SAME QUIRKY STYLING Silly's with a Twist brings light-heartedness to drinking.
When the original Silly's restaurant opened nearly 25 years ago, the owners chose Albert Einstein as their mascot — an image of him, hair akimbo and tongue extended, graces the sign and menus. Thus Silly's, which always had a hippie-meets-hipster vibe, joined bohemians everywhere in seeking to claim the genius of physics for peacenickery and goofiness. In the intervening years, both physics and beatniks have been in steady decline.
Now Silly's has opened a cocktail bar next door — Silly's with a Twist, a different venture begun in very different times. In 1988, when college was cheap, post-secondary bohemianism involved the pleasures of laziness and half-informed quasi-intellectual conversation. Silly's was a good place for it — with affordable beer, mostly wholesome if unambitious food, and the leafy, white-stone garden out back. Now we drink in hopes of briefly forgetting about our student loans and stagnant careers, and perhaps to lower our inhibitions long enough to find a partner whose income might supplement our own.
SWAT manages to look exactly like what Silly's would look like if it were a bar — which is probably harder than it sounds. It looks lived-in, eclectic, knick-knacky, comfortable, and a bit darker. It has also developed a cocktail list that recreates the insouciant spirit of the original. There is a vibe of kitchen-laboratory experimentation. The names are goofy, and the mixers largely an assortment of sweet juices, Izze sodas, and other soft drinks. Some rims are salted, but more feature some sort of syrupy sugar, like butterscotch, Nutella, or maple syrup. While these are not sophisticated cocktails, they are refreshingly easy to drink. And they mostly come in beer steins, with plenty of ice — which reinforces the point.
Our favorite, a vodka-based drink called a Gargle Blaster, cut the sweetness of Schnapps and orange juice with dashes of hot sauce. Something gave it a cool-vegetal quality, sort of cucumbery, and the flavor of melon. Its color was a greenish blue. The Violet Pirate looked brown, but tasted blue — the blueberry juice dominated the flavors of rum and lemonade. Maple syrup pooled on the plate. The effect was a bit like a blueberry Coke — and was not that dissimilar to another cocktail, the Blue Granate Breeze, also made with blueberry juice. In this case it mixed with darker notes of pomegranate juice and Grand Marnier, over a base of vodka. You can get the White Russian and the Bloody Mary served vegan.
You can sample beers and wines by the flight, and while the beers are mostly familiar, the wine list manages to find something different while keeping the bottles under $25. The entire Silly's food menu (heavy on pizzas, sandwiches, and salads) is available, but the bar has some dedicated snacks as well. Toasties, traditionally a simple grilled-cheese bar-snack, are here a sort of open-faced version with buttery focaccia, feta, and cheddar, with a bit of pale tomato — not bad. The tostada is a very bachelor-pad, sort of half-moon cookie in approach with one half covered in a salsa that might be well-doctored Pace Picante, and the other a thin sour cream. A juicy, tender sausage came in a satay presentation, without satay flavors. The buffalo tofu was simple and terrific — with a nice heat and a perfect textural mix of chewy, soft, and crunchy.