If a name says it all, then Tap 42 nails it. Sean and Blaise McMackin, brothers and founders of the successful concept, recognized one of the hottest trends in the hospitality industry: American craft beer. They added a well-conceived menu offering quality food at palatable prices and properly trained service staff to the mix. A hospitality trifecta.
The siblings ran with their idea, launching the first location in 2011 in Fort Lauderdale. Boca Raton opened in 2015, and finishing touches are under way in Coral Gables Other forthcoming locations are listed on the company's investment site. A solid and capable executive management team of chiefs, VPs and directors stand behind Tap 42 founders Despite their corporate backbone, the concept manages to maintain a fresh, independent vibe.
When I visited the Boca location on a recent night, I wandered around the outdoor space searching for the entrance. It wasn't clearly visible due to the throngs of happy-hour attendees that made for standing-room-only on a patio that seats more than 100. Maybe it was the freebie bar bites displayed, the drink specials or the latest tweet announcing a new tap that drew the crowds. The dining room offered a more audible experience with ample seating. The pleasant décor is taken from the au courant playbook of reclaimed wood and repro vintage glass lighting hanging from cloth-covered wire.
After a chat with our server, we learned he had been with the company for four years. He did not disappoint. In general, I think service staff is underappreciated. It's a tough job that takes a certain personality. And for that reason I'm calling you out. Nice job, Zack.
An overwhelming bar menu offers 42 core and rotating beers on tap, a bottled selection, a menu of familiar and small-batch bourbons and whiskeys, a list of hand-crafted cocktails and limited wines. The blueberry margarita ($11) draws its flavor from wild-blueberry preserves. The fruit still came through despite a generous pour of Patron Reposado. Ginger lovers will appreciate the subtle back burn of the Mule On Tap ($11), citrus-ginger-infused Tito's vodka, lemon and ginger syrup garnished with crystalized ginger, also a stiff pour.
As the dining room was just beginning to fill, our appetizers arrived quickly. Miso-glazed shishito peppers ($7.50), enhanced by flavors from sweet white miso and lemon and a crunch from toasted sesame seeds, would have benefited from a bit more blistering. I could have made a meal out of the bacon-and-sweet-corn guacamole ($12.50), a satisfying mix of smoky bacon, charred corn, Cotija cheese and fried garlic served with spiced tortilla chips.
The grilled chicken avocado salad ($15) made for a lighter meal. A mound of spiced tortilla strips support a tower of mixed greens, grilled corn, black beans, avocado, tomato and Manchego cheese, tossed with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Oddly, the chicken looked as if it came off a deli slicer rather than an expected grilled breast. Other options include grilled salmon chopped salad ($16.50), ahi tuna poke ($17.50) and golden quinoa "Superfood" salad ($13) available with protein add-ons such as grilled chicken, salmon, beef or blackened mahi mahi ($6-10).
From the "Tap Favorites" category, a grilled salmon Zen bowl ($17.50) is filled with stir-fried green veggies — edamame and broccoli — and pan-fried brown rice finished with toasted sesame seeds. The salmon was grilled to perfection. Unfortunately, a total state of consciousness was lost on the salty brown rice, which may have been overcompensated by the truffle miso glaze.
Under the same header the beer-braised mussel and fries ($15.50) was a fresh approach to the classic shallot-and-white-wine French version. Oranges and chilies added fiery citrus notes, and the chorizo gave the plump mussels a hearty appeal. A crusty mini baguette was the perfect sponge to soak up the spicy Funky Buddha Floridian broth. Parmesan and herbs make for tasty fries. If you are looking for something a little richer, explore the oven-baked shrimp mac and cheese ($14) or the Fat Tire Amber Ale beer-battered fish and chips ($15.50).
Plenty of buzz surrounds the Prohibition Burger ($13.50), and rightfully so. A flavorful, juicy trio of ground brisket, short rib and chuck was cooked to the desired temperature and topped off with white cheddar, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, dijonnaise and a "secret sauce." The burger proudly sits on a brioche bun held high with a skewered cornichon. On Monday nights, you can snag the burger for $5. Beef alternatives include lamb, vegetable or turkey burgers ($13-$14.50). Still want more? Add roasted mushrooms, a sunny-side-up egg, caramelized onion or smashed avocado for a buck.
To cap off our meal, we ordered the entire dessert menu — all two items. As a dessert person, I felt a tad slighted. If you're going to offer just two desserts they should knock your socks off. A warm chocolate chunk bread pudding ($10) with a hint of cinnamon dressed with salted caramel sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream has all the right elements. I just wish it wasn't so dense. Key Lime pie parfait ($10) with layers of graham cracker crust crumb, dulce de leche and whipped cream, struggles to find the balancing act between sweet and tart. By the time we left, the dining room was full, the patio was quiet, and I still had my socks on.
5050 Town Center Circle Boca Raton
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily, bottomless brunch Saturday and Sunday
Reservations: Parties over 15
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Can get noisy
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: On request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot or $5 valet