416 West Main Street
Every town needs one. You know, a local happy-tappy-cum-sports bar. And Trappe Tavern surely fills the bill. The restaurant boasts 38 - count 'em - 38 television screens, allowing sports addicts to keep abreast of their favorite team/event/news happening, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. There is also a game room on the second floor replete with two pool tables.
And - sooner or later, or so it seems - everybody comes to the Tavern. Families arrive en masse with a plethoric variety of progeny in tow; happy hour hangers-on slouch at the bar, cell phones and blackberries conspicuously at the ready; locals, fetchingly garbed in gimme caps and other equally less than sartorial forms of headgear, slug down brewskies with spirited impunity. The real floor show, however, takes place on Monday evenings when the restaurant tempts the omnivorous invading hordes with all-you-can-eat crab legs for $19.99. Maniacal munchers attack the disembodied appendages in a feeding frenzy that is sufficient to put any self-respecting Carcharodon carcharias to shame.
Just one caveat... If you consider yourself something of a locavore, or have decidedly organic gastronomic tendencies, you've definitely arrived at the wrong address. The food here, according to our server one particular evening, arrives at the door courtesy of the mammoth Sysco Food Services. That being said, however, the kitchen - given its obvious limitations - turns out some perfectly acceptable fodder.
But my advice, especially with regard to establishments of this particular ilk, is to go with the flow... In other words, stick to what the restaurant does best: namely, the "pub grub." OK, so that means you may wish to start with items like the chips and salsa. The tortilla chips are appropriately crispy, and the salsa has just enough spice to invigorate the palate. Not off the charts but certainly satisfying.
I'd also try the tempura-battered vegetables, a dinner special appetizer. Totally generic but the creamy dill dip makes up for all possible shortcomings. The Greek chicken quesadilla, sporting spinach, feta cheese, and sour cream, is also quite good and suitable for sharing.
And, as strange as it may seem, soups also make excellent preludes. Highly recommended are the chicken poblano - with just the appropriate amount of zip - a highly flavorful minestrone, and an excellent black bean spruced up with diced sausage. Conversely, the Italian wedding soup I sampled was totally insipid and contained pasta that was so overcooked it disintegrated the moment it made contact with one's oral cavity.
When you venture beyond the starters, as I hinted above, simplicity is definitely the best policy. The more-than-generous hoagies, for example, are served up on foot-long Italian rolls and garnished with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, oregano, and sided with crispy potato chips and a pickle. The tuna is especially good and nicely enhanced with a hint of house-inspired spice. Other variations on the theme include Italian, Roast Beef, Turkey, Ham, and Three Cheese..
Among the hot sandwiches, the "Original Tavern Rib" is undoubtedly the establishment's claim to fame. The prime rib is char-grilled, then sliced and topped with a zippy barbecue sauce, raw onion, and American cheese. Not bad at all. The double-decker traditional turkey club is also an excellent choice. The Tavern also offers a variety of steak & chicken sandwiches and burgers. All are worthy of consideration for a casual chow-down.
The special dinner entrées (all served with soup or side salad), on the other hand, tend to be more problematic, as the kitchen's reach frequently exceeds it grasp. The "Fish Fry," battered cod companioned by fries is passable but little else... The fries, however, can be exceptional... even better as a side when covered with cheese. Unfortunately, they can be of variable quality. On two occasions, when lightly battered, they are marvelous... on another, generic shoestrings. Completely the luck of the draw.
The "Idaho Chili," a kind of chili shepherd's pie, is also a mixed bag. The topping of mashed potatoes crowned with cheddar cheese is lumpy and luscious... but the supposedly homemade chili is the bland leading the bland.
Though the desserts are all shipped in from off campus, both the cheesecake and the chocolate/peanut butter pie are both worth both the extra calories and the paltry extra expenditure ($3.99).
The Trappe Tavern's menu isn't about to set off seismic waves on the culinary Richter scale... but it's a fun, friendly place with generally good casual fare, generous portions, and more than reasonable prices. Definitely worth a try for a super casual chow-down.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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