Out of Sight
Beer and wine bar The Thirsty Topher wins patrons over with hidden charm.
You won’t find TVs at The Thirsty Topher. But you will find a lot of conversation.
Tucked away in Ivanhoe Village sits a small, unassuming shack with a simple banner that reads “The Thirsty Topher.” From the outside it looks antique in a way that’s reminiscent of an old shed in a backyard—but inside, an intimate, dark-wooded space with well-informed bartenders and an indulgent craft beer menu awaits. Check out our five reasons to love The Thirsty Topher.
It feels like home. Racks of green plants hung on the walls, custom redwood tables, strands of bistro lights, and welcoming bartenders who know patrons by name exude a sense of familiarity and comfort. Though there are no TVs, it’s for good reason. “We’re bringing back conversation,” says co-owner Jason Perez. “You often walk into a bar and people are just watching TV. But here, we’re learning how to talk again.” Patrons of all walks of life converse, buy rounds, and hug on the way out. It’s almost like visiting the house of an old friend.
The beer list is adventurous. And long. With 24 beers on tap and 30 bottled brands in the fridge, there’s a lot to peruse. Fall brings an exciting selection of pumpkin stouts, hard ciders, black ales and, recently, a beer by Funky Buddha (a south Florida brewery) called Blueberry Cobbler. “We let people decide what they want from us, and what they wanted was more draft beer,” says Perez. (The demand for tapped craft brews was so overwhelming that they expanded from 16 taps to 24 over the course of 2014.) The bar also sells wine and offers a curated list that covers every kind of grape.
They’re order-in and food-truck friendly. A failed food menu led the owners to do right by local businesses, like Wolfies Pizzamia, and allow people to order food to be delivered directly to the bar—they’ll even call it in for you. On Thursdays, expect to see food truck Sushi & Seoul on the Roll; on Fridays, Daydream Pizza parks in the lot. Bonus: An alternative to the common bar pretzels, cups of Goldfish crackers are a staple here.
There’s no owner anonymity. Don’t be surprised to see Perez or co-owner Ron DiDonato serving up beers and chatting with customers. They purposely don’t have a phone for the bar, and readily give out their personal numbers to patrons. “We want to be easily reachable,” says DiDonato. “And because of that, our customers feel like a real part of this place.”
It’s one-of-a-kind. Try to find another successful shed-turned-craft-beer-bar around town. You can’t. “This was almost like a social experiment. We were trying to get the best crowd, and still cater to everybody, and make people happy in what was once a shed,” says Perez. That they’re celebrating their one-year anniversary this month speaks of their success at drawing a contented and consistent clientele. Though the bar is out of sight, once you visit, it’s never out of mind.
What's in a Name?
Perez came up with “The Thirsty Topher” in a class at Valencia College, where a Renaissance humanities professor kept calling the people of the time “tophers.” He defined them as “people who work hard and play hard.” Perez never forgot it. “Even then,” he says, “I thought, ‘Hey, that would be a great name for a bar.’ ”