Mass Ave's sliver of a video-vodka bar, Tini (717 N. Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1313), has slimmed down its menu for this impending summer. Two trusty appetizers—the Gorgonzola-apricot torta and an antipasto platter—remain from the fall-winter menu, but the small plates are certainly just that for these spring and summer months.
Tini's not-so-secret weapon as food goes now is the Gourmet Mac & Cheese Duo. The big flavors lay on the Smoking Goose thick-cut bacon/aged cheddar side, while a flurry of ingredients—shiitake mushroom, goat cheese, caramelized leek, and tomato—make for a similarly dense, frothy coupling. This is the plate that truly works as a comfy meal, for one or two people, the plate that will be talked about here. Instant staples also appear in the form of classic hummus, served with a spicy kalamata olive tapenade, pitas, and crostini, and a chipotle black-bean corn salsa, itself paired with homemade tortilla chips. The latter might've been even better if it brought more heat.
The Duo of Dips app—featuring pancetta, onion, and gouda, plus chunky Mediterranean relish—came with pumpernickel toast points and olive-oil-adorned sliced baguettes. A fairly regular mix of bar nuts (cashews, almonds) was bolstered by star anise spicing, and the likewise new smoked pulled-chicken sliders were tasty, with just too little chicken itself tucked into the miniature hoagies, which could possibly be toasted to amp up this plate. The accompanying pickled-jalapeno and cabbage relish reveal that Tini and its small-plate partner, Hoaglin Catering, are feeling more adventurous than ever with the onset of a hot new season.
Tini's story is mainly about cocktails, of course. Most daring is Cactus Heat, a combo of Maestro Dobel, pineapple juice, simple syrup, OJ, and muddled jalapeno. For some, it's an acquired taste well worth acquiring. Others will relish its arrival after the recent Spicy Mangotini peppered with a flash of Tabasco. Two new Mules are available now beyond the standard, top-selling Moscow version. The Kentucky Mule substitutes Maker's Mark for vodka, as the Red Mule blends Hangar One vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lime juice, and sugar-free Red Bull. The former quickly played favorite.
The French 54 cocktail—comprised of Hendrick's gin, lemon juice, sugar, and prosecco—refreshes, tailor-made for summer in a tall, skinny glass. On the heels of the trademark Purple Raintini comes the Purple Tart Tini, which weds Hangar One mandarin blossom vodka to creme de violet liqueur and cran and lime juices. A new libation called Pickled Tink (American Harvest vodka garnished with pickles and olives, shaken with those same juices) would do well with more pickle juice.
Debuting dessert cocktails include the Strawberry Shortcake Martini (Three Olives strawberry and whipped cream vodkas, Rum Chata, and grenadine) and the White Gummy Snack Tini (Bacardi dragon berry rum, peach liqueur, sweet and sour, and Sprite), an amuse-bouche with three gummy "bears" speared over the drink. Both are light and dainty, but while the Gummy gathers presentation points, Strawberry Shortcake wins with a delicious graham-cracker rim to finish.
All these small plates and liquor drinks are available now, always with a hefty side serving of Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera clips washing over the plentiful flat-screens in this slender room.