The Ogden Tap Room shines as a little gem of a gastropub, tucked away on Market Street in an otherwise foodie-poor neighborhood. It fills a definite need on a stretch of road between Kornerstone Bistro and Catch, where only fast food and chain restaurants seem to thrive.
Dimly lit with a rich, dark-wood interior, Ogden Tap Room invites customers like a neighborhood watering hole that’s been around for a generation or two. Old-timey giant light bulbs illuminate a rustic bar—but diners shouldn’t be charmed too easily. The Ogden Tap Room is a modern establishment, offering dozens of beers on tap for the discerning palate and an interesting eclectic menu.
I say go for the beer alone. The selection of taps runs the length of the bar, with flights available, too. And for locals, there’s no shortage of North Carolina breweries represented. For my part, I have a long-standing love of Foothills Brewery out of Winston-Salem, and had a lot of trouble deciding between their IPA and porter. Should the Tap Room be in line for Foothills’ February seasonal beer, Sexual Chocolate, they might name a bar stool after me.
Beer nerdiness aside, the menu deserves attention as well. It’s a mixture of innovation and comfort, with results which are largely lovable.
I couldn’t pass on my favorite comfort food: the giant soft pretzel. Something about it makes me think of basketball games in New York City. Sure, the Tap Room offers it with horseradish Dijon and beer cheese, but I felt no need to mess with a simple classic. Soft, buttery bread with a dose of coarse salt is all I’ll ever need to be happy for a couple of minutes, and the Tap Room delivers with ease.
Their “Scott’s Hill Eggrolls” are an American Southern version of the classic Chinese dish. The fried wonton comes stuffed with pulled chicken, Tasso ham, collard greens, roasted corn and topped it with a side of pepper jelly. I’ve been critical of collards in the past, deriding them as little more than an excuse to eat more pork, and these egg rolls are no exception. Still, the sweet corn and spicy chicken add new dimensions to the appetizer. There was enough going on to keep me interested. Another success.
Though mired in a name which seems to institute regret, “The Debris Sandwich” does not disappoint. Braised beef on a French loaf with Swiss cheese and au jus makes this a worthy take on the beloved French Dip. While it can be messy enough to earn the name “debris,” the tender beef, rich with spices and tangy Swiss make the mess worthwhile.
The Tap Room takes another look at comfort food with their “Low Country Grilled Cheese,” featuring pimiento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and bacon. For reasons of texture, I’ve never been the biggest cheerleader for pimiento cheese, but the sharp cheddar works here, especially against a hearty helping of salty bacon. The crispy tomato shores up the texture, giving the sandwich some heft. The Pullman’s loaf serves it up as one of the best sandwich breads I’ve encountered.
A rare whiff of the curried chicken salad only leaves light hints of the earthy spice through the air. I assume my batch was made incorrectly, as it’s flavor was bland, too. Though the Pullman’s loaf again tasted good, a heavy-handed application of celery rises as the dominant flavor (how rarely does a food critic claim celery is the dominant flavor in anything?). Given the rustic homestyle of the other dishes, I expected large chunks of meat, much like homemade varieties made from a leftover roasted chicken. Instead, it tastes over-processed, and other than the celery, its consistency is like that of mayonnaise.
Thankfully, the best comes last. “Emma’s Chick N’ Waffles” is worth a trip in and of itself. I’ve always been a fan of upscale takes on low-brow comfort food, and this is among the best. Crispy, boneless, fried chicken is rolled in a peppery batter, and juicy beyond reason. It comes over a perfectly cooked waffle, with no burns or wet, undercooked spots, served beside a warm, pecan, maple-infused syrup. The sweet and spicy dynamic plays out perfectly. I ate the three apple slices served on the side as to not make my arteries feel merciless. No one is doing this dish better than the Ogden Tap Room right now.
The Ogden Tap Room has the right blend of familiarity and innovation. There’s a little something for everyone, whether one wants a burger while watching the game or to try an outlandish take on an old favorite dish. The service is quick and friendly, and the food generally impressive. The beer knowledge the staff displays also impresses.
Give the Ogden Tap Room a try. And if you go, try to find out if they’re getting the Sexual Chocolate.
Ogden Tap Room
7324 Market Streeet • (910) 821-8185
Hours: Mon. – Sun., 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.