Caity: The #1 reason I don't drink at restaurants is that there is never anything on the menu I particularly want to drink. But the Tommy Bahama drink menu was designed by an alcoholic child—nothing BUT drinks I want to drink. So I pitched a special all-drinking edition of "The Best Restaurant in New York" to our boss, Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read. Max described this as "a great bad idea." At this point, 6:30 on Tuesday, about 3 and a half hours out from our first drink, I would describe his description as "a good description i love everyonnnnnne i love u guys seriously."
Rich: Caity never drinks except that one day a year when she also consumes enough sugar to make an elephant hop like a bunny. It's like The Purge for binge drinking.
The best restaurant in New York is
Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar inside Tommy Bahama on 5th Avenue.
À la carte.
Cost before tip
Rich: This idea of yours made me wonder if you've been regarding me with jealousy during our "Best Restaurant in New York" excursions, since I generally get a drink (fine, two drinks) and you never do. Are you envious of my champagne-sipping lifestyle?
Caity: Absolutely not. I love Diet Coke. Diet Coke is my favorite thing to drink. My second favorite thing to drink, I have recently learned, is "Coconut Cloud Martini" from the Tommy Bahama store on 5th Avenue. That was the first cocktail I ordered this afternoon, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
Rich: It was the best, I'd say. Imagine drinkable suntan lotion.
Caity: "Coconut Cloud Martini" tastes like a sensual kiss.
From a coconut cloud.
Rich: Made of sunscreen.
Caity: Here are the ingredients of a "Coconut Cloud Martini": Ron Matusalem Platino, Stoli Vanil, Cruzan Coconut, Cream of Coconut. When it came time to order, I asked our waiter, Curtis, if I should get a "Coconut Cloud Martini" or a "Painkiller #2" (don't worry—I ended up getting both), and he responded, "Well, the Coconut Cloud Martini is probably our most popular drink, but it's also our booziest." Say no more, Curtis. I'll take 1000.
Rich: Curtis wore jeans and a sensible floor-length apron, was from Florida, and had a gently encouraging opinion about everything. When ordering drink No. 4 (spoiler alert) I noted this exchange between you and him:
Curtis: "Do you want one more of those?"
Caity: "No because I had one."
Curtis: "I understand."
Caity: Curtis really ******got me****** I feel.
Rich: He did his job well. We were an easy sell. As soon as we walked in, we basically announced "We're gonna be drinking a lot and mixing our alcohol."
Caity: Curtis was an A+ employee. If you go to the Tommy Bahama store for lunch, ask for Curtis, and if he's not there, accept anyone—it is worth the trip, I assure you.
Rich: Everyone was nice. About five different people stopped by to ask us how our binge drinking was going. When selecting your first drink, you were already abuzz, talking to yourself (or maybe me and I was only paying attention at a remove), commenting on the menu, saying things like (of the "Coconut Cloud Martini"), "It's got cream of coconut, so I HAVE to get that" and "Why don't all stores just have restaurants?" Because then we'd never get any work done.
Caity: I recall very vividly thinking privately about what a Hot Topic restaurant would have on its menu. As far as I got was: Non-traditional egg rolls.
Rich: I feel like bugs. Edible bugs. All black licorice everything.
My first drink was a "Leap of Faith" (Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila, Lime, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Agave Nectar). My "Leap of Faith" was actually a reliance on old faithful — failing the presence of a Mezcal cocktail, I will always order the jalapeno-infused tequila drink. It was ok. Spicy but not memorably so. Could barely taste it once it left my lips.
While we drank, we heard a disco edit of Fleetwod Mac's "Dreams" and a cover of Sade's "Smooth Operator" by a guy, which made me want to buy dad jeans. The people who were dining at Tommy Bahama were the kind of people you'd expect to see on an all-inclusive resort that banishes anything exotic about the locale you're visiting at least partially because of its exoticism. Unsmiling fiftysomething women in cream and bone. A thin, tan woman dining alone listening to an iPod.
Caity: The bathroom smelled like walking into a coconut. If you were small enough to live inside a fruit, coconut is not bad.
Rich: Better than a peach.
Caity: VERY secure from the outside. Smells like a Tommy Bahama bathroom on the inside.
My second drink was a "Pineapple Paradisio Martini" (Bacardi Pineapple Fusion, St-Germain Elderflower, Crème de Banana, Scratch Sour, Pineapple). It tasted almost as good as a "Coconut Cloud," though it didn't have toasted coconut pieces atop it.I was certainly in Paradisio while drinking it.
Rich: Reading this stuff over, I'm suddenly developing the stomachache that I didn't get at Tommy Bahama. I didn't have a second drink initially, because I was still sipping my first like a lady. (You downed your "Coconut Cloud" in two gulps.) Then I ordered a "Sunburn" (Ron Matusalem Classico, St-Germain Elderflower, Passion Fruit, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Jalapeño) and we split a "Bahama Mama" (Mount Gay Eclipse, Cruzan Coconut & Black Strap, Pineapple, Orange, Cream of Coconut, Housemade Grenadine, Angostura Bitters), and I downed them both in rapid succession (including most of your half of the "Bahama Mama").
The "Sunburn" tasted like stale mango. Like a mango flavored sock that someone sweated in and left on the sidewalk, and then someone else said, "Let's infuse alcohol with that sock." The reason for ordering a "Bahama Mama "is that I finally wanted to taste what I've been hearing about in Jaws: The Revenge.
Caity: I don't recall you finishing most of my "Bahama Mama," but I certainly believe that it happened. The "Mama" was good, but I was surprised and disappointed that it was brown. I thought that it would be red or, perhaps, the colors of a sunset.
Rich: I didn't know it would be creamy. I love a creamy surprise.
