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Three Dots and a Dash •••— Paul McGee's Tiki Bar

Three Dots and a Dash •••— Paul McGee's Tiki Bar
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  • Post #31 - August 4th, 2013, 12:32 am
    Post #31 - August 4th, 2013, 12:32 am Post #31 - August 4th, 2013, 12:32 am
    This conversation has taken a negative swing, which I've contributed to, so I should hastily add that the namesake cocktail I had was a perfect before-dinner drink, tart, complex but not ponderous (not in a tiki bar!), and spicy, as was The Wife's Jet Pilot, which I actually liked a bit more. The menu of bar snacks also looked like it might repay some attention (the take on musubi, with foie gras standing in for spam, was kind of funny).

    I don't think anyone has to worry about this place being kitsch-free, but unlike, say, Hala Kahiki, this place captures the vibe but also delivers the goods (whereas the place on River Road, which I do enjoy, has entirely forgettable drinks, albeit for very reasonable prices, and no food except for pretzels).

    For anyone planning to go, I'd highly recommend getting there early. We went at 5:10PM, and by 5:45, the main room was full up, though I think the outer rooms still had some space (this was on a Friday, so crowding was pretty much expected).

    I've recommended this place to several people today; it's worthy.
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #32 - August 4th, 2013, 10:40 am
    Post #32 - August 4th, 2013, 10:40 am Post #32 - August 4th, 2013, 10:40 am
    Location, hype and general newness - plus the fact that it serves alcohol - will guarantee a certain clientele, at least for a while. Iirc, there were similar complaints on the Aviary thread, and that seems an even more unlikely spot for the backwards white baseball cap set.

    To be fair to the dude who ordered a beer, unless you know what you're in for through and through, I can imagine a tiki menu being pretty overwhelming. Imagine you see a menu stuffed with exotic drinks with exotic ingredients, each (at least) $13, in a noisy, busy place. It can be overwhelming, and choosing between flying blind for that much cash and going for a beer, the beer is definitely the simpler, easier, cheaper choice. Sillier choice, perhaps, given the location, but I can see an antithetical method to the madness.
  • Post #33 - August 4th, 2013, 11:04 am
    Post #33 - August 4th, 2013, 11:04 am Post #33 - August 4th, 2013, 11:04 am
    Vitesse98 wrote:To be fair to the dude who ordered a beer, unless you know what you're in for through and through, I can imagine a tiki menu being pretty overwhelming. Imagine you see a menu stuffed with exotic drinks with exotic ingredients, each (at least) $13, in a noisy, busy place. It can be overwhelming, and choosing between flying blind for that much cash and going for a beer, the beer is definitely the simpler, easier, cheaper choice. Sillier choice, perhaps, given the location, but I can see an antithetical method to the madness.


    The Wife and I were talking about this last night, and her more benign (than my) take was that some people are just clueless. They're not, she said, as I was suggesting, making a statement, they just don't know what the hell they're doing, and I've been in that place myself, many times, so I empathize.
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #34 - August 4th, 2013, 12:12 pm
    Post #34 - August 4th, 2013, 12:12 pm Post #34 - August 4th, 2013, 12:12 pm
    Also possible that he was accompanying foodie/drinkie (is that a brand extension or what!) date to his/her hotspot destination of choice but ain't a "tiki" kinda guy. Perfectly acceptable, even admirable, that he'd be a good sport for going, no?
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #35 - August 4th, 2013, 12:20 pm
    Post #35 - August 4th, 2013, 12:20 pm Post #35 - August 4th, 2013, 12:20 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:Also possible that he was accompanying foodie/drinkie (is that a brand extension or what!) date to his/her hotspot destination of choice but ain't a "tiki" kinda guy. Perfectly acceptable, even admirable, that he'd be a good sport for going, no?


