Mixed Company: Bar Hop Heaven

Words and photos by Jordana Well

Jordana is a homegrown Washingtonian and vegetarian with lots of friends with varying diets. But she loves a challenge as well as good food. So she’s attempting to bring many of these friends — a porkivore, carnivore, a kosher pescatarian, and a vegan — to the table, eating off the same menu, all being completely satisfied. Impossible you say? Better luck getting Republicans and Democrats to agree on tax cuts? Stick around.

 

I love eating with my friend Mike. Wherever he picks, we go. This may seem unfair, since he only eats meat and I only eat everything else. But I’ve discovered a secret: the best chefs like to cook meat, and where there is great meat, great veggies are sure to follow. This makes dining vegetarian a surprisingly easy hunt, and why I agree to lunch at Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy, a sports bar on GW’s main campus, known primarily for their burgers.

Mike salivates at today’s special, the Trinity Burger, the “Trinity” being Swiss, cheddar, and pepper jack cheese. What a cholesterf^*^k, I say. You’re just jealous because you can’t eat meat, he says, and orders the Trinity. I can eat meat, I respond, I just don’t want to, and order the Bang Bang Salad with Ahi tuna.

The Ahi is cooked to a succulent medium-rare, sliced into delicate spice-rimmed medallions. And when conjoined with the crisp cabbage strips dressed boldly in red pepper flake vinaigrette, it’s addictive. I sink into another bite when Mike’s fork sneaks onto my plate, stealing a medallion, cabbage shavings, and a few slender scallions. Are you OK, I ask, it’s not usual for you to eat anything that once grew. He mumbles something about spicy-juicy-fresh. So it’s as good at the Trinity, I ask with vegetarian pride. Don’t be silly, he shakes his head.

For dessert, Mike orders the Tonic specialty: tater tots. Yes, tater tots. Can a kiddie food satisfy an adult palette enough to become a signature dish? Mike insists yes, especially with beer. Which beer, asks the waiter, Tonic has twelve just on tap. If that question doesn’t scream beer-tot pairing, I don’t know what does.

The famous tots come out first. Mike and I are so engrossed in their fluffy flakiness, I forgot to snap a photo before most of them are gone. But two minutes ago, this basket was overflowing with golden potato sunshine.

The tots come with three dips, but the tots are so flawless in both taste and texture, we agree that they’re best without any dip at all. The beers, four in all, arrive in the nick of time. Can you tell which beer won?

 

Correct, the one not in the glass anymore, the Palm Belgian Ale. It’s solid and deep, an apt companion to the perky tot. The other beers, all too fruity and bright, overshadow the tot. Never try to outshine the Tonic tot, Mike says. Agreed, I agree. Next time, I will try the B.Y.O.P. Pizza with roasted feta, Mike will continue to make fun of my meatless existence, and we will have tots and Palm for dessert.