You know how, when you hear a great song from your misspent youth, it gets you remembering all manner of things you used to get away with? On this particular day, while grooving to a Blondie song that’s older than most of the Weekly’s interns, I happened to glance down at the radio dial and realize – oh, hell, the oldies station is playing my song. How did progressive early-’80s music end up on KLUV? Come to think of it, how did my car radio end up on KLUV?
These thoughts were rolling through my head right about the time I was headed out to 8.0 Restaurant and Bar in Sundance Square. The last time I’d been there I believe that Blondie song would have been playing on the ragged little punk-rock station on the right end of my radio dial. I distinctly remember not liking “8-O’s,” as most people call it, in the ’90s. My earlier, punk-rockish self found the joint pretentious and yuppified. The only reason I went there last week was to party with my party-girlfriend Tricia, who’s a decade younger than I am. Tricia heard I was looking for cheap drinks in a place with non-sticky floors. “Come to 8-O,” she said. I was skeptical, but she was buying, so I went.
I walked in, and the place looked just like I remembered it: same odd murals on the walls, same black booths. But the vibe was completely different. Maybe because it was Monday happy hour, not Friday-night mating season. Or maybe because certain of my predilections – namely, my aversion to pretentious yuppies – have mellowed. Or maybe it was the bluesy music being satellite’d in from outer space: loud enough for you to hear, definitely groove-able, and not so loud as to drown out conversation. Piping through the speakers last time I was here was some loud, annoying, poppy crap. The blues was a major improvement.
Or maybe the more inviting vibe was due to the fact that 8-O’s has made Monday happy hour as easy as two-three-four-five. Draft beers, well drinks, and glasses o’ vino are $2, selections off the extensive martini list a meager $4, and Patrón margaritas $5. (We’ll talk $3 specials below.) There’s also free finger-food (quesadillas, chips, and salsa), and everything on the appetizer menu is half-price until 7 p.m. Cheap drinks, cheap eats, and a non-sticky floor – Tricia was right.
At $3 are “Things.” I’m not exactly sure what they are, but 8-O’s has devoted an entire side-menu to them. There are blue “Things” (tequila with orange-flavored Blue Curacao), pink ones (tequila, watermelon schnapps), oranges (orange vodka with OJ), and screamingly unnatural greens that, frankly, sounded pretty scary.
As plentiful and relatively cheap as the tequila “Things” were, I found myself drawn to something a little more exotic: the Martini Monday menu. Normally, I don’t do ‘tinis. However, there now are ones out there for ex-punk-rock gals who don’t even know they like martinis. Case in point, 8-O’s white chocolate martini: Godiva white chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, and stripes of Hershey’s syrup. Taking a sip, I immediately coined a new slogan: “Vodka: It’s what’s for dessert.” Tricia’s poison was the frilly Birthday Cake: vanilla vodka with pineapple and cranberry juices. Like the white chocolate, it’s meant for gals who don’t like their ‘tinis James Bond-style.
The 2-oz. pour in my white chocolate ‘tini tasted dangerously strong to me. I chalked it up to my virgin martini taste buds, but another friend ordered a cosmopolitan (also on the Martini Monday menu) and immediately made that “Woo, it’s strong” face. At least you know you’re getting your money’s worth here.
The least impressive was the ‘tini no doubt named after those Texas Christian University students and alums who have a, um, loose interpretation of the term “extracurricular activity.” The Horny Frog is Southern Comfort, Blue Curacao, amaretto, and cranberry. Although I normally like orange/almond combos, it was just too much here. But you might get a kick out of ordering it (especially if you’ve already had a couple – or several – others).
While the “fire-roasted” salsa on the free eats line was pleasantly smoky, the complimentary aps weren’t anything to write home about. Though I think we managed to order every half-price offering on the menu. Drinking makes a gal hungry, and I wanted to find out what chipotle tartar sauce might taste like. Damn good, let me tell you, especially with 8-O’s calamari and a Tecate with lime (sadly, not a happy hour special.)
8-O’s has 22 bottled beers, six kinds of tequila, and 17 kinds of vodka. The restaurant also has a competent and attentive staff. Our server April never let our glasses go empty for long. And the staffers were age-appropriately dressed, with the exception of one server, who togged knee-high argyle socks, short shorts, and tank top. Sweetie, that’s so ’90s-era Britney.
8.0 Restaurant and Bar celebrates its 15th anniversary on Friday. Just like “dog years,” maybe there are “bar years.” In bar years, 15 must be like a person’s mid-thirties: old enough to know a thing or two but still young enough to have fun. – Laurie Barker James
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