Just like Louis Armstrong, you’ll know what it means to miss New Orleans after visiting Tipsy Piano Bar. Though mainly known for their amazing piano players, there are a few key personalities that keep the heart and soul of this place humming: Jeremy Hopkins, the general manager; Chandra Dailey, lead bartender; and Sean Clonch, the head cook.
Like the Big Easy that inspires Tipsy Piano Bar, all three of these individuals have big hearts and big personalities. “I love seeing people get excited when they come in because there isn’t any other place like this around here,” says Jeremy, smiling widely. “A lot of people come in for the piano and the drinks. Then they see the menu, all this food that is really good and that’s it,” he raises his hands, another Tipsy regular is won.
The most popular dish? “The Cajun bites,” says Sean as Jeremy and Chandra nod in agreement. “They are like a stuffed pepper without the pepper. I love them,” he admits, “they have a little gritty exterior then there is an explosion of flavor.” It is this shared passion for what they do that sets the Tipsy crew apart.
“I really like muddling anything, which is actually odd for a bartender,” says Chandra. “It just makes the drink that much better. We make everything here – the blueberry reduction syrup, sweet and sour, Bloody Mary mix, all made from scratch. And we keep all of our liquors as local as possible. All of our menu drinks use Salish Seas Liqueurs; they make really great organic liquors,” Chandra launches into a list of everything from hibiscus to honeybush then concludes, “okay, every flavor you can possibly think of.” This same attention to detail and keeping it local philosophy goes to the back of the house too.
“Anything local is usually small batch,” says Sean, “and small batch always tastes better than processed foods. There’s more care put into making it. All of our produce is from Charlie’s Produce, all the meats from Tri Cities Meat and seafood from right down the street at Olympia Seafood Company, oysters from Hamma Hamma and bread from Wagner’s Bakery.”
Sean taught himself to cook at a young age with the usual kid-fare favorites. It was in a childhood friend’s kitchen that he learned about Southern style cooking. “I was over at my friend’s house all the time in middle school,” he explains, “and his mom and grandma were always cooking and so I picked up some things over there and kinda wove it in to make something of my own.”
“Southern food, you don’t really don’t get that around here,” adds Jeremy. It wasn’t until Sean came on board that they started featuring southern-style greens. Go back in the kitchen, and, like any restaurant in New Orleans, there is a big pot of greens simmering over a gas burner.
Oysters, po boys, red beans and rice, jambalaya, hush puppies, even comfort foods like southern-style meatloaf and mac and cheese made with hatch green chilies, this menu brings you straight to NOLA.
The bar menu reflects that southern influence too. “I think the New Orleans’s-style daiquiris are going to fly off the shelf,” says Chandra. “We are always changing up the flavors and if there is one that is really popular then we make sure to offer them on the menu.”
“Definitely,” adds Jeremy. “The exact same thing you get in Vegas on Fat Tuesday, the Fat Tuesday brand, you can get here.”
Mixing it Up: Young and Old Find Common Ground
And like New Orleans, the crowd is a mixture of all types, shapes, and sizes. “This is the only place I have been in where you have 21-year-olds and 61-year-olds all hanging out with their friends under one roof,” says Jeremy. “That is really cool. We still see people walking by and they are looking in the window trying to see in. They don’t know about it yet, and I will be standing outside and invite them in. Once people experience it then we work to keep them coming back. And of course we have our regulars and they are great.”
Chandra agrees. “Everybody who comes in here is so nice and just the quality of clientele,” she shakes her head, “I just really appreciate them.” Chandra worked for a corporate restaurant chain for many years. When a friend posted a picture of Tipsy online, Chandra fell in love with the place and decided to try for a job there. In traditional Olympia style, it turned out that the owners were her old neighbors and, after an interview, hired her. “I really enjoy working here,” she adds, “and I am grateful to be working for a locally owned business instead of being part of a big corporation.” Lucky for customers too, Chandra’s skills as a bartender and her great attitude earn her a lot of regular customers.
What is Chandra’s favorite drink to make? She answers without hesitation, “I can make anything non-alcohol and I really like making the Moscow Honeyberry.” But be prepared for her trademark TLC. “It takes a little more time,” Chandra cautions, “because we do use fresh raspberries in it so we muddle the raspberries then we double strain them out.” Pausing she adds confidentially, “You don’t want to get seeds in your teeth.” Spoken like a true friend.
Gather up your friends and perhaps make a few new ones at Tipsy Piano Bar. Tipsy Piano Bar is located at 514 Capitol Way S. in Olympia. For more information, visit their website or give them a call at 360-915-7181.