When you’re opening a new bar, or rebranding a longstanding one, you have to strike the right balance between intention and execution. Considering how they’re just coming off of one of the better rebrandings in recent years, turning the bland Noche into the fine Wink & Nod, Boston Nightlife Ventures have earned themselves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their latest offering, The Tap Trailhouse.
Like with Wink & Nod, they’ve also looked to the past for inspiration here, albeit a bit further back than the speakeasy era, with a sort of colonial inspiration. That shows up in some of the menu items (a chicken and barley stew with root vegetables served in an iron skillet) and, ostensibly, the decor, which hews toward country pantry (low ceilings, bright reds and yellows, rough wood floors) but mostly just looks like a local pub.
This is Faneuil Hall, not the South End, so while a little experimentation is in order, you can’t stray too far afield.
“That’s half the fun of it, is being able to work with all demographics,” says Mike Boughton, the beverage director for Boston Nightlife Ventures. “We definitely appeal to the business crowd, happy hour crowd, and we get a lot of residents living in the North End coming over to see us. But at the same time that strip there has a 21-25 demographic that we still want to cater to as well.”
The food and drink are both a huge step up from the type of sports pub dreck you might find around here. The fact that they’re even trying is heartening. The cocktail menu moves from what Boughton calls colonial style recipes, like a Privateer rum, black tea, cinnamon and lemon juice iced-tea style tall drink, that’s nicely dry and tannic, to the Colonial Flip, made with Bully Boy rum, molasses, Angosturra bitters, egg white and a Harpoon Porter, then garnished with nutmeg, which could do with a better shaking.
Beer cocktails are a big part of the menu, like the Old ‘Gansett, made with Brugal anejo, lime, mint and Narragansett lager. I’ve soured on the idea of beer cocktails personally, but they’re a fun way to get the beer-focused introduced to ingredients they might not try otherwise. The Fallen Leaves is made with the house cranberry cordial (vodka infused with cranberries), oloroso sherry and pumpkin beer. “It really brings out all the fall flavors and some nuttiness,” Boughton says. The Cold Apple Pie has been a hit, with its apple pie cordial (rum infused with apples, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), and Bantam Wunderkind Cider. Other cocktails are offered in both sipping and shooting sizes, which is a option I appreciate (as is listing all the spirits on the menu). Sometimes you might want a taste of something at a smaller size and price. Boughton says he put those together with the younger crowd in mind. “It’s something different than going to the bar and getting Fireball or Jaeger.”
Beer drinkers will likely find the list appealing. The 24 taps are all from New England based breweries, with no premium domestics available.
Smaller flights of those options are available as well. The Massachusetts ale flight featured the Slumbrew Happy Sol , Bad Martha Martha’s Vinyard Ale, Blatant IPA, and Harpoon Boston Stout.
“There are so many local breweries that really don’t get tapped into as much as they should,” Boughton says. “I really like the Peak Organic products, their Fresh Cut, a nice hoppier style of pilsner.” He also touts their selection of Massachusetts-based Belgian styles, including Backlash’s Groundswell, a Belgian blonde and Spencer Trappist ale.”
“If someone comes in and asks for a Bud Light, Coors Lights etc, we try to steer them into the direction of something comparable, but local.”
If you go
19 Union St., Boston