Ten Ten Room
Downtown cocktail spot does adulting right
By Greg Sabin
The word “adulting” has crept into the national vocabulary over the past couple of years. This unwieldy gerund is a catchall for 20-somethings and even some 30-somethings when they’re referring to activities that a responsible, grown adult should be doing. For instance, you might see a social-media post of a stack of paid bills, a tower of folded laundry and a bowl of salad with this caption: “Totally nailed adulting today!”
What I think is missed in some of these ideas of adulthood is the simple pleasure of slowing down and luxuriating in a fine meal, a well-crafted cocktail and the conversation of friends. It might feel a little old-fashioned to savor such simple things, but I’m pretty sure it’s the upside of adulthood—that is, being able to stop and appreciate the things you took for granted in your youth.
Speaking of old-fashioned, Ten Ten Room, a dignified new Downtown cocktail lounge and restaurant, makes a lovely version of the classic cocktail by the same name. It also makes splendid versions of many drinks with familiar names to even the most casual bar patron: Harvey Wallbanger, Grasshopper, Manhattan. In fact, Ten Ten Room draws from postwar America for inspiration in much of its menu, aesthetic and confident swagger.
Located at 1010 10th St., the small bar and restaurant took over the space formerly occupied by Megami Bento-Ya. That longtime outpost of simple, nontrendy Japanese fare shut its doors in 2016, and after an extensive remodel, Ten Ten Room opened last fall.
The feel is dark and clubby. Not dance-club clubby, but old social-club clubby, with dark, polished woods, plush fabrics and burnished metals. In a library-style wall of shelves, glass bottles of spirits glint in what little light there is. When you’re sitting at the comfortable bar, chatting with a friend or a stranger, you definitely feel like an adult.
The menu bristles with options pulled straight out of Sunset magazine circa 1957: meatballs with grape jelly, deviled eggs, shrimp cocktail. Each item is touched up with a high-end preparation or added ingredient that elevates the dish and brings it into the now. A simple plate of potato chips and onion dip is far beyond the simple party food it emulates, with thick-cut, house-made chips and indulgent, retro-fantastic dip.
The deviled eggs get a punch from some “scotching.” A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried. Ten Ten goes a step further, deviling the egg before frying, so you end up with a nosh that stands up to the high-octane cocktails coming from the bar.
In addition to traditional cocktails, the bar serves a few original creations that span the spectrum from tiki to cheeky. A drink called Forty Thieves is made with rum, coconut, pineapple and a float of sesame oil—an unexpected yet savory note that balances the drink beautifully. The Garden Party tastes of summer: vodka, strawberry, hibiscus and prosecco. It’s a warm-weather treat.
If you’re in the mood for more than a snack or looking for a pre-event dinner spot a few blocks from Golden One Center, the limited but well-curated dinner menu offers some real standouts. First, let’s all applaud Ten Ten Room for serving reasonably priced, reasonably sized entrees. You won’t need a doggy bag, but you won’t leave hungry, either.
Steak frites, at $18, is a wonderful preparation and would be the pride of any steakhouse. The house-made horseradish aioli punches the dish up, and the hand-cut fries are just right.
Shrimp and grits ($16) show a sophisticated blending of cultures, taking the Southern staple and dressing it up with Spanish chorizo and romesco sauce. The resulting dish is complex yet comforting. There’s definitely no mention of this recipe in a 1950s homemaker’s guide.
The casual sandwich menu is perfect for a Downtown lunch or a happy-hour bite. The garlic steak sandwich is reliable, and the shrimp po’ boy is a fair re-creation of the New Orleans standard.
Ten Ten Room is a welcome addition to Downtown. It’s a cocktail lounge and restaurant for folks who wish to savor the finer things as well as the simpler things. It straddles the line between hip bar and sophisticated haunt better than most that attempt it. It’s the rare place that feels as comfortable at noon as it does at midnight.
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.