When Tampa-based craft-beer bar the Brass Tap opened a downtown Fort Worth location a little more than four years ago, the odds seemed against it: It's on a stretch of south Houston Street that, at the time, was a little slow, away from the action at Sundance Square, where there is a much more established craft-beer bar, the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium.
But the downtown location has persevered, at first selling mostly beer (more accurately, many beers, on many taps) but then adding a bar-bites menu and, recently, liquor.
Southlake's Ron Jankowski, co-franchisee of the downtown Brass Tap, opened a Roanoke location this month — and, again, it's away from Roanoke's big Oak Street restaurant row, but it feels like it's getting off to a quicker start than the Fort Worth one did. Here's a first look.
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Neighborhoody, even though it's in a strip shopping center with a view of a Cinemark movie theater if you sit facing the right direction.
Seats at the long, quartz-topped bar — which faces 68 taps (there's more beer in cans, for a selection of about 200) — were almost all occupied when we entered on a Monday night, with high-top table seating filling out the less-crowded remainder of the dining room.
There is a cozier patio, with a mix of chair and sofa seating, although it was a little too close to the parking lot for our tastes. Inside, sports played silently on several TVs while a nonstop stream of '90s alternative-rock played not so silently, but not so loud that it threatened to drown out conversation.
Service, which included a visit by Jankowski, was quick and friendly. He pointed out that the Brass Tap, which will be open till 2 a.m. weekends and 1 a.m. nightly, is Roanoke's most-late-night spot, which could work out well for the location if it can snag people coming out of late movies at that Cinemark.
A few surprises here, mostly in the quintet Angus beef burgers on the menu, a touch we haven't seen in our visits to the downtown location, which doesn't have a full kitchen The Roanoke Brass Tap shows off its kitchen, which has room for a fryer and a grill — the "pass" window is framed by the liquor cabinet.
Burgers range from the relatively traditional All-American (a bacon-cheddar burger) and BBQ Bacon (with pepperjack, onion straws and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce) to a pork-belly-topped Korean BBQ burger, a Southern burger with pimento cheese, pork belly, fried green tomatoes and poblano sauce, and the Pub burger, another bacon-cheeser but with smoked Gouda and jalapeño cream cheese.
Korea BBQ pulled pork is a big thing here, appearing on nachos and in the street-tacos and sliders sections of the menu. But we went for the tempura beer-battered chicken sliders ($6 for two, $8 for three), a couple of crunchy mini-chicken sandwiches that went well with an Oak Cliff Coffee Ale from Dallas' Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Sliders are available in orders of two or three. Accompanying fries were crisp and salty without being overpowering.
Pimento-cheese dip ($7) was tasty but not transcendent, although we liked the sturdy pita chips for dipping; same could be said for the caprese flatbread, where the highlight was the big slices of juicy tomatoes, but the pesto was put on with perhaps too light a hand.
Still, this is a broader menu than we expected — not overwhelming at one page, but with more choices than the Fort Worth Brass Tap.
Food prices top out at $14 for a prime-rib sandwich or slider trio, and $15 for a combo appetizer plate.
As north Tarrant residents know, Roanoke is a quick drive from Keller, Southlake and far north Fort Worth, and Brass Tap Roanoke's location near the intersection of Texas 114 and Texas 170 puts it on the busy route between Grapevine and Texas Motor Speedway and the burgeoning Alliance corridor.
Granted, all those North Tarrant areas are booming with their own restaurants, but Brass Tap Roanoke's mellow scene, big beer list and well-crafted menu make it worth a stop.