The Taphouse Pub and Eatery 

A sports bar in gastropub clothing

Foodies rejoiced when The Taphouse Pub and Eatery announced it would take up the space that used to be The Lobby, at 760 W. Main St. in Boise. A 44-tap-strong gastropub touting local products and striking at the heart of the Bud Light and street meat district seemed to indicate that the good fight was being won.

And indeed, The Taphouse has a lot of beers on tap--craft big boys like Odell, Deschutes, New Belgium--but more taps don't necessarily mean more unique taps, and few of them are head-turners. In fact, the selection doesn't look much different from what you'd find at a well stocked grocery store. Proprietor Brian Forde has said that he doesn't care for foreign beers. But one thing he does care for is big screen TVs, and The Taphouse has many of them, all tuned to sports.

On a recent trip, I sampled a bacon and pear bruschetta appetizer ($6.99) and a "local ale" pulled pork sandwich ($8.99). That day, the pork was roasted in Missoula, Mont.'s Big Sky Moose Drool--the beer used rotates with the taps--and dressed up with a house-made slaw. Both were fairly wet, and the bun from Gaston's Bakery sadly disintegrated. The barbecue sauce on the pulled pork had a spicy tang to it, but between the sauce, the beer and the fairly bland slaw, sogginess dominated the sandwich.

The bacon and pear bruschetta, on the other hand, was a pleasantly tweaked take on an established dish with a nice interplay of smoky, savory and sour notes.

On another visit, a green chile burger ($9.99) suffered a similar soggy fate from the juicier texture of the Kobe-style beef and bacon blend patties from Porterhouse Market, mixed with the juices of the canned, chopped green chilies and olives it was topped with. The burger had a richer flavor than the frozen sort that sports pubs typically serve, but The Taphouse got the meat and missed the potatoes.

Though Taphouse kitchen manager Craig Gallegos said that he would eventually like to upgrade to hand-cut fries, those that accompanied both sandwiches were the generic, frozen sort. And it's this kind of partial commitment to detail--quality meat topped with canned fixin's and surrounded by bland, frozen spuds--that make The Taphouse something of a sports bar in gastropub clothing.

Those who might see The Taphouse's natural-wood-and-brass uniform and expect bold culinary visions to lurk within will likely be let down. While the food is definitely a step up from other pub grub, it's still firmly rooted in the middle ground between Sixth and Eighth streets, culinarily speaking.

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