Tender Bar + Kitchen isn’t new to me, but each time I step through the front door, it’s like I’ve entered a different era entirely. Everything is soulful and intentional; historic and vibrant; dark, but not unassuming. It reminds me of a speakeasy, quietly tucked away in a large, Lawrenceville building. The sounds inside rarely reach more than a low rumble, but the celebratory spirit of a time long ago rumbles loud and clear.
I ended up seated at a table for two, facing the floor-to-ceiling, fully-stocked, cinematic bar. I watched as each of the bartenders, expert in their craft of cocktail mixing, crawl up the ladder and fly from side to side, quickly grabbing spirits from bottles tucked away on the shelves. They would twist and pour and shake and squeeze and shake and swirl and pour, creating these complex and beautiful and aromatic and approachable craft cocktails like it was second nature.
I ordered a French Seventy-Five, a drink created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. It was simple, yet elegant: sparkling wine, gin and lemon juice. So sweet and easy that I could have had a million of them.
For dinner, I took a slightly more traditional route. I ordered the crispy brussel sprouts as an appetizer, just like I always do. They’re served with soy-mirin gastrique, pepperoncini, candied bacon and shaved manchego, and they never last long enough for me to snag a picture of them. Literally not once.
For my meal, I chose the Shepherd’s Pie, made with lamb from Serenity Hill (a local farm just outside of Pittsburgh), cured lamb belly, root vegetables, Yukon gold potatoes and a parmesan crisp. And then, of course, there was the simple Tender Burger, a hefty patty served with cheddar, local green, pickled fennel and pub sauce and a side salad.
There’s nothing like quality time when you feel a little bit like you’re drinking at Gatsby’s.