2011 was the year we finally experienced a wind change and saw a plethora of quality South American eateries blow into town. I’m sure you’re thinking “hey trying all those tacos and pulled pork dishes is hard work” and you’re right, luckily you can now sate your queso fresco induced thirst with some Latino beer and deliciously alcoholic Agave juice at Tio’s.
Tio’s Cerveceria is billed as a ‘Guatemalan tequila bar and beer hall’ opened by two moutached Shady Pines alumni and the pedigree shows: it’s got that innate chilled out kitschy vibe with layout focused on the long wooden bar running the length of the establishment.
Drinks here are well…tequila, 70+ tequilas in fact so if it’s never been your thing, this is your best chance of converting.
Annie and I are here to down a (few) drinks before an exhibition; it’s knock-off hour but the cavernous small bar remains relatively empty except for a few chicas sipping cocktails and chatting to Jeremy Blackmore, Alex Dowd and their crew.
The whole place feels like a south-of-the-border-summer-break-frat-party waiting to happen with plastic owls, parrots, dripping wax and religious iconography dotting the walls and looping through the rafters. We pull up two stools and Jeremy arrives and asks what we’d like, we’re stumped as always so he pushes on asking whether we prefer our drinks sweet or sour. An awkward pause ensues so he declares he’ll make one of each.
Tequila with juiced lime (left) $10
I’m given the sour: he explains that they juice half a whole lime including the pip so it adds a touch of bitterness to the drink, which turned out to be quite sweet and refreshing without any trace of bitterness.
Tequila with apple, cucumber, hebs $10
Annie’s was really fruity with the strong freshness of the cucumber shouting above the herbs and apple, the drink was comparable to a Mexican Pimm’s punch.
All the while, one of the guys behind us had been working hard to fix the broken carnival pop corn machine. With our drinks almost finished a fat paper bag of chilli corn goodness suddenly popped onto the bar in front of us; Annie and I twist open the top and started the uncontrollable munching.
Complimentary chilli popcorn
I thought it’d be wise to order one for the road and requested “something quirky”.
Tequila with coffee and condensed milk $10
A chocolated coloured glass mug arrived, it turned out to be a Vietnamese inspired concoction of coffee, condensed milk and of course, tequila. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t a revelation either (perhaps it’s because they were using Nescafe) although I admire the boys’ creativity.
We sadly smooth out our wrinkly popcorn-bag carcass and as we chat away, a soft plop sounds the arrival of another fresh bag! We can’t resist hanging around longer, nibbling on popcorn, admiring the mismatched tiles and plastic figures until we realise time got away from us and we were running very late.
I guess a holiday in Mexico can do that to you.
A quirky laid back Tequila bar serving great drinks and free popcorn at an un-Sydney price (I’ve heard they sell salted and limed $5 tinnys). Those who aren’t fans of cerveza will be glad the boys will have brought out a printed cocktail menu by now (on the back of Mexican post cards no less). Noise levels can vary, it was murmur quiet when I was there but a friend later informed me they arrived at 8 to an uncomfortable wall of sound. But just a quiet word between you and I: Tio’s is the best place to expand your tequila based repertoire and train your liver in anticipation of that Latin getaway so swing by and start “salud”ing soon.
a. 4-14 Foster Street, Surry Hills