We Attend 1022′s new menu party on 10/22
Hilltop. A place infamous to those in even the most remote places. Even Pullman, Washington. I’m not sure how a kid like me, growing up amid wheat fields and fraternities was allowed to develop any preconceptions about a geographical locale within a city on the other side of the state. The mention of Hilltop would elicit Compton-esque visions of drug trafficking and gang violence, all enshrouded within a stinky cloud of Tacoma Aroma so thick one could barely make out the unsavory spectacle before facing a mugging and/or an untimely death. Once I moved to Tacoma, and faced the reality that is Hilltop today, I felt a little…well…let down.
Hilltop. You used to be so…exciting. Whatever happened to that mystique? What will rural white boys fear beyond the comfortable confines of their idyllic little towns? Good luck attracting Anderson Cooper any time soon. Luckily for us there are a few places keeping Hilltop funky, keeping souls lubricated and expectations high. Places like 1022. The most literate bar in Tacoma is ready to teach you a few things.
The fine folks at 1022 celebrated their namesake date with a new menu and $6 drinks – a far cry from the usual $10-12 one of these elixirs usually carry. We arrived at the old Monsoon Room location on South J a tiny bit tardy at 6:15 pm. The place only opened at 6:00 but already there was a 45-60 minute wait for a table. We stubbornly put in our name and number and made the trek up the hill to the Tempest to pass our time sipping cheap rum and cokes and a citrus explosion called “Larry’s Lick of Love” (served by Larry) – all while squirming through an always-uncomfortable viewing of Naked Lunch on the bar television. After a couple drinks and several of Burroughs’ awkward scenes involving alien typewriters and talking anuses, we hightailed it back down to 1022. After a short while longer we were seated, crammed in the corner adjacent to everyone else. The place is goddamn tiny.
The three categories remain from the previous menu: Literary, Classics, and Apothecary.
The menu is loaded with bizarre creations for every palate. This post surely won’t do the menu justice, as our short visit allowed us to sample only a very small portion of the offerings, but I’ll do my best to break categories down here for all you fine liquor enthusiasts.
The literary category contains drinks inspired by literature: phrases, allusions, and presumably content. Drinks span the gamut here from the basic: “Lost in Translation” a revamped whiskey sour with Drambuie, to the intricate: “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” with Fernet Branca, Green Chartreuse, cocoa, and egg white. The category hosts all types of spirits, warm and cold drinks, short and tall. There is no discernible running theme here ingredient-wise, just the literary connection. The ingredients truly do stretch the imagination. There are many different bitters, herb-infused liquors, and seemingly (to a beer drinker like myself) unusual additions. The egg white proved to be a big hit at our table however. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy was a rather tasty little critter, both sweet and herbal. The egg whites gave it a remarkable consistency and creaminess.
Another egg white masterpiece – “South of No North.” This unbelievable concoction began with an unsurprising base of Reposado tequila upon which was added cold pressed coffee, mole bitters, egg white, and Cynar (an Italian bitter apéritif liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants…Google was our best friend this evening). The chocolate of the mole combined with the smooth coffee notes and full body of the egg whites gave the impression of a very fine barrel aged stout. A perfect drink for the coffee and beer lover.
As the title states, these are the classics. These drinks weren’t quite as adventurous as we typically aim to be, but we did enjoy the simplicity of the “Rose Martinez,” made from Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, and rose cordial. Much of the drinks listed here could be made from the dusty bottles in the back of your liquor cabinet – you know the ones: Triple Sec, Dry Vermouth, Campari, brandy. If you’re a fan of bourbon and rye whiskey, you’ll find favorites in drinks like the “1022 Vieux Carre” or the “1022 Old Fashioned.” A fantastic way to go on your next “Madmen” costume night.
The drinks spanned from new twists on old favorites to unusual herbal-infused remedies engineered to cure any sober malady. Most of these drinks included some sort of herb or extract: echinacea, lavender, rooibos, yerba matte, cayenne, even truly weird shit like horny goat weed and goji tincture. I cut myself off early because I’m a damn responsible driver, but the next drink on my list was definitely the “Holiday Hero,” made with Demerara Rum, masala chai, walnut/brown sugar and cream or soy served hot. I’m looking forward to this my next visit. For the more brazen individual, you can throw caution to the wind and select the “Apothecary Cup,” the description reads ‘bartender’s choice; bonne chance.”
When the Monsoon Room occupied this space they were infamous for their $50 chicken pot pie. It wasn’t some amazing pastry with gold-infused crust, it was simply the same microwaveable after-school filler consumed across America by 7th grade boys on a daily basis. The Monsoon Room consciously decided to focus their rays of awesomeness on their drinks. Unfortunately, it is required by law that food be available in places of drink. So as the legend goes, the Monsoon Room got around this by putting chicken pot pies and Easy Mac on their menu, but asked a prohibitively high amount of money for them, in essence removing food from the equation. I do remember having some very nice Wasabi peas there once.
1022 is not the Monsoon Room. Their food menu isn’t enormous, but it’s legit. You can find many small plates like crostini or hummus, large meat and cheese plates, salads, panini, sandwiches and desserts. We tried the large meat plate (or charcuterie…I always hated that goddamn word), the Hilltop Grilled Cheese, and the Chocolate Torte.
The meat plate was standard at best. The meats fresh and the accompanying items adequate (although the pickled beets were nice and spicy tasty) but nothing special. I’ll try their cheese plate in the future.
The sandwich too was a bit underwhelming, tasty but nothing to write home about.
The torte was different. I originally had no interest in getting dessert. In fact, when Sheli ordered this I didn’t pay much attention at first, but I couldn’t help but notice the ecstasy with which she began eating it. She didn’t say anything. This wasn’t exactly Meg Ryan having an orgasm over corned beef hash, but she silently sat at the edge of the table slowly taking bites of this dessert, head tilted, eyes rolling. I eventually managed to sneak a bite and realized what all the fuss was over. This was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. The torte came from Corina’s, where presumably they are mixing angel turds with crack, baking it, then layering it with Valhalla espresso and chocolate ganache. As glorious as my description sounds, it was even better. This almost filled the hole in my heart left by the world’s moistest brownie from the Herban Cafe. I loved that brownie. I never had it again. This will haunt me, unless I can buy more of this torte.
1022 is a destination. Not that Hilltop doesn’t have other stuff going for it, but I don’t know many other reasons you’d hang out next to a vacant lot on South J late at night surrounded by shopping carts and empty cans of Four Loko. Maybe the next addition to the menu should be “The Naked Lunch.” The ingredients would be mind blowing I’m sure.
1022, where your drink makes you think.
1022 South J Street Tacoma, WA 98405