Spanish Tapas and Gin Tonics at Tonica In Midtown
Tonica officially opens Thursday, March 3 just up the street from Ecco on Overton Park in a remodeled space that has previously been home to Parrish Grocery, Atomic Tiki, and many, many others before that. Tonica plans to be open Thursdays through Sundays from 4:30 p.m. until midnight, making it a natural pre-dinner or late night spot in midtown.
I went for a sneak peek to sample some bites from the small plates menu and their signature cocktail, a Spanish gin and tonic aka a gin tonic. I don’t know if leaving out the “and” makes it more Spanish somehow, but follow your heart and I bet the bartender can conjure one up for you either way.
Tonica Cocktail Bar Midtown
I love the changes to the space. There's a long, lovely bar, lots of plants, arched doorways, and an earthy terra-cotta paint color accenting the walls. It's giving that happy plant aesthetic that feels trendy right now, but it’s not all the way to Instagram-land. There’s also a back alley space that could become a small patio one day.
As the official cocktail of Spain (according to somebody, I don’t know who) the Gin Tonic drink gives this new Memphis bar its name. This is the second local bar in recent memory to dedicate efforts to gin and tonics.
Most of the GNTs I’ve seen in Memphis look like this:
A Spanish-style gin and tonic is a a totally different experience:
Served in a big round goblet with high quality tonic, lots of ice, garnished with citrus and juniper berries, these drinks are more like spritzes to sip on a spring day. I don’t love gin (or tonic, to be honest) but prepared this way I’m all about it. The bar will offer exclusively Spanish wines.
As for the bites, we tried an herby tomato spread on crusty bread, chicharrón, a ham and cheese croquette with potatoes, jumbo shrimp, and buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing. I did some detective work on the food since the menu has not been released yet, so what follows are my guesses.
It’s hard to say what the serving style and sizes will be, since this was more of a passed hors d’oeuvres situations, but it’s reportedly “small plates”. Stay tuned on that one.
Everything we tasted was delicious, but a few things stood out.
The ham croquette (croquetas de jamón, if you will) was a warm comforting bite, with ham and Bechamel inside a crispy fried crust. You want these. I did not expect chicken wings here, but Tonica’s were crispy, hot, and coated in a Buffalo-style sauce. I am a spice wimp and these got close to my limit, but I’ll get an order for the table. The homemade, creamy bleu cheese dressing helped that heat level and added a layer of flavor.
The best of the bunch was the shrimp, though. Jumbo, juicy, and flavorful, they may be a part of the Spanish paella that Tonica’s kitchen plans to offer.