    Or perhaps a loved one just passed away, so he wasn't thinking clearly, but still, as he was walking to the bar, he rescued a child in a stroller whose mother, neglecting the infant for an instant, didn't notice that the stroller was moving down the curb and into traffic, and this man, this hero, saved the child and, as then he was walking through the alley to the bar, actually gave a homeless person $100 for dinner, just about all the money he had in the world, so all he could afford was a beer. And this same man could have also been a vet, with PTSD, so the whole idea of being in a tiki bar brought back visions of being in the jungle and fighting and watching his friends die, just to win me and all Americans our freedom, so he wasn't himself, and all the wanted was a beer. And I begrudge him that? I suck.
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #36 - August 4th, 2013, 5:45 pm
    Post #36 - August 4th, 2013, 5:45 pm Post #36 - August 4th, 2013, 5:45 pm
    Hope I didn't offend, Jen, just trying to punctuate the end of speculative tangent.

    Back to the place and the drinks.

    Because it's a tiki bar, it's low light, which is going to make pix hard to take. Here is an arresting entryway decoration:

    Image

    Though this skull rack does say Cambodian killing fields to me, the intent was is to pull-through theme of South Pacific, cannibals, wildness, hoo-hah. It's entertaining, in its way.

    My understanding is that they're not using specific cups for specific drinks. The Wife's Jet Pilot is left and my Three Dots and a Dash is right foreground.

    Image

    We were told that's an edible orchid on the Jet Pilot. These drinks are pretty, and the focus on ingredients and careful mixing reminds me a little of the first time I went to Violet Hour, only in a clearly more light-hearted atmosphere.
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #37 - August 4th, 2013, 8:41 pm
    Post #37 - August 4th, 2013, 8:41 pm Post #37 - August 4th, 2013, 8:41 pm
    The quality of booze going into these drinks is worth noting. That Painkiller you ordered was made with Appleton 12-year. Yes, please.

    I can't wait to dig into the spirits list.
  • Post #38 - August 5th, 2013, 2:06 pm
    Post #38 - August 5th, 2013, 2:06 pm Post #38 - August 5th, 2013, 2:06 pm
    David Hammond wrote:My understanding is that they're not using specific cups for specific drinks. The Wife's Jet Pilot is left and my Three Dots and a Dash is right foreground.


    This is true, I noticed it and had Erin (one the the bartenders) verify for me on Saturday night.

    I got there around 5:15 Saturday night, and stayed for five drinks, somewhere around three hours. As expected, walked straight in, and sat down at the bar; by the time I left it was full, but not so full that there were people climbing over me to get drinks. If you are going to arrive much later than eight on a weekend night (or potentially any night), your ability to get to the bar will probably be hit or miss.

    I've now drank my way through more than half of the cocktail list (actually drank, I've tasted some of the others as well), and while I still prefer the Classic side, I have now hit two of Paul's moderns that I liked: Tall as a Tree and Twice as Shady, and Rum River Mystic.

    I'll probably finish the cocktails in the next week or two; then it is time to find people to tackle those punches....

    SSDD
    He was constantly reminded of how startlingly different a place the world was when viewed from a point only three feet to the left.

    Deepdish Pizza = Casserole
  • Post #39 - August 6th, 2013, 11:07 pm
    Post #39 - August 6th, 2013, 11:07 pm Post #39 - August 6th, 2013, 11:07 pm
    My wife and I checked out Three Dots on Saturday night and had a blast. We arrived around 9pm, and the bar was full but we were able to grab seats at a small table in the far corner. There were a couple of banquettes available, but we didn't want to hog a big seat for just the 2 of us. By 10, the place was packed with all seats full and the bar 3-4 deep. By the time we left at about midnight, it was even more crowded.

    As others have said, the space was pretty much a perfect interpretation of tiki immersion without sliding into the cheesy. We loved the brazilian bossa nova music that was playing early in the evening, and then they moved into more of a surf rock soundtrack later on.

