The Tremont Tap House

Last night I finally stopped by the Tremont Tap House, billed as Cleveland’s first gastropub. From Wikipedia:

A gastropub is a British term for a public house (“pub”) which specializes in high-quality food a step above the more basic “pub grub.” The name is a combination of pub and gastronomy and was coined in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben opened a pub called The Eagle in Clerkenwell, London. They placed emphasis on the quality of food served.

Gastropubs usually have an atmosphere which is relaxed and a focus on offering a particular cuisine prepared as well as it is in the best restaurants. Staying true to the format requires a menu that complements the assortment of beers and wines the gastropub offers.

Some describe gastropubs as the Anglo-equivalent of the French brasserie or the Japanese izakaya.

We had a great start with a pretzel and smoked cheddar stout dipping sauce. The pretzel was soft, and not too salty or greasy. I appreciated that the beer menu used color to easily identify what was on tap and which beers were large.

I ordered the duck breast and sun dried tomato risotto, while my friend had the mac and cheese. The portion of her mac and cheese was pretty generous, and she said it was great. (I’m not a big mac and cheese person so I’m by no means qualified to comment.) However I was a little surprised to find my sun dried tomato risotto was really more of an alfredo risotto with sun dried tomatos haphazardly mixed in. I was expecting some type of sun dried tomato pesto, and the menu made no mention of cheese. I don’t expect menus to list every ingredient in a dish, but I do think in this case the cheese/sauce should’ve been explicit since it (and not the sun dried tomatos) was clearly the main ingredient.

I also felt the dish could’ve used the accompaniment of a vegetable. The duck breast itself was moist and tender. I generally feel you can judge a restaurant by how it prepares duck. There’s rarely an in between, it’s either great or terrible. (Too fatty and slimy or shriveled and dried out. For the record the best duck I’ve had in Cleveland was at the Flying Fig.) While the almond crust was mostly enjoyable, albiet with a strange aftertaste, it didn’t go very well with the risotto or the acidity of the sun dried tomatos.

The atmosphere was odd, a raucous crowd in the back was Wii Bowling and it sounded like they were about to come to blows over their tournament. The music was bad even though I’d heard otherwise, but for all I know someone with terrible taste was hunched over the juke box. The seating was comfortable. Service was slow, there was a lone bartender waiting on the entire restaurant. We definitely received a grimace when we asked for our checks to be split.

I’d visit again though, it’s worth it for the beer selection alone. While it’s not particularly huge it is more diverse than the Bier Markt, which is centered on Belgian and Lambic brews. Dark beer drinkers rejoice. I only saw one bitter on the menu, Cleveland apparently doesn’t have much love for bitters outside of The Pub. I’d stay away from the main dishes and instead experiment with the small plates or sandwiches. The short rib sliders looked promising. But I wonder, does every distinctly Cleveland dining establishment have to serve pierogies?

Don’t bother trying to find them on the web, their lone internet presence is a Myspace page with nefarious custom layout. The Tremont Tap House is located at 2572 Scranton Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113.