Night Watch is a regular feature about bars and clubs by nightlife
columnist Tara Nieuwesteeg.
169 Northeast 2nd Ave., Delray Beach
Call 561-274-444, or visit here.
Taste Gastropub is snooty Delray Beach drinking and dining at its
finest. Complete with immaculate counters, chef's hats, and roaring
fires, the kitchen is visible from the restaurant, and Taste's crisp
white walls, black-topped tables, and ubiquitous fake plants created a
classy, modern feel. Tongue-centric art (no really; one framed photo
featured a woman's lips covered in colored sprinkles) covered those
pristine walls and Taste's gigantic windows projected our artsy,
pretentious fun out to the sidewalk and road.
My entourage and I had snagged a seat in the back room with a quick
back exit (for the smokers) and white swivel pod chairs (for the easily
amused). The nearby guys all ordered beers (particular favorite: a
Flying Dog brew called In Heat Wheat. This provoked manly giggling.)
and some of the ladies opted to sip on wine. Not me though; I do not
believe in moderation, bitches.
"So what do you prescribe for floozies who want to get drunk but don't want to necessarily taste any alcohol?" I asked the good-looking, knowledgeable server, who regrettably (for his sake), was responsible for serving the whole slew of us.
"The Snow Dragon - sake, vodka, agave nectar, ginger syrup, lime and lemon juice - is a good one," he suggested.
"Is this sweet?" I asked, ignoring his good advice and pointing at the menu to the Taste Margarita Version 1, a blue agave/prickly pear syrup concoction.
"Yes; it's also pink, so girls love it," he said. "But sometimes I hand it to douchey guys so they'll have to stand there holding a pink drink."
"Good man," I said, always a fan of anyone willing to shame a douchebag.
More overpowering than the scent of tequila emanating from my Taste Margarita Version 1 (retrieved in record time by our lovely server) was its visual spectacle. It was the deepest of fuchsias; an inky pink that shimmered in the light and sent invisible signals to all nearby prowling guys: FEMALE POTENTIAL PREY ABOUT TO IMBIBE BEAUTIFUL AND DECEPTIVELY STRONG DRINK.
I sipped it, but held my poker face. I pushed it toward a sexy lady in our group who I will refer to as "Pixie" because she is small and so damn cute.
"Your drink is the same color as my sister's nail polish," Pixie said, probably not as a compliment to the drink or its orderer. Then she swigged. The expression on her pretty little face morphed from dismissive to surprised. "Tequila," she uttered.
She gingerly dropped the glass back in front of me. "I expected something fruity! With a little vodka! That's a margarita - and strong!" I smiled and readied my liver.
Fuchsia-hued poison coursing through my veins, I abandoned our table and darted to the place I feel most comfortable - the bar. Julie, a beautiful redhead, with large, blue eyes and a clingy dress, was sipping on an interesting concoction. Her date, Jake, stood hovering beside her.
"This is our first time here," Jake said genteelly.
"That doesn't mean you can't pass a judgment," I said. "What do you think of the place? Including the creepy tongue art."
"I love a place I can go and chill - listen to some laid-back music, have a few drinks," said Jake. He wouldn't comment on the orally-fixated art.
Julie paused. "The bartender is amazing. I asked him for a vodka drink with fruit - but nothing
sweet. I don't like sweet drinks. He made me something perfect."
The bartender. Of course. I made a plan to get his attention. It went like this: Lean over bar; yell obnoxiously.
"Are you drunk?" Julie asked me.
"Hahahaha, no," I said. "I mean, yes."
"That must be part of the job," Jake joked, following his statement with a hurr-hurr kind of laugh.
"Part of what job? I am a drinking problem who can occasionally write a coherent sentence," I said. "Welcome to my life."
The bartender, Kurt, was bald and blue-eyed, and pirouetted about the space behind the bar. It was like he was ecstatic to be serving bitchy Palm Beachers their martinis. Or was a heavy drug-user. The latter of which I doubted; he was too precise. His white smile was unflinching; he whirled and reeled and never seemed to miss a beat OR an empty glass.
"Hello," I said. "I've been watching you in action. Now please tell me why you seem so happy."
"I just love liquor," he clarified. "I love bartending! I have a full time job and I do this at night - because I love it. I'd probably do it for free if I had to."
"If I open a bar ..." I started.
"Well, I have a job right now that actually pays," Kurt pointed out.
"Touche," I said. "So, that redhead over there said you made her a fantastic non-sweet drink. What's the deal?"
"I'd rather make drinks with real ingredients, rather than sugary-sweet concoctions -" he spun to the other side of the bar, yanked a cap off a bottle, and spun back to me - "Especially if that's what people want."
"Fair," I said. "But isn't bartending kind of a bitch? I understand loving liquor, but dealing with people..." I punctuated the sentence with a theatrical shudder.
"You know," he said, "When you're a bartender, you share people's joy, and you commiserate in their pain. I know I've talked someone out of ending their own life at least once. So when I get to the door of heaven, they'll go down their checklist, and they'll say, 'Yeah, he's good to get in. he's helped someone.'" Kurt and his eerily unflinching smile took off to the other side of a bar and refilled a patron's drink before she'd ever noticed it was empty. Fresh ice for a lady, stocking of the waiters' trays, and even a moment to mop up the counter a little bit. As I turned to abandon the Energizer Bartender, I nearly got trampled by a tall man with a beard and strong (British, perhaps?) accent and his buxom, blonde companion.
"Why do you like this place so much?" I asked them.
"See those couches -" the man pointed to the comfy sofas on the other side of the bar. "I want to sit on them. That's all it takes."
I darted to the back room to check on my friends, who were getting rowdier by the minute. Our foodie friend had ordered a round of appetizers, my best friend Beard was dominating the conversation as usual, and three members of our posse had been self-exiled to a separate table across the room. That didn't stop conversation from free-flowing back and forth between tables, of course; especially by the third round of drinks.
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One girl (I will call her Floxi because of her love for the word floccinaucinihilipilification - oh, did I mention she can spell it and recite it hundreds of times very quickly?) had turned up fashionably late and was discussing with Pixie the finer episodes of the Discovery Channel's I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.
I pushed the remainder of my unnaturally-hued margarita at her. Her eyes popped a little as she lowered the glass.
"That tastes way less pink than it looks!" was her eventual assessment.
And gastropubs, I discovered, are way less pretentious than they first seem, especially if I can crash one.