Report Card: Tonic Bar and Grill

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Tonic Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
www.tonicpittsburgh.com

Overall Grade B

The Breakdown:

Atmosphere:  Grade B-:  Again, as with a couple of the restaurants we reviewed in Louisville, we are a little torn when it comes to grading the appearance of an establishment that is located in a downtown setting.  Tonic Bar and Grill is located in downtown Pittsburgh, so we are going to try not to be too harsh grading on appearance.  For the most part, the atmosphere at Tonic was pleasant.   The outside of the building was fairly nondescript…without the banner informing you that you were at Tonic, you might just walk by thinking the place was just another corner deli.  There were tables set up for outside dining, but the inside of the place appeared basically to be a giant bar with a handful of tables scattered about.   We arrived prior to any kind of dinner rush and were greeted promptly.  It took a couple of minutes to prepare the already empty table to accommodate us, but other than that mystifying little delay, we were seated and ready to go.  The décor leaned toward contemporary and looks like it was put together to appeal to a young crowd.  We could not shake the feeling that the place was not yet finished, even though we saw no evidence to the contrary – just a feeling the place left us with.

High marks:  Clean, quiet, huge bar

Low marks:  Décor appeared unfinished, few tables

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Service:  Grade B:  In case any of you are wondering how we come up with these grades, it is all very subjective.  Because things like Atmosphere and Service can vary greatly, these categories do not carry the same weight as the Food/Spirits category in determining the overall grade we give a restaurant.  In the case of Tonic, we were provided with good service.  Our server was quick with our drink orders and kept the meal moving along at a good pace.  There were no unnecessary delays with any of our food or drinks.  However, we didn’t feel that the server really engaged us, so we settled on a service grade of “B.”  We usually reserve “A’s” for those places where the service goes beyond the normal and we feel like we’ve been entertained on some level by our interaction with the server.  Don’t get us wrong…there was nothing wrong with the service we received at Tonic.  They did a very nice job.

High marks:  Good service, minimal wait for drinks and food

Low marks:   Nothing spectacular about service

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Food/Spirits: Grade B+:  The appearance inside of Tonic might give you the impression that it’s a bar that serves food as a hobby, but don’t be fooled.  The food at Tonic is actually very good.  For the drink portion of our meal, Katina ordered a hard raspberry lemonade and a hurricane (“everybody in the club gettin’ tipsy”) while I had a couple of Strawberry Mojitos.  The drinks were very good.  For our meals, Katina selected the Fish and Chips and I picked the Loaded Mac and Cheese.  Right now, a bunch of you are going “Fish and Chips…Mac and Cheese…boring.”  Wrong!  Katina’s Fish and Chips were made with Mahi Mahi instead of the traditional cod or whitefish.  Exciting, right?  Well…sorta.  While Katina reports that the Fish and Chips were good, they were a little disappointing.  You could get better Fish and Chips at the Old Bag of Nails in her opinion.  Now, as for the Mac and Cheese, I added braised short ribs to it.  Sounds kind of weird, I know, but the taste was awesome.  The Mac and Cheese was cheesy and hearty at the same time.  With the exception of the lobster mac and cheese offered by Eddie Merlot’s, this is probably the best mac and cheese dish I’ve had.  It was a pleasant surprise to get it from Tonic.

High marks:  Extraordinary mac and cheese, really good cocktails

Low marks:  Fish and Chips a little disappointing

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Value:  Grade B+:  About half of our bill was the result of our cocktail habit.  The food actually was reasonably priced with portion size large enough to fill you up, but you probably won’t need a doggy bag.  We definitely recommend you stop by Tonic Bar & Grill for some good eats and even better drinks.

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