Pub Grub

A gastropub in Tuckahoe serves up reliable comfort fare plus some dressier dishes.



Photo by Cathy Pinsky

The Tap House is a pub at heart, only dressier.

 

Since opening in 2007, the Tap House has been through its share of chefs and menu tweaks, but through it all, has remained loyal to its basic concept: it is a casual, slightly upscale pub.

If the word “pub” has you thinking of burgers and beer, shake the dust off your 1990s overcoat and head into 2010, a year in which the term “gastropub” has entered the vernacular. (Who cares if no one is quite sure what it means? It sounds so in-the-know.)

The Tap House embodies the spirit of a pub—if that pub were sporting designer jeans. It’s got the requisite décor, just dressed up a bit: red walls, dark wood, some banquette seating, and a marble-topped wood bar that stretches nearly the length of the front dining room. Patrons of the bar may be there for one of the 90 beers, ales, lagers, and stouts—or perhaps to enjoy its often lively social scene.

The upstairs dining room hosts parties large and small as well as overflow diners from downstairs, while the “back” downstairs room, complete with a floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace, handles much of the weeknight dinner crowd.

When last we visited Tap House (a year or two ago), each table was greeted with a basket of bacon popcorn—a truly brilliant, simple, and obvious dish that we all should have been eating from the time we could toddle. The bacon popcorn is still complimentary, but we were told diners must now request it. We did. On one visit, the stale, broken-up bits of popcorn and bacon were disappointing, to say the least. On the next, we had perfect, fresh puffs of warm, crunchy popcorn, popped in the drippings of smoky chunks of bacon. (Did the waiter really bring us three consecutive baskets before we’d even ordered? Hey, it was a stressful week.)

As long as we’re talking bacon, let’s sing the praises of the “BLT Mussels.” Plump, tender mussels are steamed in a cream-based wine broth and then showered with—drumroll for the playful BLT reference—chopped bacon, tomato, and shredded lettuce. It has the sandwich’s great balance of flavor and texture, but is far, far richer.

Photo by Cathy Pinsky

Char-grilled skirt steak with sweet-potato purée and broccolini in a red wine sauce is one of two steak dishes offered.

Not all the food at Tap House is playful, or rich, nor does it fall into any other kind of category. And that’s its real charm. It’s the kind of restaurant you go to with friends when you want to just hang out and catch up, and it makes it easy that even your most persnickety friend will find at least one thing on the menu to order. The carnivore in your crowd should be more than satisfied with a tender, beefy New York strip steak topped with fresh tarragon—especially if he or she also rates quantity as a qualifier. We ended up taking about a third of the steak home to have for lunch the next day. That same friend might be just as happy with the grilled burger, a juicy, flavorful classic.

Specials tend to be for the slightly more adventurous diner. We loved the crisp-skinned meaty duck breast topped with a
tart pomegranate sauce, although the accompaniments of undercooked spaghetti squash and dry spaetzle were a downer. We weren’t sure if the kitchen simply forgot to put the sauce on the striped bass, another special. The fish was dry and bland, and sat atop a similarly dull butternut squash risotto. Butternut squash fared better in a regular menu item: as filling for ravioli served with tart Granny Smith apples and a sage brown butter sauce.

Herb-roasted chicken served with green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy might be just the detox dish to have at the end of a rough day. Simply seasoned chicken was moist, mashed potatoes creamy, and green beans buttery in this culinary equivalent of a hug.

Desserts were all over the place, ranging from bad to mediocre to terrific. A pear-almond tart was a mushy mess of pastry dough topped with thick, dry chunks of pear. Apple pie was better, though not really worth repeating. There were no textural issues but not much flavor, either. Go for the giant ice cream sandwich filled with Westchester’s own Longford’s ice cream. And if the chocolate chip cookies seem slightly under-baked, no worries: the sandwich tastes like cookie dough ice cream.

When in doubt at Tap House, consult your server. Our servers were knowledgeable about the food, beer, and wine, and they never led us astray. They were friendly, polite and casual—in a pub-appropriate way.

Tap House ★★ ★

16 Depot Sq Tuckahoe (914) 337-6941

Hours: Mon to Thurs 11:30 am–10 pm, Fri and Sat 11:30 am–11 pm, Sun brunch 11 am–3:30 pm, dinner 3:30 pm–9 pm.
Appetizers: $5.50-$13; entrées: $17-$29; desserts: $6.

★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good
★★—Good ★—Fair

 

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