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Pretty darn good at TumbleRoot

SANTA FE, N.M. — Last week in this space, we were happy to dispense etiquette tips for close encounters with Trump officials while dining. At the new TumbleRoot Brewery Distillery pub in the spruced up old Club Alegria on Agua Fria and Siler, you needn’t fear such an event.

Not that Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t be welcome in the pierced-and-tattoo-heavy ambience; it just ain’t her style. On our visit, there was a family group of Republican-looking (OK, I’m stereotyping here) turistas from Houston next to us (and we are inveterate eavesdroppers).

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Jeremey Houston, center, has a red ale at the TumbleRoot Brewery and Distillery in Santa Fe (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

And, indeed, the welcome mat is out for everyone at TumbleRoot, especially for moms and dads and kids and dogs outside ‘neath the bower of two enormous Russian (no connection to divisive collusion probe) olive trees.

There’s picnic tables, play areas for youngsters and, on the upper patio, a meandering wood counter and very cool distressed, matte green stools, and a sublime sunset. Walkers and bicyclists can pop in from the nearby and newly extended Santa Fe River Trail.

But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. TumbleRoot (with the tagline “Explore Broadly/Connect Deeply” – get it?) is two Jasons, Fitzpatrick and Kirk, who are distilling spirits from Rum ($7/$8) to Rye Malt Whiskey ($15) and brewing suds from a nice light Dortmunder and a dry Irish Stout ($5) to a Bourbon Barrel Belgian Dark Strong with Cherries ($11) and dispensing it in the old Club Alegria.

I hesitate to use the term “restaurant” for TumbleRoot’s enterprise at the moment. There is a limited menu for lunch and evening dining featuring cheese and meat boards of various persuasions ($10-$15), sandwiches ($9-$13), hummus ($7), artichoke-kale dip ($7) and a summertime Saturday and Sunday brunch from 12-3 p.m. (with bottomless mimosas for $18).

But in a generous, puzzling, counter-intuitive gesture, TumbleRoot has invited the presence of the Bang Bite and the It’s All Greek to Me food carts. (As one fellow in a cart said, “If I owned this joint, I wouldn’t let these food carts here.”)

But maybe, since TumbleRoot has a monopoly on the adult beverages in the vast parking area and patio, and such a limited menu for the moment (that may change, we were told), it’s a stroke of genius.

Lots of people were ordering food from the carts and from the great selection from TR’s bar list. We had Reposado Agave tequila ($11), billed as earthy and rich, a very generous pour, a big bouquet, crisp, clear hit, maybe a bit raw (really, how long could it be aged?). But add a handful of rocks and a lime, and it was eminently enjoyable.

The Elk Bratwurst ($13, with fig mustard, pretzel bun and carmelized onion) was … well, I’d never had one before, so I have no idea. Not as spicy as brats I’ve had at a Milwaukee Brewers game, but interesting. The side of salad was unavailable, so I had a cup of the soup du jour, lentil, which was shockingly superb, and a proper pint of Dortmunder ($5). Perfect.

TumbleRoot is a bit of a Tale of Two Cities, or Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like in that, while it’s family night outside, inside the dark, cavernous old club it feels like … well, how it used to feel, like an upscale biker bar.

In the musical tradition of the Club Alegria (Fr. Prieto and his band could really swing!), there’s a wealth of nightly musical entertainment with favorites like Bill Palmer, Boris McCutcheon and name touring acts. It is so vast inside that maybe a couple of pool tables or Foosball tables would be nice.

As the Houston turistas departed, we heard the paterfamilias announce, “That was pretty good.”

And he is absolutely correct. Pretty darn good, and a great value!

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