Harmon Tap Room
Where: 204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.212.2725
Hours: Kitchen open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bar open till 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Cuisine: American-comfort-food-meets-Italian-fare; wings, nachos, burgers, salads, sandwiches, pizza, pasta.
Scene: Brewery and casual eatery. Seating for less than 40 inside; outdoor beer garden doubles occupancy and then some. Pool tables, goldfish races, game-day, cask tapping, wine night = 21+ adult fun house. Half off your bill on Sundays.
Drinkies: Harmon Brewery beer and domestics, West Coast wines, sodas.
ANNOUNCER: Near the edge of Tacoma's Theater District sits the Harmon Tap Room - the third drink-and-dine establishment of co-owner Pat Nagle. Nagle's other restaurants are the well-known Harmon Brewery & Eatery and The Hub. And then, of course, there's his overarching Harmon Brewing Company, responsible for the bevy of tasty, locally brewed beers available at all of the Harmon restaurants and other retail locations around the South Sound. A smallish public tasting room at the Harmon Tap Room sports a rustic, somewhat industrial feel thanks to bare beams and exposed piping in the high ceiling. The space doubles as a dining area inside the 15-barrel brewery. The Tap Room serves the 21-and-up crowd lunch and dinner, with American-comfort-food-meets-Italian-cuisine offered at prices that are easy to pay. The Tap Room celebrates its one-year anniversary Friday.
JAKE: Great big bags of beer-making supplies were piled and stacked just inside the door and along the hallway leading to an awesome outdoor patio. We had to ask for menus on two out of three visits, but I suppose since beer is the focus the staff isn't that fired up to push food.
JASON: That beer garden takes second place only to the waterfront on a warm day. And the couch area? Come on! Don't tell me you wouldn't want a man cave that came with beverage and food service by pretty women. That's what the Tap Room feels like to me, a place I can go and chill and sip a good beer, undisturbed, with a plate of simple food if I'm hungry. That Mt. Takhoma Blonde Ale is an easy one to throw back.
JAKE: A few weeks ago we were two of a four-person lunch crowd; undisturbed is definitely the right word. Instead of appetizers or tapas, the Tap Room has "tapatizers." Witty. House-made, herb-flecked, chunky hummus has a pronounced tang to it. Served with panini-pressed pita triangles and large cucumber disks, the tapatizer is enough for sharing. Accompanied by a green salad topped with tomato wedges, cucumber and red onion, it becomes a light, satisfying meal for one.
JASON: At dinnertime, two fish tacos and a pile of tortilla chips felt a little steep at $11. Grilled mahi mahi, cilantro-lime sour cream and shredded cabbage and carrot were flavorful enough, but just didn't do it for me. I wished the tacos were more substantial, and I thought the small ramekin of mango salsa needed to be two or three times bigger to stretch between the chips and the tacos. But then, I am a serious fan of the fruited salsa.
JAKE: Another taco on the plate would fix things, I think. I liked that the tortillas had been put through the panini press. That's brilliant. On the pie front, the South Sounder pizza features a thick crust, white sauce, Parmesan and sprinkled dried dill. The vibrant taste of green onion and chopped tomato helped balance a strong saltiness from the smoked salmon - oddly cut into cubes. Shredding the salmon and spreading it out might eliminate the overpowering salt punch those cubes deliver.
JASON: I agree, the cubes were like salt bombs. That thicker pizza crust was baked all the way through, which is a definite plus. Tender chicken breast and al dente penne pasta were tossed in light, lemony piccata sauce spiked with appropriately salty capers, mushrooms and whispers of garlic. A generous amount of Parmesan cheese and chopped, flat-leaf parsley crowned the dish. Grilled bread soaked up the sauce. A glass of Willamette Valley Pinot Gris with subtle pear, crisp green apple and honeydew could not have been a finer fit for me. For dessert the Tap Room keeps it simple, offering ice cream by the scoop or a sundae with chocolate sauce made from Harmon Puget Sound porter. I'll be back to try that one when we get a truly hot, ice cream-worthy day.
JAKE: You're gonna wait until August for a sundae?