The Tandem Offers Classic, Uncomplicated Food and Tried-and-True Cocktails
The Tandem is a cozy and casual spot with some damn fine cocktails and a menu that has something for everyone.
Their cocktail list is short and sweet, featuring tried-and-true classics like brandy old-fashioneds and Moscow mules alongside five rotating three-ingredient cocktails. The star of the cocktail menu, far and away, was the Bad Spray Tan ($7), a mixture of whiskey and pineapple juice with just a touch of ginger. Opening with spicy ginger notes that fade into pineapple sweetness and conclude with a flavor of candied ginger, it’s a dangerously drinkable beverage that hides its booze like a friend who truly knows how to keep a secret. Their Original #1 ($6), a mixture of tequila with lime and a berry juice, is a beautiful rose quartz color and is an interesting whammy of bright tartness harmonizing with a tequila bite. For those who like their alcoholic beverages sweet, look no further than Shae’s Blue Lagoon ($7), which mixes rum, blue caracao, and Sprite for a sugary blast.
Like its cocktail menu, Tandem’s food menu is easy breezy: refined takes on classic, uncomplicated dishes. For an appetizer, I can’t recommend their buttermilk fried chicken livers ($8) enough: presented in an appetizing heap and served alongside a creamy dill dressing, they’re crunchy and salty from the breading and rich from the livers themselves. It’s a great way to whet your appetite.
1848 W. Fond Du Lac Ave.
Handicapped access: Yes
CC, FB, SB, Rs, GF
Hours: Tu-Sa 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (lunch), 5 p.m.-10 p.m. (dinner, last seating 9 p.m.), Su 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
I happened to visit on a Tuesday, where they offer an ever-changing array of tacos on soft white corn tortillas for $2 apiece. I tried a roasted squash and black bean taco, which was sweet and herbaceous; the chipotle orange pork taco has some nice citrus notes upfront and just a touch of spice from the pork itself and the diced white onion on top. They’re definitely some of the best tacos at a non-Latino spot in the city.
Entrées at Tandem feature a little bit of everything, and it’s the kind of menu where everything sounds good so you let your mood guide you. Although the whole chicken with three sides ($36) was tempting, I never pass up an opportunity to order oxtail whenever I see it. Their oxtails with red rice ($15) is a huge portion of delicious warmth served in a bowl the size of your head, combining the two featured ingredients with fingerling potatoes that give the dish even more heartiness and a visual pop from their different colors. The potatoes are excellently seasoned and complement the umami from the oxtail and the rice, which has some beefy heft itself. The oxtail is so tender it melts off the bone.
Vegetarians may be drawn to the grain salad ($9), which that evening contained farro, lemon-roasted carrots, curried sweet potatoes, kale, pine nuts and herb yogurt as a dressing of sorts. It’s another full portion, with the roasted carrots and sweet potatoes giving the dish some oomph.
Tandem’s menu isn’t huge, but the featured items are prepared with a diligence and skill that makes it a spot well worth a visit.