The new rules of not being an asshole include not reviewing places in their first week open, or at least approaching those reviews with the understanding that restaurants need a little time to iron out the wrinkles of customer service. On the other hand, when a place impresses you right out of the gate, it's hard not to share.
I'm not going to pretend to be impartial to Twenty Tap (5408 North College Avenue) - we've known Kevin Matalucci for quite some time now, and you won't meet a friendlier gentleman. But regardless of all of that, I feel confident saying that his new place is going to do well, and deliver on the promises he and chef Rob Coate made back in our interview in July.
No, there's no fried bologna on the menu. No oysters. No state-fair-style ribbon fries.
But there is a full menu of interesting burgers, fries with dipping sauces, a list of sandwiches, and those twenty taps. Our party of five all ordered something different, and everyone left happy and planning to come back for more.
It's hard not to notice the similarities between Twenty Tap and Kevin's long-time employer, the Broad Ripple Brewpub. Twenty Tap feels like Broad Ripple Brewpub 3.0. Brighter lights and colors, more taps, a more streamlined menu, but similar seating, darts out front, but bigger windows - less cozy, more open.
As for Zombie Dust, I'll leave the gushing to my counterparts, but I will say this - the beer was dangerously close to being our second perfect score on the site. It basically came down to me asking myself "If I were in a bar and this was on, is it automatically the first thing I'd order?" The answer to that question is no, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a fantastic beer, among the best available anywhere. It's just not the perfect beer for me. Whatever the hell that means.1
This is one of those reviews where I'm not going to screw around. No writing in a Neil Patrick Harris persona. No cribbing scenes from Twilight. No Rob Halford impersonation. In short, no shenanigans. Why? Because my Twenty Tap experience was so good that I can't possibly make it take a back seat to my ego. But be forewarned that I may be prone to hyperbole here.
That being said, I am being earnest, very earnest, when I say that Twenty Tap is darn near perfect when it comes to the beer, the food, and the location.
Let's talk beer first. The beer menu had selections from Indiana and midwestern craft brewers, including Three Floyds, Sun King, Flat12, Founders, Bell's, Crown, and People's to name just a few. The pub offers full pints and 10 oz. pours as well, both for a reasonable price. Most pints were going for $4.50 a pop.
As Mike has mentioned, we went with Three Floyds Zombie Dust, which is much sought after when it goes on tap anywhere in this town. This single-hop (Citra) pale ale has the classic attributes of a Three Floyds pale ale: aggressive pineapple, mango, and grapefruit notes. It's also backed with a nice, somewhat caramel-like maltiness. I've had this beer before and have really dug it. But something about Zombie Dust sat perfectly for me when we had it at Twenty Tap. Perhaps it was just the buzz of being in a new neighborhood craft beer bar that helped. I don't know. But if Zombie Dust tastes like this when I have it in the future, it will officially become my favorite Three Floyds beer. The best of the bunch. Yes, it's a 5 mug beer for me, at least on this occasion.
The food -- I can only judge by what I had, which were, simply enough, the french fries. I know Ted Miller never reads this blog anyway, so I'm going to say it: Brugge Brasserie has some competition for the best fries in town now. The fries were perfectly crisp on the outside (that's the third time I've used the adjective "perfect" in this review) and fluffy on the inside and were accompanied by a delicious roasted garlic aioli. A glance over the menu told me that I would be returning to eat because Twenty Tap has not just one but several vegetarian options, including a smoked mushroom Rueben and a vegan banh mi. This vegetarian greatly appreciated this attention to detail.
The location -- a 10-minute bike ride from my place, a 5-minute commute by car. After our visit for the roundtable, I returned on Saturday afternoon to down a Founders Porter, Cerise, and Breakfast Stout. This will be my new go-to drinking establishment. Need I say more?
I fell in love with Zombie Dust (then Cenotaph), the first time I laid my lips on it. The orange-pineapple nose was bright and very enticing. The similar flavor gives a sweet, sticky kiss on the lips rather than a punch in the mouth, but don’t tell Floyds that. They have a punch in the mouth image to uphold. Not only would I order this without question, I would go out of my way to find it. I sincerely hope the distribution of this makes it down here on a regular basis and I hope the citrus flavors are just as good from the bottle as they are on draft. I suspect they probably will be, though.
Zombie Dust wasn’t the only thing I was enamored with on this night. Twenty Tap felt like home from the moment we walked in. We were lucky to quickly secure seats at a large booth in the front of the restaurant. It was hard to choose what to order, as just about everything on the menu sounded great. Of the bites I did try, the perfectly crisp fries and the pickled beets were among my favorites.
Something on the menu that I didn't get to take advantage of on this trip, but will happily do so in the future is the half pints. I cannot stress how excited I am that this small, but important touch, is included on the menu. Half pints should be mandatory, in my opinion, at any establishment that offers a range of craft beer taps and I am eternally grateful to Twenty Tap for offering them. With that much good beer on tap, it's nice be able to have several choices, while still being able to be responsible.
Three Floyds Zombie Dust
Mike: 4.85 Mugs | Jim: 5.0 Mugs | Gina: 5.0 Mugs | Chris: 5.0 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 4.96 Mugs
1Of course we just got rid of the rankings so none of this matters.