Thursday, September 20, 2018

Happy Hour Hound: Toro Kitchen, St. Paul Square

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 12:34 PM

click to enlarge CHRISTINE WONG / @STINE.EATS
  • Christine Wong / @stine.eats
Some friends with whom I’ve long cooked and traveled have just had a baby — but they’re not letting that small impediment stop them from continuing to enjoy the good life. To keep parents sane and introduce baby to new environments, they have instituted happy hours with Luca. So far, at two months going on three, he’s behaved better than many adults of my acquaintance.

He loved tracking the passing parade at Esquire Tavern recently. Wanting to encourage his visual side (tastes will have to wait), I’m convinced he really enjoyed the more colorful drinks at Toro Kitchen’s new St. Paul Square outpost. We did, too — though they weren’t our favorites.

Readers might have figured out by now that I do have a few quirks in the food and drink department. One of them is crushed or pebble ice in drinks. Give me something boozy served over a humongous cube any day. From Toro’s Gin Bar menu, that means that both the Barcelona (Botanist — a favorite gin, raspberries, lemon and rosemary) and the Bilbao (Plymouth, strawberries, basil and lime) rated lower than others.

Don’t misunderstand: these use top-notch gins with fruit flavors that are bright and fresh. And at $6 from 4-7 on weekdays, there’s no denying that they are well worth the coin. But for my money, bring on the San Sebastián (we were in that Basque city together a little over a year ago where many balloon-shaped vessels of “gintonic” were consumed pre-baby) with its Hendricks, cucumber and lime. Or maybe the Toledo (Mahon from the Spanish island of Menorca, Campari and sweet red vermouth); it’s really a Negroni re-baptized to fit the theme, but it’s well-made.

We fiddled with a couple of other drinks just to punch up the flavor profile, and the fiddle factor came from an unlikely source: the optional habanero sauce that’s offered with one of the $6 select tapas — the un-Iberian, but awfully good, tacos de cochcinita pibil. Consider using it in the Valencia (Malfy gin, rosemary and lemon topped with tonic), or the Sevilla with super-premium Monkey 47 gin that didn’t really come through.

Toro’s patatas bravas, another of the tapas, aren’t “brava” enough for my taste, but the blistered padron peppers are great with the drinks, and the battered calamari are among the best in town. Baby on board or not, HH at Toro is worth building on your experiences as well.
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