How Tequila diplomacy at Tommy's Mexican Restaurant led to acclaim and community

It’s Monday night and Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant is hopping. The bar, tucked behind a partition to the left of the front door, is standing-room only. The booths are filled with hungry customers.

Servers jot orders on their notepads and run aromatic plates of enchiladas and Yucatecan tamales to their guests, whose eyes grow wide when their food is delivered. Others chat in between crunchy bites of tortilla chips and sips of margaritas.

At the bar, people clink their glasses together, echoing “cheers” or “salud” as they taste their lime-colored cocktails. Some nose their tulip glasses of neat Tequila and ponder its terroir, seriously studying the characteristics that define this category of spirit.

At the center of it all is Julio Bermejo, a spectacled man with dark hair, who dons a black button-up shirt marked with the restaurant’s logo. He makes his way up and down the bar, pulling bottles from the shelf, asking people if they’ve tried this or that Tequila, smiling for occasional photos and chatting with regulars who have been coming to the bar for years. He orchestrates the dynamics of the bar with ease, something that he has earned with years of practice. He carries on several conversations at once, never missing a beat and rarely forgetting a name. He monitors the bartenders and watches the pace of the restaurant, often stepping into the dining room to give hugs or shake hands. He’s the lifeblood of Tommy’s — both an internationally renowned Tequila expert and a staple of the neighborhood.

Read the full story here. Published in print on October 15, 2017 and online on October 16, 2017.