Opal Divine’s is divine

by Michael Alderete on 11/24/2004

On our trip to Mexico’s tequila region last year, we met the proprietor of an establishment in Austin, Michael Parker of Opal Divine’s Freehouse. Rochelle and I were thrilled to hear about a good place for tequila in Austin, and at the trip’s end, promised to visit him at his restaurant when we flew back for Thanksgiving, less than a month later.

And visit we did! We hit Opal Divine’s our second night in town, and liked it so much that in spite of a compressed schedule visiting Rochelle’s relations we found a way to squeeze it in again right before our return flight.

Opal Divine’s is quite a bar, with a truly fabulous selection of most liquors including tequila, a stupendous selection of interesting beers from here and abroad, and what must be a U.S. Top 5 selection of single malt Scotch — certainly the best I’ve seen (and we have a great Scotch bar in SF, The Irish Bank).

Rochelle and I certainly know how to entertain ourselves in a good bar, but what takes Opal Divine’s up to the next level, to our only must-visit in all of Texas, is the food. Really, there’s no requirement for Michael to have such good food — decent pub grub would be more than enough to make the patrons happy and coming back to drink more.

His food doesn’t need to be outstanding for him to be successful — but it is. We were reminded of that again this evening, when we made everything right with our day by going and having the tasting sampler of Scotch to start (six single malts from all the Scotch regions), and then eating a great chicken fried steak and an incredible patty melt.

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Where the promo parties went, part 2

by Michael Alderete on 10/4/2003

When Rochelle proposed we go out Thursday, I asked her, given she is planning a summer picnic for 100 people and has a school assignment due, both on Saturday, if she should be going out drinking. She said it was OK, but we absolutely could not go anywhere else after.

So of course, when the guy sitting on the bar stool next to me told us about The Glenlivet party that was starting in 30 minutes, we decided to crash that one, too. (Thank god I decided to bathe yesterday!)

We finished our drinks, paid our tab, and zipped across town. Finding a parking space was remarkably easy, but in spite of that, we were still 20 minutes late.

No problem! The program has already started, just go in and find yourselves seats. We won’t hold you up here with any registration crap, since then you’d miss the wonderful information our speaker is imparting! Woohoo!

The program was actually a vertical tasting of four Glenlivet Scotches, very cool. It was clearly a promotional program for The Glenlivet; I’m sure they’re doing dozens of these around the country, hoping to raise awareness for Scotch and The Glenlivet.

Rochelle and I have been to a few of these kinds of parties (a few times we were even invited). Done well, people leave feeling like they learned something cool, that they can now be the expert on this subject in their social circle. Ideally, they turn into enthusiasts and evangelists for the product. (God knows we have on the subject of tequila, so we know this does work.)

In other words, there is both thought and purpose behinds these kinds of promotional events — unlike so many of the dot.bomb parties that were thrown. People are still getting drunk on Marketing’s dollar, but Marketing can explain clearly what they plan to get out of it, and in all likelihood, can point to improved regional numbers afterwards.

Now we just need to figure out how to learn about these types of parties in a predictable, repeatable way, instead of by randomly talking to strangers in bars.

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