The Tar Pit Bar and Restaurant - Warning - AVOID

Posted on Saturday, Jan 9, 2010 at 09:02 PM

FAIL stamped over Tar Pit logo

This new, would-be hotspot is trying to build a reputation as an ultra-swanky craft cocktail bar and restaurant. You need to stay away from it for now.

I (Adam) should have known there was a problem when my wife called to confirm our reservation -- and they'd lost it. To add insult to injury, the host accused my wife of being "very suspicious" because they'd been "booked for weeks." Yeah, thanks chief, we were a part of that.

Thankfully, he managed to "squeeze us in" tonight.  I'm not sure why I'm saying "thankfully."

Since we were very hungry, as soon as we sat down, we ordered appetizers with our drinks.

20 minutes later.  No drinks.  Nobody said anything, nobody came by with an apology. 

I flag our waiter, ask what the story is.  He's a nice guy, but looks overworked and overwhelmed, and hurries off.

A full 27 minutes after ordering them, we finally get our drinks.  At this point, we've realized that this place doesn't have their act together.  We ask, "How much longer will it be for the appetizers?" Our poor waiter admits that he has "no idea," and goes to the kitchen to check.

He returns with the answer, "They won't be coming out anytime soon."

Yeah.  We left.

I'd stay far, far away from this place until our sources can confirm a new general manager comes in, or something else major changes.  Or, more likely, wait until they close -- and a bar with some operational know-how occupies this swanky but wasted space.
UPDATE (ADDED MAY 2010):  I received flack from some folks for being so harsh on the Tar Pit relatively soon after the place had opened. So, when the Duke and I were having dinner next door to the Tar Pit earlier this month, we decided to duck in for a drink.  Here's what happened:
Walk in. Nobody at the host/hostess stand -- as happened the first time I was there, when my wife and I waited about 5 minutes for someone to wander over and say "Uh, name?" Realizing on this visit that the podium was for decorative/ghost purposes only, the Duke and I strode along the bar scoping out the whisk(e)y selection. We did this for a couple good minutes, conspicuously and obviously, then waiting to talk to the bartender and order a drink. But the guy wouldn't make eye contact with either of us, pretending to not notice us. The bar was maybe 2/3 full as was the restaurant, and the bartender wasn't busy in the slightest. I'd add that we both looked like casual mid-30's average, regular guys -- true, this is from my perspective -- but I really doubt we looked like some sort of derelict scum.
Point being: no reason to cop an attitude, Mr. Bartender.
Since reorganizing glasses and rotating well bottles was obviously so important -- and we weren't -- we decided to leave and let the rest of the... um, conoisseurs... enjoy their drinks.
Maybe someday, I'll get to experience something other than the stupefyingly bad service here (if it's even fair to call it "service"). For now, The Tar Pit stays on my AVOID list. 

Holiday Potpourri and a Glenfarclas Anniversary

Posted on Saturday, Dec 12, 2009 at 07:28 PM

Sylized photo of Glenfarclas 1959 and glass.

Wow, it's been a while since LAWS has officially gathered -- we were busy with events like WhiskyFest, Whisky Live, Speakeasy, and the SMWS Extravaganza.  But we finally got back to our usual shenanigans this month with an informal meeting featuring a mix of single malts we called the "Holiday Potpourri."

Basically, it was an excuse to open a 42-year-old Glenfarclas, distilled on Christmas Day in 1959. We thought it would be cool to drink it nearly 50 years to the day it was distilled. Typically we'd try to arrange a theme around this -- like "Christmas Whisky" or something -- we even toyed with the idea of "December Distillations" (which is meaningless) -- and finally we just figured, ah heck, let's just pick a bunch of rare, old whiskies and sit around and drink them unblinded for once.  So the lineup was:

It turned out to be a stellar evening. The Signatory dumpies were particularly impressive, with the Benrinnes arguably winning the night, although the Talisker 1981 (sister bottling to the legendary Talisker 1981 UK) was massively well-received. (Give members time to recover and rejuvenate before notes/ratings are entered).

Battle of the Collectors!

