While Latin pop plays, a few old-timers sip Tecate at a high top. A few feet away, a couple orders craft beers.
Monkey's Tail, which opened two weeks ago at 5802 Fulton St. in the historically Latinx area of Lindale Park is everything beverage director Greg Perez, who grew up in this neighborhood, is all about.
"I'm very Hispanic but I'm also American, and so the food and the drinks reflect that. As a kid my mom would always cook enchiladas, mole, chiles rellenos, and I hated it. She'd say 'What do you want?' I'd say 'I want stuffed-crust pizza from Pizza Hut. I want Chick-fil-A. I want happy meals.'
"It's a little bit of a mix of who I [was] growing up."
Monkey's Tail offers drinks like No ... Pos Ta Cabron, a concoction of West Cork Irish whiskey, amaro liqueur, mango, piquin pepper, chervil, orange, and lime, mixed with crushed ice and served in a giant pouch. It's a Capri Sun for adults, an elixir for bad times and tough news, a sweet, sour, spicy, and herbal nostalgic trip.
3 Milks is a play on tres leches cake with St. Teresa 1796 Rum, pineapple, strawberry, cherry, and nutmeg. El Del Jarrito is my favorite, mixing Banhez Mezcal with Altos Blanco tequila, tamarind, ginger, cloves, panela, and lime. Smoky, earthy and spicy, it's very balanced.
Perez, plus director of operations Sharif Al-Amin (formerly Helen Greek Food & Wine) and partner Jessie Gonzales, wanted to ensure there was something for everybody who visited Monkey's Tail, which is the name for the lever used to switch train tracks (the METRO whizzes right past the bar's front door). For those wanting a dressed-down bar experience, there's a full list of cheap beers, like $2 pony bottles of Miller High Life, $3 Tecate Lite and Lone Star tall-boys, and $4 Coors Banquet and Shiner. Buckets are available, too, starting at $16.
But then there are those craft cocktails, margaritas (of course), and a few frozen drinks. The food menu would be classified as "bar grub," but there's far more nuance and attention to detail here. Steven Ripley, whose experience includes Helen Greek and Jonathan's The Rub, worked with the team to develop dishes that tell Perez's story of growing up in 1990s America.
There's pizza, available as standard cheese and with pepperoni (plus a wealth of build-your-own options), along with barbacoa and pork pastor. There are hot dogs—New York-style and Sonora-style, using bread from El Bolillo Bakery. And look for the Feliz Meals, a play off the McDonald's happy meal: one food item (pizza, burger, or a hot dog), a cheap beer, and a shot of tequila or Old Grand-Dad for $8 (six jumbo wings with a beer and a shot are $13).
If you're getting a Feliz Meal, opt for the burger. The simplicity is stunning: a sesame-seed bun, a smashed 3-ounce beef patty, chopped onions, American cheese, and mayonnaise. And for $4 by itself, it's a heck of a deal.
Monkey's Tail feels like a great anytime bar. Lunch with a co-worker or friend? Happy hour? Late night? You'll be able to find your place here.