    Our waitress was already very well versed on the menu. The amount of training they've had really shows. She was able to give very detailed info about the flavors of the drinks and steered us in the right direction. I went with the Jet Pilot and loved it, while my wife went with the classic Mai Tai and also raved about her drink. After that, we split a Poipu Beach Boogie Board from the modern menu -- primarily because it had guava and my wife loves the fruit. It was our least favorite of the three, but still enjoyable. We can't get back to continue working our way through the menu. Most of the drinks sounded good to us.

    Even though we had just come from dinner, we asked to see a food menu for future reference. It was all tiki style bar apps, like crab rangoon, curry skewers, Thai fried chicken. There were maybe 10 options. We could see doing 3-4 apps and a couple drinks for dinner some night... a perfect mini vacation come winter. Of course, we hope to make it back well before then.
  • Post #40 - August 9th, 2013, 10:05 am
    Post #40 - August 9th, 2013, 10:05 am Post #40 - August 9th, 2013, 10:05 am
    ChitownJackson wrote:Going tonight and I'm wondering if Paul can make me a proper '34 Zombie without ordering the full $75 punch bowl.


    Any luck with that? I asked a waitress at the bar and was outright refused.

    A tiki bar without single-serving zombies is the equivalent of a brewpub that doesn't offer free samples.
  • Post #41 - August 9th, 2013, 10:16 am
    Post #41 - August 9th, 2013, 10:16 am Post #41 - August 9th, 2013, 10:16 am
    Another Tiki classic I've been wondering about but that is not currently offered at TD&aD: Singapore Sling.
    “We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
  • Post #42 - August 9th, 2013, 10:30 am
    Post #42 - August 9th, 2013, 10:30 am Post #42 - August 9th, 2013, 10:30 am
    Nice work making a very cool place that meets whatever the corporate business case is. Really swell people working at ...- , which is impressive for a brand new spot. PIGMON, Trixie, LadyV and I had most of the menu including flaming crystal skull zombie the other evening. All quite good. And my interest in a rare Martinique agricole was rewarded with a nice off menu punch. I could spend too much time there.
  • Post #43 - August 9th, 2013, 11:24 am
    Post #43 - August 9th, 2013, 11:24 am Post #43 - August 9th, 2013, 11:24 am
    kanin wrote:Any luck with that? I asked a waitress at the bar and was outright refused.

    A tiki bar without single-serving zombies is the equivalent of a brewpub that doesn't offer free samples.


    I was turned down as well but I didn't ask Paul directly. Honestly I don't think the bartenders have been trained to make singles (although they could just scale the punch recipe down, sometimes it doesn't always work like that when crushed ice is involved).

    As Ronnie mentioned I'm sure it's something he'll consider once the initial hype dies down and he spends some time behind the bar.

    The upside is that this first menu is just that, a first menu. They have a second menu—with new drinks—already in the works from what I was told.

    I'm hoping to see a single-serve Zombie, Navy Grog and Rum Barrel on the next menu.
  • Post #44 - August 13th, 2013, 7:21 am
    Post #44 - August 13th, 2013, 7:21 am Post #44 - August 13th, 2013, 7:21 am
    Hi I had a disappointing experience at Three Dots. Went with a small group and had 2 For Sharing punches - "Zombie Punch" and "Christmas in July". Flavors were decent. However, the price was outrageous for the amount of drink served. For $50, the Christmas in July was suited for 2 people (at most), and certainly not worth $25/person. The Zombie Punch was similarly a bad deal - $75 and probably for 3 people (menu says for 4-6 people). I truly felt cheated walking out. Nice interior, good music. Stick with the individual cocktails if you go. Thought it might be a nice spot for a group but was a total bust.
  • Post #45 - August 13th, 2013, 11:20 am
    Post #45 - August 13th, 2013, 11:20 am Post #45 - August 13th, 2013, 11:20 am
    Definitely no volume buying power in the big drinks. Pretty much the opposite. Not a cheap spot.
  • Post #46 - August 29th, 2013, 12:10 pm
    Post #46 - August 29th, 2013, 12:10 pm Post #46 - August 29th, 2013, 12:10 pm
    FYI - from Eater:

