there, or where to go next. At Tio's, as well as at the others, they've created a space in which it's all about the culture surrounding the alcohol. Consequently, the experience becomes about enjoying the company you're with - because that's what drinking is all about, really.
Strangely enough, Jeremy and Alex fell in love with tequila on a trip to Scotland. With diverse influences, such as grandparents who live in Mexico and a childhood spent partly in Spain, it made sense to open up a cerveceria. If you're a fan of tequila, Tio's will be your new favourite haunt and, if you're not, you should certainly visit anyway. They do five or six mixed tequila drinks, including a sour with grapefruit and soda, a smokey combination of coke and lime in salt-rimmed glass, and another called Roberto's Especial of fresh apple juice, cucumber and three herbs. The last has a particularly amusing back-story (ask one of the bartenders on a quiet night), and all will set you back a mere $10. The drinks are refreshingly tangy, and it's a nice change to drink something other than a G&T or a glass of pinot without paying $18.
Alex explains that the place came together organically. They decided on the layout and decor as they went, having some idea of the finished product but not really knowing what it would look like until it was done. As a result, the place has a super laid-back feel to it. The decor is appropriately kitsch, including cute owls, Virgin Marys and a giant crab, and the long tables have a fun, food hall vibe to them.
If the night calls for an icy cold beer, then order a Cooper's tinnie or an excellent Mexican beer (whose label is curiously in English) called Red Bull, that was described as "tasting like sunset". There's also a solid wine list. The only food is freshly roasted popcorn in paper bags, dangerously moreish, which really is a great accompaniment to alcohol. Let's hope these boys don't stop with three, only great things can come of any new venture.
Images: Letícia Almeida.
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