It’s getting easier and easier to find a place at which you can drink long into the night while also eating an excellent meal. We know good food can come out of very small kitchens and at bars, such as the recently opened Surly’s, Rosie Cambell’s and Barrio Cellar, where the Friday-night vibe is just as good as the food.
Now Tio’s Cervecería, a bar long-associated with tequila and popcorn, is no longer just a pre- or post-dinner option. When the previous chef left (he was doing tacos, too, but nothing notable) co-owner Alex Dowd had two options: find another chef or do it himself. “Jeremy [Blackmore, co-owner] and I have both spent time overseas – I spent a lot of time in Mexico and he worked in kitchens. So we had a go ourselves,” Dowd says.
“I don’t think there is a great representation [in Sydney] of Mexico’s rich culture. We want the things we do here to have identity, reflect our experiences. We give a shit and we want things to be delicious.”
The menu is short and snacky, so you can keep ordering more as you drink. Start with chicharones, crunchy fried pork rinds with an addictive chipotle mayo to dip them in, and a quesadilla with refried beans, queso de fresco, red leicester (an English cheese similar to cheddar but more crumbly) and pickled onion. Queso de fresco translates to “fresh cheese”; it’s a mild, creamy goat’s cheese, which adds a pleasant tang.
The tacos come in three varieties: pollo asado with chicken, lime, pepitas and avocado; carnitas with braised pork, crema and salsa verde; and frijoles y maiz with refried kidney beans and blackened corn. With a fresh-tasting, chewy tortilla all are vibrant, zesty and rich with spices and can be eaten in two bites.
You may not have come across torta ahogada before, but you should try it here. Translating to a “drowned sandwich” and a common afternoon snack in Mexico, it’s a large bread roll stuffed with tender and sweet roast pork, beans, chicharones, radish and pickled onion, and is soaked completely through with a soupy and spicy tomato sauce. Though it maintains its structure, it can be sliced with a spoon. It’s the ultimate stomach-lining snack; rich, satisfying and fun to share.
“We want a venue that can transport you,” says Dowd. Even if you haven’t been to Mexico, a night working your way through Tio’s new menu may be the next best thing.
4–14 Foster Street, Surry Hills
Mon to Sat 4pm–midnight