    RIVER NORTHThree Dots and a Dash will debut their first custom mug on Monday, September 2 at 5 p.m. The ceramic sea urchin mug was designed along with and produced by Tiki Farm and will only be available for sale at the bar for $20. In honor of the occasion, Paul McGee will be working his first bartending shift that evening. [EaterWire]

    http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2013/08/28/post-9.php

    -miss ellen
  • Post #47 - September 8th, 2013, 9:17 am
    Post #47 - September 8th, 2013, 9:17 am Post #47 - September 8th, 2013, 9:17 am
    Alas, my wife and I've independently heard enough negatives about this place - about the space, about the clientele (what you might fear, at least on a weekend), about the drinks all tasting the same (a friend ordered a Campari-based cocktail, hoping for a difference, but was disappointed)- from so many people, seasoned drinkers, people in the biz and neophytes alike, that I think I've missed my window to convince my wife to go, at least for the time being. A prime complaint appears to question its innately tacky tourist vibe, from the winding theme-park lines in the alley to the emphasis on volume to the unusual sight of McGee shaking hands and greeting as opposed to working behind the bar. On the plus side, everyone seems enthused by the drink presentation and service, so there's that. Hopefully given some time things will settle down.
  • Post #48 - September 8th, 2013, 9:40 am
    Post #48 - September 8th, 2013, 9:40 am Post #48 - September 8th, 2013, 9:40 am
    Vitesse98 wrote:Alas, my wife and I've independently heard enough negatives about this place - about the space, about the clientele (what you might fear, at least on a weekend), about the drinks all tasting the same (a friend ordered a Campari-based cocktail, hoping for a difference, but was disappointed)- from so many people, seasoned drinkers, people in the biz and neophytes alike, that I think I've missed my window to convince my wife to go, at least for the time being. A prime complaint appears to question its innately tacky tourist vibe, from the winding theme-park lines in the alley to the emphasis on volume to the unusual sight of McGee shaking hands and greeting as opposed to working behind the bar. On the plus side, everyone seems enthused by the drink presentation and service, so there's that. Hopefully given some time things will settle down.


    So, you haven't been here but are "reporting" that you've "heard" bad things about it and you won't be going...thanks.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #49 - September 8th, 2013, 11:41 am
    Post #49 - September 8th, 2013, 11:41 am Post #49 - September 8th, 2013, 11:41 am
    I've been probably 5 times and I thoroughly enjoy it. I can attest that the drinks do not taste the same (if I may be so bold, that's a ridiculous statement....especially as a comment from someone who has never been). Its a fun place with a fun vibe and Paul McGee seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself. I look forward to the rum list being published so we can order specific rums from a list. In the meantime, I've had some very good old, aged rums there to end the night and they have been really great.
  • Post #50 - September 8th, 2013, 12:57 pm
    Post #50 - September 8th, 2013, 12:57 pm Post #50 - September 8th, 2013, 12:57 pm
    Vitesse98 wrote:Alas, my wife and I've independently heard enough negatives about this place . . .<snip>

    That's a lot of prose to basically say you've never been there. :(

    I've been a few times and really enjoy it. I find the drinks very distinctive. To me, guava, passion fruit, etc. don't much taste like each other and neither do the beverages in which they are used. The variety of rums used in the drinks is even more varied and that shows up in a very obvious way in the glass. For the less experienced palate (I sell fruit products for a living and have an extensive rum collection), maybe that's not the case.

    My experience is that the bartenders are very skilled and well-trained. They're friendly and are excellent hosts. Drinks have been consistent over multiple visits. And one drink -- not on the menu -- that should definitely not be missed is the Ti Punch, which I think they do an exceptional job with. It's a tough drink to make well. And if you're a fan of agricole rhum, I highly recommend it. I also spent one session there just sipping some of the fine rum/rhum/ron selections. This is the finest curation of sugar cane spirits I've ever seen in one place (caveat: I've never been to Smuggler's Cove). There's a lot to like about this place. I haven't tried any of the food yet but likely will on my next visit.

