Ten First Impressions: The Tap on Mass Ave, Indianapolis

By Michelle Railey

Note: This review-by-list was first published in November of 2016. But, heck, read it anyway. Why? Because the author recently revisited The Tap and all of the following still apply (although I don’t know if Megan still works there or if the price of a flight has changed. They do, however, still have both Bionic Dragon and Nefarious Nectar). Cheers.

306 N. Delaware Street, Indianapolis

1. Sorta swank. Ok, Indiana swank. Faux leather, faux mahogany. Very large space with industrial ceiling, exposed brick, ophthalmologist office colors (butter, sage, wood). Faux fireplaces indoors (am I at the spa? She bats her eyelashes.) and two of the real thing (gaslit but, still, real fire) outdoors. Small servings, smaller tables; very large space with high ceilings. Medium prices (aka: Indiana high). And you have to park in an actual multi-story garage. Citified sorta place, country mouse, so now you know.

2. Sorta swank? I already mentioned the faux fire, faux leather, faux tropical wood. Astonishingly bad artwork, sparsely placed. The restrooms feature very excitable automatic everythings (read for that a faucet that would not turn off, a dryer that ditto, and a toilet that three times while seated on it). The light is dim but not inspiring. The atmosphere says its trying…quite hard. I’d prefer more of a welcome and less obvious effort. Maybe I’m picky.

3. Tiny tables. I’m not going to let this one go. One human at a table for four equals crowded. And we/I haven’t pulled out our cell phone/s or ordered food. And the teeny, tiny table wobbles. So does the backless (faux) leather-covered stool on which I’m teetering. Most humans in the modern era, even in Indiana, carry stuff. Or order drinks and eat things and require utensils. Tiny tables do not accommodate actual people. And, without room for it, there is no caddy of Sweet n’ Lows with which to steady the wobbly furniture (packets are helpful, Tap, just so you know). But at least there are the following things to distract: wide open, nearly Smithsonian Air and Space Museum type space, free wifi, a fake and weirdly soothing if too orange “fireplace” and plenty of TVs. And the bad art, which is starting to grow on me because they all have placards indicating they’re “handmade.” (In which our heroine wonders why a wintergreen Lifesaver has been placed on a rainbow cross and why that has been placed next to a motley arrangement of tempera onions, wheat, and inexplicably pointy and/or bulbous things.)

4. Good Service. So far. Twenty minutes in this weird space. But Megan has been friendly and quick and not the least obtrusive. And for other potentially socially-awkward folk, you know what I mean here, this is critical. Megan’s good. Ask for her. The space is too large to quite tell if anyone else is working. But if they are, they’re not dusting the light fixtures in the women’s bathroom.

5. Lots of echoes. The faux hard surfaces, tall ceilings, and total lack of fabric and softness equals an echo chamber. It’s like being in a cavern here. But with less exercise and, um, nature. It’s possible no one responsible for The Tap’s existence has sat in this space with actual other people or multiples thereof. Maybe this is why the tables are so small: so one can hear one’s companions.

6. They brew their own beer. Perhaps shockingly for a place called The Tap, they tap their own craft beer. A flight will set you back $7.00. They have one Porter, a couple pales, a couple lagers. Names range from Trying Very Hard (“Experimental” and “Enchantment”) to Mundane (“Social” and “Brickyard”) and All Right (“Bluebeard” and “Bionic Dragon.”) I’m actually not sure what I think of the name “Nefarious Nectar.” I mean, if it were lipstick, I bet it would be orange-pink; as beer goes? Well, it sounds a little Boone’s Farm plus Lip Smacker and I’m not sure I want to drink that.

7. They brew their own beer and the servers don’t seem excited about it. I had clearly never been here before and Megan, while still awesome, asked what I wanted. Not realizing they were themselves actually brewing beer here, I asked for a Bell’s Two Hearted. She said she thought they had that. It would have been a good time for her to mention that The Tap brews an American Pale Ale and an American IPA and maybe told me about the hop content in each and asked if perhaps I would care to try…because of course I would. High ceilings not withstanding, why brew one’s own beer if one’s not going to be excited about it?

8. The patio. Is truly wonderful. Big green living wall of planters, plus fire pits, plenty of seating and bulb lights. Lovely.

9. The front room and the side room have more space and room to breathe than the back room, despite the back room having way more TVs (if you care about that sort of thing).

10. Food. There’s an autumn and pear salad, which sounds pretty but isn’t Cheap Nachos. They have tater tots (hipster!). And calamari and pizza and random things between $7 and the mid $20s. Tiny tables, though, so order with care (your plate might be larger than your table).

Caveat: First impressions only here, obviously. This is an interesting if cavernous spot that is definitely vying for the anonymous metropolitan millennial customer. It might win (with larger tables and less dust in the ladies’ room). Megan’s a keeper. The fireplaces are keepers. Fabric might be considered. And larger tables.

I sure hope they validate parking. (Critics are notoriously the cheapest of skates.)

(Update: They most certainly do NOT validate parking.)

The official site for The Tap is here.

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