Posted on Saturday, Sep 19, 2009 at 06:23 PM

Over-the-top skeleton worshipfully holding two whiskey bottles.

The challenge was simple -- Adam and Chris would each choose 3 bottles from their personal collections, have the group taste them blind, and determine whose whiskey expertise reigns supreme -- in a climactic battle to the death!!  Well, close, anyhow.

The submitted bottles could not be one of the 900 whiskies already listed on this website, and the combined cost of each collector's choices had to be about $600.

To mix things up, we also threw in a $30 bargain bottle we found at Binny's, and another old Signatory dumpy that Adam and Chris had previously tasted but had vastly differing opinions on (A- vs. C).  Thus, eight bottles were tasted blind -- six of them being carefully chosen, educated choices (theoretically), one of them possibly being rather lousy, and another being a complete wild card.

It turned out to be a great contest -- and Adam won, with a rare Macallan 1980 16-year Signatory dumpy leading his victory charge.  Perhaps not surprisingly, many bottles that were rated in the 90's by various critics ended up faring much differently mixed into a blind (and rather random) tasting.  Full results are posted below, click through for better resolution and a clickable version of the chart.

The Glenlivet: Rediscovering the U.S. Best-Seller

Posted on Sunday, Aug 9, 2009 at 07:49 PM

Glenlivet logo

Okay, we'll admit it -- we're a bit jaded.  When you spend so much time scavenging the globe for rare, exotic whiskies, it's easy to view a distillery like Glenlivet as... well, a bit commonplace.  After all, there's basically a bottle of Glenlivet 12 on every bar in America (not to mention the world). Which is why, when LAWS was asked if we'd like to have a tasting with Glenlivet brand ambassador Rick Edwards, our response was a qualified "Okay, but bring the good stuff!"

A picture of Rick Edwards in traditional Scottish garb.
Which, in retrospect, wasn't quite a fair thing to say. As Rick walked us through the core expressions (12yr15yr18yr), there was discussion in the group that these whiskies shouldn't be passed over so easily. Sure, they aren't the kick-in-the-pants-monsters that are bombarding the market these days (e.g. Supernova), but that's not what Glenlivet's aiming for. Theirs is a lighter-style single malt, which isn't to say that it's devoid of flavor (it isn't). And at $22 a bottle, how can you really complain about Glenlivet 12? We already knew that the 16yr Nadurra is a solid cask-strength whisky at a great price (around $50), but a few of us "re-discovered" the 18yr, marking it as a pleasant sipper and a bargain given the age.

Oh yeah, and then there was the upper-range stuff -- we truly loved it.  The main argument was whether the 1969 Cellar Collection was more enjoyable than the 1964 Cellar Collection, and that's splitting hairs. The 1972 Cellar Collection was the most "un-Glenlivity" of the bunch, with complexity and spice that some found medicinal wisps in, to the delight of some and annoyance of others.  Of course, the price is the easy complaint to make about the Cellar Collection... and if it's "worth it" depends on who's asking and who's paying... but since we weren't doing either as far as these beauties were concerned, we just enjoyed reveling in some truly stellar whiskies.  

Thanks Rick!!!

Sherried Islays and Other Whisky Fantasies

Posted on Monday, Jul 13, 2009 at 01:00 AM

Islay whisky distilleries listed in an image with a glass of sherry and map of Scotland, pointing out the island of Islay.

At our July meeting, we sampled eight bottles from Islay, all matured in sherry casks.  We're still recovering.  The line-up included rare collectors' bottles and recent releases:


Ardbeg 1990 for Symposion International Sweden
Bruichladdich 1998 Manzanilla Cask
Bowmore 21 (1972)
Bunnahabhain 1979 Signatory
Caol Ila 1993 Murray McDavid
Lagavulin 1989 Distillers Edition
Laphroaig 1989 Old Malt Cask
Port Ellen 1982 DL Platinum Old & Rare

The Arbeg, Laphroaig, and Port Ellen were the overall favorites of the night.  Sherry cask Laphroaigs are exceptionally rare and expensive, so the recent release of this one at only $115 was serendipitous.  The Whisky Exchange sold out of them within a day, but they only had 12, so others must be out there.   

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