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Taproom No. 307

May 24, 2011

I wandered into this place shortly after they had first opened one afternoon after I realized I had arrived at the New York Comedy Club far too early. That first time, within their first week of being open, I didn’t even know they had food. At the time, they didn’t even have their registers running smoothly. What they did have working however were 42 taps and 2 casks, which certainly gave me enough to work with for a quick pint before performing.

Taproom No. 307 is tucked between 23rd and 24th Streets on 3rd Avenue and now with warmer weather fast approaching and their small smoking patio open, they’re a bit harder to miss when you walk past than a month or so ago. Even if it’s wet or cold out you’ll still be able to spot Taproom by their chalkboard sign advertising their astronomical amount of taps. The second time I came in, I began to notice that people were eating food with what could crassly be referred to as ‘o’ faces and I was intrigued. I was once again only in there for a quick pint so I started to remind myself that I would need to come by one day and see what all the fuss was about. Well, with my birthday last week, I finally stepped in and gave it a try.

The place is clearly shooting for that traditional public house atmosphere. The walls are done in dark wood with parts of exposed brick, and coolly painted walls. Illumination is provided by various dim electric lights and small lit candles on the tables and bar. The tables are dark wood also, bearing that well-worn look that makes you feel like you’re in a cozy home, with most of the seating being tall high-backed bar chairs with the booths possessing dark leather cushions. Running down the center were a set of tall communal tables to cement the small town tavern feel. This is where I was seated, and the only issue that came up was that it was right below the air conditioner which blew too strongly. I imagine that since most people who use those tables do so to balance a drink when the bar is packed, it shouldn’t really be a persistent problem. Though if you do get seated there for a meal on a warm day, I would suggest requesting to move to a different table or ask if you can get dinner at the bar behind you.

The menu is packed with smaller portion items and a couple of large plates. All of the items are merrily following the gastro-pub trend that’s slowly starting to creep across the nation and will hopefully be blazing across it bearing a keg of fine beer on one shoulder and delicious food on the other. What I mean by this is that it’s a lot of your bar favorites (sliders, wings, pizza, etc) with a gourmet twist to better fit with your discriminating taste in finer brews. I began my meal by ordering a Brooklyn Pennant Ale, which is a nice golden ale that’s on the slightly sweeter side making it a solid choice for most meals when you’re unsure of what you’re going to be ordering beyond “some kind of meat with some kind of side.”

I didn’t need to look very far down the menu to settle on my food. Taproom serves Pulled Pork Sliders with Sriracha Slaw. Now, I love pulled pork in general, but if you put Sriracha near anything I will immediately order it. You can call it a flaw, whereas I call it a delicious firestorm. In addition, I grabbed a side of fries since the sliders only came in an order of two with nothing else. The food came out and I was needless to say quite pleased.

The fries were not greasy in the least, lightly seasoned, and there were a lot of them. The fries themselves had that nice, thick, rich skin that tells you that these were cut from a potato on site before being fried. The inside of the fries had the perfect consistency, just on the right side of mushy. Of course, these fries could have been crap all on their own with the sauces they’re served with. Along side every order of fries you get two cups of dipping sauce, at first glance they appear to be standard ketchup and maybe some kind of strange mayo or mustard. This ketchup however was anything but standard; it had a nice sweet fresh tomato flavor along with sour and spicy notes that blended perfectly with the fries. In this ever increasing chain of ‘sure it was good but who cares because’ that is me talking about these fries, the ketchup will quickly fall in your eyes to the garlic aioli. The aioli is creamy, and smooth, with a nice garlic punch that creates a great break in your meal and is also a solid step away from the sauces you’d expect with an order of fries. Overall, if you come into this bar and are eating but for some reason don’t have fries it should only be if you’re allergic to potatoes.

