First Look and Taste Test: City Tap House
stephanie | Dec 10, 2013 | 1:00PM |

Words and Photos: Stephanie Breijo

My first winter in DC I cursed myself all the way through Snowmageddon. Here I was in a new-to-me city, work canceled for days, without a go-to bar to hole myself up in with friends. I daydreamed about somewhere cozy, someplace with character and both an endless menu that would stick to my ribs and a beer menu that would distract me from weeks of cold. While I’ve since found a handful of standby watering holes since 2009/2010, I’m ecstatic to add a new restaurant that fits the bill just in time for our first snow day this winter: City Tap House, located just along the border of Penn Quarter and Chinatown, is open for business.

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A yellow glow from exposed Edison bulbs and soft track lighting reflects off wood reclaimed from a barn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, lending a comforting atmosphere to the 180-seat American pub. As if the interiors weren’t perfect enough for your new favorite cold-weather spot, the tap house serves over 60 varieties of beer–25 bottled, 40 draft. The restaurant’s chalk boards advertise cask specials (which independent brewers create specifically for them, and you can find and taste along with special menus).

Craft beer is, quite simply, the backbone of City Tap House. There are kegs and microbrews stocked behind a glass barrier, which you can find next to a large banquet table. Behind the bar, there’s somewhat of a tasting room where guests can perch privately from the rest of the crowd, while still receiving service directly from the bartender.

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Overwhelmed by your options? Flights of beer aim to help patrons sample everything from the beer program; one of City Tap House’s main objectives, I’m told, is that it hopes to be approachable with knowledgable staff that can build energy and knowledge about craft beer.

Expect a range of national,  international, and local beers like DC Brau, Mad Fox and Three Stars, along with a few Maryland brewers; even their cocktail menu will involve craft beer.

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The food menu, which we were fortunate enough to sample, is hearty and approachable with a gourmet twist. Artisanal pizzas and “Craftwiches” (sandwiches involving, of course, craft beer) make for classic pub fare, while their American standards like Chicken and Waffles  lend an incredibly homestyle, southern feel to the menu. Their baked chicken, complete with corn and fresh green beans, is savory and comforting and a dish we know we’ll revisit throughout the colder seasons.

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Their truffle flatbread is buttery and slick with truffle oil and heaping portions of mushrooms spread over a perfectly thin crust. For the white pizza fan, this is a sure winner. For carnivores we recommend the beer-braised short ribs, tender and sweet and mildly spicy with an added depth from the beer, though we’re fairly certain–you can’t go wrong anywhere.

City Tap House is open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., though we can expect both lunch and brunch sometime in the new year. 

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