The Little Tap House gets sizeable praise

Small name, big delivery
By BRIAN DUFF  |  June 13, 2013

food_littletap_main

BAR SNACK House-cured salmon with capers,
pickled onion, and lemon.

Those who choose conspicuously modest names often do so to obscure the frightening scope of their ambition and will to dominate. Think "Microsoft" or "the United States" — they don't sound threatening, do they? I promise you that any woman who calls herself "Kimmie" will eagerly destroy you if you get in her way. And it works the other way: we only give our spouses and partners sweet nicknames because we find intimacy so terrifying.

So when you find the words "little tap" in the name of a new restaurant, it could be a sign that they are secretly planning to give the food scene a hard knock. But it was a relief to discover, in this era of overly ambitious and expensive pubs, that Little Tap House seems to be what it sounds like: a welcoming, affordable spot for local draft beer and accessibly interesting pub food. It's not that LTH lacks ambition, it's just that they seem happy to do simple things very well.

So the décor is this well-used space at the busy corner of High and Spring streets (formerly Katahdin and Plush), looks like it's been nicely spiffed up rather than given the full design-firm overhaul. The overall effect is a bit farmhouse-y, with lots of wood, some interesting hanging lights, and a pale yellow paint over the brick walls. The front is dominated by a long bar and standing tables made from large barrels. The dining areas along the front window and in back feel tucked away.

The other night there were twelve beers on tap, with eight from Maine — most costing $6. They seem happy to give you a generous taste before you order. Among the Maine beers: an Oxbow Farmhouse is like a crisp Pilsner with a hoppy ale finish. The Bunker Machine Pilsner was a bit sweeter than the typical Czech style. An IPA from Funky Bow also has plenty of sugar before a bitter finish. An Allagash White is crisper on draft than what you have been drinking at cookouts. Overall it's an interesting list, with a good mix of styles and a manageable size.

Diners get a ramekin of sharp pickled vegetables with their menu, and some dense Southern style biscuits with their meal. The menu has lots of straightforward entrées like burgers, roast chicken, grilled salmon, and steak, most with ingredients from Maine farms. The burger is a good one, the bun a soft sweet brioche with a good dark crust. The juicy burger, ground in-house, had been loosely packed just to that right spot where it holds together but does not get too dense. The terrific Maine potato fries seemed double-fried, and come with a choice of sauces — both in the style now familiar from Duckfat. An entrée of roast chicken was juicy and herby, with a just-crisp skin. The accompanying mashed potatoes and snap peas were quite good, unmarred by a compulsion to jazz up their classic appeal.

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