Blind Tiger

There've been a bunch of new places opening up on the local drinking and dining scene specializing in either whiskey or pizza. The Blind Tiger at Sutton Place in Maplewood offers a bit of both. It's an interesting combo, which we recently investigated.

The space itself can be disconcerting on the first visit. The cavernous corner building has been a piano bar and a burlesque theater—among other things—in recent years, and it continues to retain the vibe of a performance venue. There's still a large stage, and relatively minimal seating so the first impression is that you've entered the wrong place. Remain calm, there is indeed pizza and booze to be had. We're told the stage is put to use still with the occasional DJ and live music.

Size aside, the atmosphere at Blind Tiger is comfortable and laid back. Plenty of good soul music from Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Al Green played during our visit, and the mismatched thrift-store plates and used tomato cans that serve as stands for the platters of pizza add to the casual, funky feel.

The whiskey list is heavy on American styles like bourbon and rye, with a smattering of Scotch and Irish whiskies also available. We decided to sip on a dram of Knappogue Castle ($13), an Irish whiskey that doesn't appear on many lists around town. We also were impressed that the spirits selection didn't bow to the dubious trend of 'flavored' whiskies—nary a honey- or cinnamon-spiked spirit to be seen. Beer-wise, there's a small selection of local brews on draft from the likes of 4 Hands, Civil Life, Urban Chestnut and Schlafly (we got a pint of 4 Hands Divided Sky Rye IPA for $6) and a handful of interesting bottles, as well.

We started off with the Giardineria salad ($8), an amalgam of pickled veggies topped with some Parmigiano-Reggiano that's a nice change of pace from a traditional starter salad. Since the official Blind Tiger logo lists Pizza, Ribs and Whiskey as the main events, we felt compelled to complete this trifecta; so for our mains, a half order of ribs ($8, $15 for a full order) and a 10-inch build your own pizza ($9).

The ribs are billed as being brined overnight, then braised with a house-made bourbon marinara sauce. The ribs were super-tender, separating from the bone with no effort whatsoever. The sauce didn't really seem to benefit from the addition of bourbon and tasted more like a straight-ahead traditional marinara. The ribs actually could've been served sans sauce of any type—they more than stood on their own.

There are four signature pizzas available in either 10-inch or 16-inch versions, and all sound like solid offerings, but we decided to get creative and do our own thing. This creation ended up consisting of pepperoni, olives and peppers with the house marinara sauce on a really crisp thin-crust base. Gluten-free crust also is available—and as with the house pies, you can get a 16-inch do-it-yourself version, as well. It was a tasty, no-frills pie, and at a reasonable price to boot.

All in all, Blind Tiger is a solid anchor for this bustling stretch of Manchester, and a fine entry into the recent pizza and whiskey fray.

--7376 Manchester Road, 646-8822

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