    As for the crowd, I happen to enjoy the people-watching. I have been surprised/bemused seeing groups there ordering vodka-sodas but who cares what they order as long as I don't have to drink it? I've seen a few bros wearing backward baseball caps -- the ultimate measure of douche-baggery, IMO -- but they've been harmless. During one visit, I saw two women sitting at the bar with a small Neiman-Marcus bag sitting next to them on the bar. I lol'd when I thought about how many times that had likely happened at The Whistler. As someone who hangs out at neighborhood bars quite a bit, I appreciate the change of pace.

    The bottom line is that it's just impossible to meaningfully assess a place without actually experiencing it for yourself. I can definitely see 3 Dots not being for everyone but the opinion of someone -- anyone -- who's never been there is irrelevant.

    =R=
    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    Without wood, barbecue wouldn’t be barbecue --Aaron Franklin

    I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider
  • Post #51 - September 8th, 2013, 2:24 pm
    Post #51 - September 8th, 2013, 2:24 pm Post #51 - September 8th, 2013, 2:24 pm
    I just finished reading Wayne Curtis's very fun, tremendously informative book And a Bottle of Rum: The History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. It has a whole chapter on Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic, and the original rise and fall of the Tiki Bar. It had me wishing I hadn't missed the TIki trend -- so I'm pleased to see it coming back to some degree.

    That said, is there a time that it is somewhat quieter and less crowded than than it sounds in mgmcewen's post?
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #52 - September 8th, 2013, 2:51 pm
    Post #52 - September 8th, 2013, 2:51 pm Post #52 - September 8th, 2013, 2:51 pm
    Cynthia wrote:I just finished reading Wayne Curtis's very fun, tremendously informative book And a Bottle of Rum: The History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. It has a whole chapter on Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic, and the original rise and fall of the Tiki Bar. It had me wishing I hadn't missed the TIki trend -- so I'm pleased to see it coming back to some degree.

    That said, is there a time that it is somewhat quieter and less crowded than than it sounds in mgmcewen's post?

    That is a great book.

    As with many bars, early on a weeknight will generally be the least crowded time to go. That said, at 3 Dots there is definitely an after-work crowd but still, when I arrived there at about 5 pm (when they open) during the week, I was able to sit right down at the bar without any issue. The seats at the bar filled up by around 6 but then seemed to turn over fairly regularly after that. For the best experience, I wouldn't advise going on a weekend but I'd say the same for just about any bar.

    =R=
    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    Without wood, barbecue wouldn’t be barbecue --Aaron Franklin

    I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider
  • Post #53 - September 8th, 2013, 10:53 pm
    Post #53 - September 8th, 2013, 10:53 pm Post #53 - September 8th, 2013, 10:53 pm
    I work nearby and have found that later on a Sunday or Monday night there is plenty of space at the bar and at the tables.

    Service is marvelous. Drinks are chingon.

    Some dudes ordered a Red Bull and vodka the last time I was there, but who cares. It's a bar.
  • Post #54 - September 9th, 2013, 3:45 pm
    Post #54 - September 9th, 2013, 3:45 pm Post #54 - September 9th, 2013, 3:45 pm
    I went Three Dots and a Dash with my wife a few weeks ago and we enjoyed ourselves. I had fun because outside summertime drinking at Barrelhouse Flat I hardly ever order rum. I ordered a jet pilot, three dots and a dash and a mai tai. I enjoyed all of them, but I particularly enjoyed the mai tai because it was so different from mediocre versions I've had throughout my lifetime. Purely from a flavor perspective, I think jet pilot was tops.

