(pictures follow below)
Ah, TJ's. How it seems like yesterday that we were talking about the big five-year anniversary. The seventh. The eighth and ninth.
Time and few things of ambiance are the only things that seems to have passed. Over ten years, TJ's has lost its old look in an updated and tasteful remodel this year, was many years ago one of the first in the area to kick out cigarettes and experiment with a smoke-free bar before it became law, ditched the chalkboard menus in favor of one of the most advanced digital draft boards around, and replaced the space for to-go coolers with more room for customers.
The model of consistency, however, is evident in the most important things: a solid beer list; an interestingly varied and quality food menu; and friendly service that is expected in a neighborhood restaurant/bar from a staff that has remained much the same.
The staff loyalty is inspiring at TJ's in Paoli and was on full display this past Saturday as co-owners Jeff Miller and Terri Villante thanked not only those that have been there a few years, but the handful that have been there since day one as well. A restaurant succeeding for ten years is amazing enough; having so many staff mates that have stuck around since the beginning (or nearly as long) is also quite a testament to the success.
The 10th Anniversary Party was long touted as a must-stop for well-traveled beer enthusiasts since it came onto the beer events calendar back in the late-summer/early-fall. Miller had been saving up and plotting the draft list for many months in order to present the best possible celebration for the beer enthusiasts who have long flocked to his Chester County destination. But to call it only a beer destination would be underselling the place, since they have been promoting an environment for enjoying creative and great food along with beer since their early days. They might be what you'd call an early adopter in this regard.
As for the beer, stouts (mostly of the "imperial" variety), barleywines, and sours seemed to mostly rule the day. Big flavors and big ABVs for a big party. When it was time to take a break and back off the ABVs, doing so with a Tilquin Gueuze (4.7% ABV) was no sacrifice whatsoever. Slipping a few other comparably ABV-ed beers on the list might have been nice, but I quibble. We're all grown-ups and (hopefully) know how to measure our ABVs and balance accordingly with water and food. For the record, Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine was the first to kick. Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break Natale and Firestone Walker XVI were not far behind.
In addition to the festive nature on the draft board, a bike was raffled off courtesy of Goose Island and Penn Distributors, event shirts were given away, and a bevy of rare and interesting beers were also part of a free raffle for all in attendance. (Full disclosure, not sure that's really necessary but anyway: I won a bottle of Struise Earthmonk.)
From all reports on both sides of the bar, the day went quite smoothly. All staff hands were on deck and ensured optimal service, the crowd was omnipresent in both the bar area and dining room but never crushing, and the customers all appeared happy and content. Just in case you might critique my sweeping and seemingly generalized grandiose statements, I was there plenty long enough to make these observations. I'd feel like I was coming up short with any less an effort!
To cap off a fantastic weekend of beer, food, people, and memories at TJ's in Paoli, the restaurant held a special brunch on Sunday. With the rapidly falling snow outside and the Eagles football game live on the televisions, there was no better place to spend a couple of hours than with the smoked salmon panini, duck eggs benedit, or chicken and waffles, and a couple of "leftover" beers.
For those of you that missed it all, fear not. Check out their live, always up-to-date online draft list and stop by in the next day or two to find several of the special party beers still remaining at the bar. Who knows, you might even find one or two of them on the daily "keg kicker happy hour special list".
Cheers and Kudos to Jeff, Terri, and the entire staff at TJ's for a continued job well done.
Now...enjoy the pictures.