The High Price of Hearsay
There are three things I love about Hearsay, the "gastrolounge" on downtown's Market Square: (1) The Byrd, a magnificently messy beast of a burger that comes with a side of smoky macaroni and cheese, (2) the creative, confidently modern cocktail list and (3) the ambience of the historic space and its chic, sexy three-story dining room. I go to Hearsay -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- for these three things, and basically these three things alone.
I would go more often, if I could. It's only a few blocks away from my office and from my home -- walking or bicycling there is a breeze, and it's so pretty down on Market Square that I often find myself there anyway.
But I just can't bear the high prices at Hearsay, which -- along with a food menu that has its serious ups and downs -- are a huge reason I'm not a more frequent customer.
Although I'm pleased to see such an excellent array of craft and local beers on tap, a pint of Karbach Weisse Versa is $7. Compare that to the Flying Saucer -- just up Main Street -- where the same pint is $4.75 regularly and $3.75 during happy hour. Or compare it to Underbelly, where it's only $4 every day. And don't even look at the price Hearsay is charging for Karbach's Rodeo Clown: a staggering $10 for the local brew, a pint of which rarely breaks the $6 mark elsewhere in town.
The cocktails, too, are almost prohibitively expensive. My favorite, it just so happens, is the most expensive at $16. The Whiskey & Cigarettes is almost worth it -- so beautiful is the open flame that ignites the cocktail and leaves a charcoal depth to the peaty Islay Scotch underneath. But it's still the only cocktail I'll be able to order all night at that price.
The Byrd at Hearsay.
Photos by Troy Fields
Others -- like the spicy, perennially popular Hal-apeno, named for former bartender Hal Brock -- are more well-priced at around $9 to $12. But you won't find a single cocktail on Hearsay's menu that's less than $9. Compare this to cocktail giant Anvil Bar & Refuge, where cocktails start at $8 and never cost more than $12.
I know that downtown supports a slightly higher menu cost than other areas of town, and God knows the rent that Hearsay must pay for the gorgeous turn-of-the-century place is steep, but those prices -- even the $14 for The Byrd, that messy burger with the creamy macaroni and cheese -- means the place will always remain a splash-out spot, never a familiar standby.
On the other hand, perhaps I'm just not Hearsay's demographic. The gastrolounge is packed nearly every night as it is. Someone's paying those prices. And, I guess, more power to them.
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