    My wife got a Pago Pago and she (we) enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Food wise we order the fried thai chicken and found it to be excellent drinking food.
  • Post #55 - September 9th, 2013, 5:57 pm
    Post #55 - September 9th, 2013, 5:57 pm Post #55 - September 9th, 2013, 5:57 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    Cynthia wrote:I just finished reading Wayne Curtis's very fun, tremendously informative book And a Bottle of Rum: The History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. It has a whole chapter on Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic, and the original rise and fall of the Tiki Bar. It had me wishing I hadn't missed the TIki trend -- so I'm pleased to see it coming back to some degree.

    That said, is there a time that it is somewhat quieter and less crowded than than it sounds in mgmcewen's post?

    That is a great book.

    =R=


    I agree -- wonderful book. I poured out enthusiasm on Google. And I wrote to Curtis to tell him I thought his book was great -- and he wrote (emailed) back, thanking me. So now I'm an even bigger fan. :)
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #56 - September 9th, 2013, 6:02 pm
    Post #56 - September 9th, 2013, 6:02 pm Post #56 - September 9th, 2013, 6:02 pm
    That's a lot of prose to basically say you've never been there.


    If you read my post, maybe a quarter of the length of your post :wink: , you would have learned why I have not been there: my wife, the number one person I would go with, has heard a number of negative things from people who have been there: her friends and co-workers, multiple sources. Indeed, it's rare that I mention a place to her that gets such a strong thumbs-down reaction. Meanwhile, as another data point, I have heard a number of negative things from people - my good friends - who have been there. Which, reading between the lines, partially explains why I have not been there: many of the people I would have gone with have already been and did not like it enough that they are in no hurry to return! Obviously Iwant to go, but I have to wait for my usual suspects - wife, friends - to want to go or go back first. Which is tough, due to either their first-hand experience or the first-hand experience of their friends and co-workers.

    Of course there is no substitute for my own first-hand experience. I'm just relating the surprising number of negatives things I have heard. And I am surprised! I'm glad and enthused that many of you did like it, but that's not enough to immediately sway my own cadre of first-handers, alas.

    [q]And a Bottle of Rum: The History of the New World in Ten Cocktails[/q]
    Here we are in complete agreement. This book is awesome.
  • Post #57 - September 9th, 2013, 6:35 pm
    Post #57 - September 9th, 2013, 6:35 pm Post #57 - September 9th, 2013, 6:35 pm
    I'm sorry you have to wait for your wife to want to go before you can go.

    Deciding you will probably like or not like a place based upon others' reports doesn't mean that will be your opinion. Although I'm sure you agree with me, your posts makes it sound like majority rules. As one example, I have been on cruises where I read online others' reports who were on the same cruise and their experience was radically different from my own. I thought to myself, "Were we really on the SAME cruise?"

    Sort of like the Aviary, Three Dots is a unique place in Chicago. Once your wife approves, I look forward to your own take on the place. Until then....
  • Post #58 - September 9th, 2013, 7:52 pm
    Post #58 - September 9th, 2013, 7:52 pm Post #58 - September 9th, 2013, 7:52 pm
    No majority rules here, just a strictly anecdotal accounting of the exceptional number of people I know down on this place, for whatever reason. Maybe when I get there I'll find out why, or decide they're all full of it!
  • Post #59 - September 9th, 2013, 8:36 pm
    Post #59 - September 9th, 2013, 8:36 pm Post #59 - September 9th, 2013, 8:36 pm
    Consider the posters who have been to the place and liked it; now consider whether any of those posters have introduced you to new restaurants or bars that you have enjoyed; consider also whether you have found yourself agreeing with any of their comments about places, or tastes, or opinions. Weigh that information against the anonymous negative comments suggested but not recounted in your post, supporting an admittedly derivative perception of the spot. Then go have a drink at the place.
  • Post #60 - September 9th, 2013, 9:12 pm
    Post #60 - September 9th, 2013, 9:12 pm Post #60 - September 9th, 2013, 9:12 pm
    Personally, your friends' and friends of friends' comments and their effect on you don't really contribute anything to the information in this thread, which is the purpose, no? Aren't there better sites for that sort of thing? Facebook or Twitter come to mind...
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington

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