It didn’t take us long after arriving in Falkirk before we found The Artisan Tap. I had worried that leaving Finnieston in Glasgow would mean I wouldn’t be able to get hipster-ish delights but here was a pub, proudly calling itself artisanal, with a fridge stocked full of craft ales, great pizza and, through the day, pretty decent coffee to drink with their green tea matcha gateaux. Not even joking. I knew I’d be fine.
Over time, we became regulars. They did a mean pub quiz and I developed a full-blown addiction to their meatball pizza. Plus, their burgers came with sweet potato fries as standard. Most importantly though, the place was always cosy and warm, and the staff were fantastic. So I panicked a bit when I saw their quiz master, DJ Charlie, announce the very last Artisan Tap pub quiz on Facebook. I messaged him to ask, approximately, wtf? He replied to tell me that they were moving to a new pub, The Thirsty Cow, previously known as Freebird.
Ok. I’d been to Freebird. It was a bit smaller, but not too far away and a pub that I’d describe as basically fine. I’d actually been in a few weeks earlier and wondered why I wasn’t there more often. Not long after DJ Charlie’s announcement, new decals appeared in Freebird’s windows, advertising the change of name. The Tap closed and The Thirsty Cow opened. We booked a table for the first night of the pub quiz (which was always so popular that you really had to book), amid rumours of Tex Mex style tapas.
(In the meantime, The Artisan Tap re-opened. By their second night, they were on Facebook promising that the pizzas were back. Honestly, I have no idea what went on but I’m glad there isn’t an empty lot. Two pubs are better than one and I’ll probably drop into the Tap soon to see what’s changed.)
On Thursday we arrived at a misleadingly empty-looking Thirsty Cow. I worried, until I realised that every single table had a reserved sign on it. The interior hadn’t changed much, as far as I can tell, from when the pub was Freebird, but that was fine. It was comfy enough and we had a great seat by the window. P had arrived first and had already ordered himself a pint. I asked one of the bar staff (one who I remembered from the Tap) what the beers were like and he told me that they had a small selection on now, but had big plans. He named a few of my favourites by Dry Gate. This all bodes very well. Even so, I was in a wine mood, so asked P if he’d share a bottle of red with me and picked up a menu.
At the moment the menu is very paired back and includes a promise that more is coming soon. Honestly, though, it’s almost perfect the way it is. Three taco options are available, each £6.50 for three tacos. Then there’s corn, chicken wings and barbecue ribs. Everything just comes out to your table as soon as it’s ready. We ordered the pork tacos, the chicken tacos, the ribs and the chicken wings.
Oh, you guys, those tacos. Were I little greedier I would have physically fought P for the last one instead of engaging in very sensible, grown up, negotiations in which I got the last pork taco and the last chicken wing while he got the last chicken taco and the last spare rib. Everything was absolutely delicious. The tacos well filled and perfectly balanced, the chicken wings crisp and slightly spicy (there’s an option for hot or mild and we didn’t specify, I think we’d get hot next time), the ribs absolutely tender. Everything came sprinkled in pomegranate seeds alongside wedges of lime and crunchy salad.
I think we ordered about the right amount for dinner for two. If they’re going to extend their menu they need more options for vegetarians, more carbs and maybe a shrimp taco*. In the meantime, I’d be very happy to return and eat that all over again without getting anywhere near bored. Given how hit and miss early menus can be, this was seriously impressive. I’m kind of hungry again thinking about it.
As I flipped the menu over I realised I’d actually made a terrible mistake. We were already part-way through our bottle of (very drinkable) red and I’d just discovered the cocktail list. I know, I’m an idiot. Looking at it, though, I know exactly what I’m ordering next time. They do an Old Fashioned, you guys! They do a real Margarita! They do a Long Island Ice Tea and ok they do it with cola but still! They do an Espresso Martini! Who wants to carry me home?
We finished our food as the quiz started. I’d say we did… middling. Given that there’s only two of us we usually put up a good fight but we don’t tend to win. Even so, it’s always a good laugh and we’ve occasionally taken away bonus prizes.
I’m delighted with how the team’s move from the Tap has gone and so far the Cow is looking very good indeed. We had a brilliant night and I know we’ll continue to be regulars for a long time to come. Long live the Thirsty Cow!
*Edit: I dropped in in January and the menu has expanded. They have more tacos, including fish and veggie options, more fish and veggie options in general and a few large plates – I can recommend the chili con carne and the chicken “lasagne” (it is not lasagne but it is good). All they need now is churros for desert and I’ll never leave.