The sliders were damn good too. The thing with pulled pork that can be somewhat difficult to master is that you have to let it not get too fatty. I’m not going to pretend that I’m expecting the best pork in pulled pork, that would be insanity, but it is important to run that careful balance between not the best and the worst. Luckily, the chef at Taproom clearly understands this based on the sliders. The meat itself is solid, with a little fattiness but not so much that all you’re tasting is grease. You’ll get a distinct pork taste that melds in precisely with the sweet and smokey barbecue sauce. As I’m sure I’ll discuss in greater length at one point, I’m a wet man when it comes to barbecue, and a sauce needs to be just right to me or else it will ruin everything. This sauce was applied delicately, blending carefully with the pork to provide a good sweet flavor to the smoked meat. The warm sweet and smokey flavor of the sauce and meat then goes on to create a very delicate tower with the sriracha slaw precariously set on the top. Like everything else in this slider, slaw is one of those things that can go very wrong, very quickly. In this case, it doesn’t quite go wrong but that’s more because it’s so sparingly applied that I only realized it was there when somewhere near the center of the sandwich I suddenly got a cool burst of spicy vegetable. That one bite did create an amazing taste explosion in my mouth with the whole sandwich hitting every cue it needed to, which only went on to emphasize that maybe there should have been more slaw. The take home from this is that the slider is definitely worth it, and showcases that the man behind this menu is not an idiot but maybe the pulled pork would be better as a full sandwich rather than two sliders.

It seemed easy after this very satisfying meal to just walk away and go on with my day. Then I glanced down and saw the desserts. There were only three on the menu, and while I don’t remember two of them, this is only because of the clear stand out that I couldn’t leave without tasting: Nutella bread pudding with a dollop of hazelnut ice cream. Bread Pudding is a great dessert on its own; fluffy, sweet, creamy, with a gooey but still solid consistency, generally with various bits of seasonal fruit on the inside. Every so often, you’ll see someone go “wild” and make some chocolate bread pudding that’s like heaven in your mouth. But Nutella? The amazing spread of hazelnut and chocolate that’s the bane of anyone who has a tongue and doesn’t want to gain weight? How could one describe a combination of these things?

The word orgasmic came to mind as I took the first warm gooey bite. Then I grabbed a bit of the ice cream on my fork before diving into the small loaf of bread pudding on my plate again. I suddenly began to curse my past-self for having the gall to order food besides this dessert that I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish. This delightful dessert was further enhanced because I like any self-respecting gentleman had paired it with a Smuttynose Robust Porter. If you’re going to come here for any reason, you should order a Nutella bread pudding. I don’t care about your hazelnut allergy, you can die a good death once you have this.

What else is there to really say about a place where three random selections off the menu made me feel so good and full that I didn’t feel like doing anything afterward since that meal had made my day? A couple of things actually.

First off, the place is slightly on the expensive side. It definitely won’t break the bank, no individual item goes over twenty dollars but a lot of them go above ten. When you add in Gramercy prices on the craft beer you’re going to be drinking down, you will wince a bit. However this does lend itself to a night out when you’re going to split the bill, or a night when you want to take your date somewhere nice but not so nice either of you will feel intimidated or not ne entirely sure what you ordered.

This is what brings me to my next point, this restaurant is really perfect for a night out with friends. A group of three or four people can all order some sliders, pizza, or appetizers to share with each other, maybe a side of fries for the table, and then when you add in the beer or some dessert everyone leaves full and happy. If you do plan on doing a full dinner or the like, go for something light to ensure you save some room for the delicious but heavy desserts.

Finally, try to plan out your meal as best as you can. I say this not only because it is poor planning that will result in you wincing at the check but because of the beer. There’s no reason to come to a place with 42 taps and fantastic food only to go chugging a stout with an arugula salad. Hold back on ordering that beer you really want to try until you know what food you want, save it for after dinner if you have to. The kitchen staff isn’t working their ass off to prepare your delicate fig and blue cheese pizza only to have you wash it down with a West Coast-style Imperial IPA. The only way I can imagine having a bad meal here is if you make a mistake in ordering a beer. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter or waitress, I’m sure they’ll be able to offer a suggestion.

Taproom No. 307 is definitely a destination if you’re looking for a good time, good food, and good beer. Personally, I know I’m chomping at the bit to head back and try their sweet potato fries with maple-whiskey sauce.

Oh, did I mention they serve brunch?


From → Restaurants

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