In a city where venues come and go, making it to eight years is an impressive feat. That’s how old Surry Hills tequila bar Tio’s Cerveceria is turning this year, and to keep people coming back it’s launched a food menu. Crafted in collaboration with chef Ben Abiad (Ode), it’s streamlined, simple and delicious.
“Our goal when we started Tio’s was really to create something institutional,” owner Alex Dowd tells Broadsheet. “We want to make this a long-running thing. Every year we ask ourselves what we can do to be better.”
Better in this case means the introduction of the LFP: Latin Fried Pizza. It’s a bit like a pizze fritte (deep-fried pizza), says Dowd, with four different Mexican-inspired toppings (including chorizo) to match the tequila-heavy drinks menu.
“We’re not chefs, so we were really struggling to find that ability to do something really effective but delicious,” says Dowd. “My son became really good friends with Ben from [Bondi’s] Ode, who has worked at Sean’s Panaroma and Brickfields, and we got to talking about it one day. He said he’s got this idea for a fried pizza, a pizza fritte kind of vibe. We extrapolated it and came up with a new food [concept].”
Dowd and the Tio’s crew have travelled extensively through Mexico, sourcing booze for both Tio’s and their CBD mezcal bar, Cantina Ok. “Mexican food is amazing,” says Dowd. “It’s hard to offer an authentic Mexican experience in Australia; we don’t have the ingredients to do it justice.”
As well as the LFPs, there are a couple of snacks: guacamole (“the most delicious food in the world, especially when you dip a chip in it”) and chicharron (pork crackling). The food is available from 4pm until midnight every night. Dowd says they’re inspired by bars such as Redfern’s Arcadia Liquors, which serves toasties (“delicious drinking food”) all night.
“For us this is pretty embryonic,” he says. “In an ideal world we’d love to grow it. But for us it’s totally a full-time thing. That lower Surry Hills precinct is getting so good, places are opening up all the time. There’s so many bars opening up, like Chin Chin and Nomad that’s just reopened.”
Fans of the bar’s free popcorn – it’s served almost 250,000 bags since opening in 2011 – needn’t fret: as long as Tio’s is around, the popcorn will be too.
“We will never ever get rid of the popcorn. It’s a core part of who we are,” says Dowd. “Generosity’s an important part of hospitality.”
Tio’s food menu is now available from 4pm until midnight daily.