Friday, March 14, 2008

Tapping In

Shockingly, the five car parking lot was jammed with vehicles notably out of place on the fringe innards of Tremont. Shiny new SUV's, fresh from driveways in the suburbs, have found temporary new homes on the cracked and pot-holed pavement at Scranton and Starkweather. Surrounded by shabby gray houses with rattletrap Oldsmobiles and Escorts (the cars, not the company) out front, the oasis that is the Tremont Tap House beckoned us inside.

Up the few steps and through the heavy wooden door. A high, long bar is the first thing you see; with enough bar stools to seat a small third world country's army. These reside under six overly bright, but appealingly large flat-screen televisions, all dutifully beaming images of the dawn of March Madness, the conference tournaments. A closer look reveals 25 well chosen and eclectically enjoyable taps, with offerings as diverse as Left Hand Milk Stout, Lindeman's Framboise, Victory Golden Monkey and my reason for drinking - Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

Seated in one of the half dozen booths, each with an authentically created local artists creation under glass (we were lucky and scored the Scott Radke table), Katie and I took in the exposed brick, framed with an industrially modern lighting scheme that shed some, but not enough glow to block out the t.v. glare... and some ambiance. I'm particularly fond of the roll-up metal door on the opposite side of the tap handles that will allow for serving straight through to the patio when summer finally arrives.

My parents arrived to meet us and we each sampled the others' brew choices. The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter was pleasantly imbued with distinctly vanilla bean flavor. The Maredsous 8 reminded me of what a fine Belgian ale should taste like. For Katie and I, we scoffed at the opportunity to break out of our waist deep IPA ruts and ordered our regulars; Dogfish 90 Minute and the aforementioned Two Hearted Ale.

The menu, a subtle tap to the growing foodie revolution fomenting around the area, served up traditional eats with flairs of fancy. The penne macaroni with dried figs, brie and sage was one such example. It also, for me, set the scene for the rest of the meal; good, but not quite my style. My empanadas, filled with a delectable goo of chorizo and goat cheese, were a little overly deep fried, giving the plate a heavy, greasy finish that masked the bright flavors. The salmon on rye was said to be delicious, though I can't vouch for it personally. The most unique selection of the night was perhaps, no, definitely the blue cheese & walnut sandwich, with hard-boiled egg slices, apple chunks and spinach on...get this, raisin bread. Not something that I would probably have thrown together at home. But, it hit the proverbial spot, with the raisin bread bringing just the right balance of sweetness to the bitter notes of the blue cheese and spinach.

On the whole, the place is a very welcome newcomer to the 'West Tremont' scene, and one that I hope to frequent on Saturday afternoons in June, drinking my Two Hearted and listening to the Tribe under that blazing Cleveland sun.

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