Caity: The low point of the day and of my life came at the fourth drink, when I accidentally called our waiter by the wrong name:
"One 'Painkiller #2' [Pusser's, Cream of Coconut, Pineapple, Orange, Nutmeg], please. But I am feeling no pain, Jordan!"
I called Curtis "Jordan."
Rich: That's when it got sad. It was all fun and games till then.
I don't mind Caity dancing on the table with her dress over her head one bit! Look at her go!
That's fine, Caity, walk around with forks in your ears. No big deal.
Call the waiter by the wrong name—record scratch—Oh my god, she needs help.
Caity: I immediately corrected myself, but there's no recovering from that. We were all friends until I accidentally called him totally the wrong name. Sorry, Jordan.
I asked multiple times if I "seemed drunk." Initially your answer was "No." Then it morphed to "You seem great!" That's when I knew we were in trouble.
Rich: Somewhere along the line, "You're fine" turns to "You're fun!" turns to "Oh..."
Caity: Did we reach "Oh..." at Tommy Bahama?
Rich: No! Well You did put your napkin over your head. And...it had ketchup stains on it.
Caity: That's because I was embarrassed I called Curtis "Jordan."
Rich: Yeah, I guess we reached "Oh..."
Caity: I put it on my head for one second.
Rich: I made a .gif of it.
During the ordering of the fourth drink, you asked Curtis, "What would you say is the sweetest?"
What most replicates the sensation of a bag of sugar being poured on my tongue all at once?
Caity: I do recall asking him at one point to bring me a cup of sugar with water in it.
Rich: You did.
Caity: And he said "No..."
Rich: He didn't think that was cute. There's no money in that. You would have to cut your tongue out to escape sweetness when drinking at Tommy Bahama, though. My fourth drink was a "Coconut Cloud" of my own which, in addition to tasting like sunblock, was spermy. But not more so than your third drink—a "Key Lime Martini," which looked alien ejaculate.
Caity: Curtis assured me that the "Key Lime Martini," which was served in a glass rimmed with graham cracker crumbs, tasted "just like Key lime pie." It tasted, at best, like something flavored like something flavored like Key lime pie.
It was fine. It was OK. I was more focused on the "212 Burger" (which I ordered in a drunken craze alongside it) and on convincing our Managing Editor, Lacey Donohue, via text that I wasn't THAT DRUNK, even though the messages I was sending her were all variations on the themes "I love you" and "I'm not drunk."
Rich: I liked my burger—the Bahn Mi burger, which featured Pineapple kimchi, an over easy egg, and umami ketchup—a lot. "Sticky" fries (not at all like sticky rice) with wasabi salt accompanied. I got it with the harvest veggie patty. It wasn't greater than the sum of its parts, but the sum was yummy:
Caity: I barely remember anything about my burger. It was great. Everyone should order it. Everyone should live at Tommy Bahama.
Rich: While you were in the bathroom, a woman with unkempt curly hair gave me a dirty look and then I saw crumbs flying out of her mouth as she ate her flatbread cracker. Also one of the managers came over, identified our remaining drinks on sight and interrogated me about soccer.
Caity: I remember walking back from the bathroom. But not going to the bathroom. No memory of that. I hope I didn't leave anything in there.
At the end of the meal, Curtis asked us if we wanted dessert, specifically giving a hard sell to Tommy Bahama's "iconic" crème brûlée, which is served inside a pineapple somehow. Yes, I did want that very much. But I was already too sleepy to eat it, Jordan, my man.
Rich: When he described the crème brûlée as "iconic," I wanted to scream "YAAAAAAAASSSSS" at the dessert tray. As we were waffling on dessert plans, Curtis, being the chill, beach-going dude that he is paid to be, told us, "Chill out, take it slow, ya got sailboats going by." And at that point, I was like, "He's just fucking with us now."
Caity: Did he tell us that?!
Rich: I'm not lying.
Caity: Was I there when he said that?
Rich: Yes. You were doing most of the wavering!
Caity: What was my response?
Caity: Cool, same as my response out loud, just now.
We ended up not getting dessert.
Rich: But Curtis told us to "Come back and see us again."
Caity: You know what, Jordan? I think I will. If I'm ever in the area, shopping at that Tommy Bahama store, I will.
Is Everything Okay?
Questions about the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: I would go back because dining here is the culinary equivalent of listening to "Kokomo" and I still like that song.
Caity: Sure! If the worst thing you can say about a restaurant is that it is located inside a Tommy Bahama store, that's not bad. A little confusing!
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: It's a good place for a first date because that guy wearing Tommy Bahama within your line of vision is TOTALLY your boyfriend always infinity.
Caity: YES! You will eat like kings. Like Kings of Hawaii prior to the 1893 coup d'état. (The restaurant didn't feel particularly Hawaiian or Bahamanian or like any other chain of Islands. It felt like a Florida airport.)
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: Yeah, just get drunk and screw or chill out, take it slow. Either way, ya got sailboats going by.
Caity: Sure! It was surprisingly serpentine inside.
Is it a good place to bring a doll?
Rich: Yes, this is a good place for your doll to learn that sometimes mommy gets drunk and does things she might not be proud of, but she's still your mommy.
Caity: Good place to get drunk and leave your doll in the bathroom!!!!! Is that what I left?
There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York's hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempt to determine the best restaurant in New York.
Previously: The Best Restaurant in New York Is: The Bronx Zoo; The Armani Store; The Crown Cafe at the Statue of Liberty; The Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central; The U.N. Delegates Dining Room; Play at the Museum of Sex; Le Train Bleu inside Bloomingdales; LOX at The Jewish Museum; The American Girl Café
[Images via Rich Juzwiak]