Restaurant Review: Uptown Tap House

With the same owners as McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon and Sign of the Whale, I expected Uptown Tap House to serve up a rowdy atmosphere and some mediocre bar food.

Surprisingly, the new Cleveland Park “gastro pub” is a breed of its own compared to its two sister establishments, attracting a hip crowd of foodies and yuppies since it opened in mid-September.

The dark hardwood floors, dim lighting and vintage-style bar spans the majority of the space. Comfortable seating, entertaining rock and jazz covers and 20 high-definition TVs make Uptown Tap House inviting for larger groups.

My friends and I were greeted by our waiter who, despite being a little awkward, was friendly and hospitable. He detailed the daily happy hour specials, including half-off the selection of 22 draft beers and deals on all specialty cocktails. A separate happy hour menu offers regular menu items for reduced prices, between $5 and $7.

We started off the night with a dozen oysters ($22.95), and we knew they were from the Chesapeake, thanks to a giant chalkboard on the wall. They arrived on a platter almost as large as our table, accompanied by lemon wedges, cocktail sauce and oyster crackers.

But unfortunately, we had to remind our waiter about our drink orders – one of my pet peeves, especially when the server doesn’t write anything down.

To take full advantage of the happy hour, we ordered three small plates that came out fast and fresh. We ordered piping hot spinach artichoke dip with gouda cheese and warm, fluffy pita wedges ($5), crispy fried sweet corn and crab Hoegaarden fritters ($7) and hard cider-braised barbecue pulled pork tacos ($7). Our fritters were nestled on top of tangy champagne mustard sauce and roasted red pepper coulis, and though the filling wasn’t as hot as I would have preferred, the crab and corn flavors were prevalent without being overwhelming, and they had just the right amount of crispness. The pork tacos, however, were by far the stars of the meal. Sweet, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork was dressed with tangy pickled onions, creamy cheese and fresh cilantro.

Our waiter continued to check on us throughout the meal, and though he wasn’t as knowledgeable as we would have liked, the service was decent for having just opened in September.

While I would not run back to Cleveland Park for this meal, Uptown Tap House offered a nice change of pace from the usual Foggy Bottom scene. You may not find a five-star meal or dining experience, but the new joint has good food, live music and a fun atmosphere for a casual night out.

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