3510 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-8216, patstap.com
Lest you be confused and buy into all sorts of crazy expectations, I think it’s important to tell you first and foremost that Pat’s Tap is a bar. What used to be Casey’s, which was an old dive, was taken over by Kim Bartmann and her team, who sassed it up into a new dive. And yes, it’s a gastropub, which really means that it’s a bar with more than mozzie sticks and microwaved Heggie’s pizza (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Now that you understand this, hopefully you won’t wander in expecting meticulous service or tablecloths or peace and quiet. It’s a bar where people go to have boisterous fun, drink a truckload of local beer, and crack wise while throwing skee balls. The fact that it is LEED certified, supports local sustainability initiatives, and puts a little duck on the menu does raise it above the average, but it won’t make it into a café or bistro.
With that said, let’s begin at the rail. There’s a lot of brew on the list—both local and national craft brands are well represented. You’ll find some international darlings as well from Belgium, of course, but also Japan, Germany, and Mexico. True to the dive, you can still score a High Life, Labatt’s, or a can of Hamm’s. Heaped with great descriptions, the wine list offers some interesting bottles, including a fistful of sparkling wine. It also should be noted that bloody marys are two for one during lunch on the weekdays.
The menu is stacked with a large number of small plates—all the better when you’re drinking and eating. With so many winners on this side, you could actually ignore the rest of the menu and be a happy camper. The mussels with smoked ham and beer were so much more buttery and rich than most bar versions. Goat cheese fritters were elegant cheesy puffs, lamb meat balls were moist little flavor bombs in a minted yogurt dip, and both the fried pickles and green beans carried a proper batter-to-veg ratio and neither were greasy. Cheese curds, a new staple on bar menus all over town, were done perfectly with a light touch that is reminiscent of Town Talk’s standard-setting version. The buffalo chicken terrine was a kicked-up creamy and spicy revelation unto itself, concocted by Geoff Hausmann, formerly of Travail, who is in charge of all things charcuterie. Gougères and pork belly skewers unfortunately were oversold, and the pretzel was cold, hard, and sad.
Bigger plates and burgers run hit or miss. Roasted chicken was a hands-down winner, all homey and cockle warming, and the abundant veggie curry was a nice find, but pastas seemed rather meh. The big cheeseburger is perfectly done with a nice crisp char to it, but the duck burger was cooked to the point of a dry death. The Rachel, with corned turkey, is a cool change, and the harissa and honey chicken sandwich with Manchego and pickled chilies rocked that sharp balance of sweet, spicy, and tangy. I’m still thinking about it.
The brunch menu is served until 3 pm on weekends, which makes it a little annoying if you come for lunch at 1 pm and can’t order off the regular menu. But it offers some good scrambles, an omelet of the day, pancakes, and a Bennie, not to mention a wake-up beer with a shot of espresso.
If Pat’s Tap is the new generation of neighborhood bar, upping the ante with food but remaining humble as a watering hole, Heggie’s should be afraid. Above all, this is one of those joints you wished were in your ’hood.
GETTING THERE, GETTING IN: Free parking on street. No reservations.
HOURS: Daily 11 am–2 am, brunch: Sa–Su 9 am–3 pm
KIDS: If you’re cool with babies in a bar, then go ahead!
NOISE LEVEL: High, especially when there’s skee ball happening.
CARDS: Visa, Amex, MC, Discover
ENTRÉE PRICES: $10–$18