MSP - Lyndale Tap House
I went there last night.
I agree with Foureyes' assessment of their beers. Generally disappointing on-tap beers, given that they have so many of them, and that they have "Tap House" in the name. There were a few standouts -- Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest, for example. But yeah, no Surly, no Flat Earth, etc. The majority of the taps were the usual Bud Light / Miller / etc.
If you like smoked meats, the place smells amazing. All of us were excited to try the food as soon as we walked through the door. My pit beef sandwich mostly failed to deliver, though. The beef was smoked well, and had a hint of an interesting Indian spice in it (cumin?), but overall was just way too stringy. For example, you would take a bite of the sandwich, it would pull all the beef out of it, and then you'd have to use your fingers to pull apart the gristle holding it together. Not a very pleasant mouth experience. One of my dining companions felt the same way. The sandwich tasted good, not great; but it was not fun to eat.
Another companion got the Philly (basically a pit beef with cheese and peppers) and really liked it. It did not resemble a Philly cheesesteak, though, for those of you who might be curious.
The turkey sloppy joe looked to be the best of the dishes we got, although I did not try it. Next time, that's what I'll be going for.
I was previously a big fan of JP American Bistro, with caveats. I thought JP consistently produced some of the best food I've eaten in the Twin Cities; however, I never liked the dining space (other than the bar area) -- too much of a bland, suburban feel, given its Lyn/Lake location. I think the Lyndale Tap House did a pretty good job with the space. Some things weren't my favorite (the games in the back by the kitchen totally took the class of the place down a notch) but overall it fits in better with the neighborhood. But there's no point in comparing it to JP, since the only thing they share was the same geographic location. The real place for comparison would be Herkimer, because I'm guessing they will now be competing head-to-head for the same clientele.
We went last night planning to eat dinner, however that never happened. WARNING: FIRST VISIT.
Another disclaimer: we very much liked JP Bistro.
So for those unfamiliar with the concept, this is a bar, with bar food that centers around B-More pit beef. A good concept and an unfilled niche in MPLS. But let me be clear, this is a bar with food, not a restaurant.
We went in last night with the expectation of having a light dinner. We sat at the bar, which has a bizarre configuration that juts out at the near corner making it necessary for the bartender to stand on a stool and reach 5 feet across empty wood to hand you a drink if you sit here. We decided to move over a bit to keep from having to watch this for the rest of the night.
Decor is otherwise nondescript aside from the photos of cows and women in pinup outfits and televisions in every corner (I hate televisions in bars, just me). Dark woods, solid, sparse. The music is loud and this in combination with the bar being super-deep makes it hard to hear what the bartenders are saying. Do people turn TV's on at home then mute the TV and turn the stereo on? Is this something people do? Because bars do it, and watching Sportscenter with the volume off and no CC is absolutely ridiculous.
Beer. It has Taphouse in the name, but Bulldog down the street has about 3 times more taps and about 3 times more local taps. A good list of bottled beers, but it's not called bottlehouse. We expected to find Surly, Flat Earth, Lift Bridge, something more local than Summit on tap, but did not. Looks like a whose-who of some local distributers "micro" selection.
Good happy-hour with half-priced taps and starters (and perhaps something else like house wine or rails, we couldn't really hear the bartender describing it due to the aforementioned volume level/distance thing).
Food. We started with the muscles and pretzels. The muscles were quite good, not overcooked, nicely flavored from the roasted (rather than sautéed) garlic and sausage. Good liquor that matched well with the grilled bread (though the shape of the slice made it hard to get into the bowl, whatever.) I liked them. The pretzels were an abomination. Identical in shape to an Olive Garden breadstick, these had no chew, were room temperature, and were bone dry and just as dense. The mustard was too sweet for my taste (I like brown on a pretzel), the cheese sauce was good however. We didn't think to send back a $3 serving of pretzels, we just left and went back to NE for dinner. Was it fair to judge this place on the consistency of a pretzel? Perhaps not, but if they can't get a $3 snack right...
I will return and just order the pit beef and mac & cheese as I am very curious, just not this week.