Disclaimer: As part of Valley Tap House’s soft opening I was invited, along with my wife and son and some friends, to dine for free to give the new restaurant a test before it officially opens to the public. We received $35 in comped items (everything except our alcoholic beverages) as part of this event. Please take the following review with as much salt as you feel is required following this government mandated disclaimer.
Just over a year ago, Majors in Apple Valley closed its doors with no notice given to staff or customers who had party reservations for that day. Sitting vacant for almost one year to the day, many were wondering who or what would go in where Majors once stood. Thankfully the owners of the Lyndale Tap, a fairly popular restaurant in Minneapolis, decided to bring the same restaurant with a different name to the suburbs. With a much different menu and beer list than the vast majority of South Metro restaurants and certainly the ever-so-prolific chain restaurants in Apple Valley, many were looking forward to something new and exciting to be opening south of the river. New restaurant, right on 150th in Apple Valley? What more can you ask for?
The Wife, The Rooster, and I had reservations at the first slot on Friday night at 5:30. A few other readers were already seated when we arrived and were brought to our seats. While we were originally slated to sit at a circular booth it would not be comfortable with two children in high chairs (I didn’t tell the staff we had that requirement so it’s my fault) however they were quite accommodating and moved us to a nearby table which was much better suited for what we needed.
Our waitress was soon over and took our drink orders while we waited for our friends. I was incredibly impressed with the tap beer list and happy hour prices. While I’m sure that the price tags outside of HH (~$5) are within reason, they were steeper than I like to pay for pints. I ordered up a Lagunitas IPA and while it wasn’t my favorite IPA ever and certainly not my most favorite Lagunitas beer, it was good enough for the $3.00 I paid to drink it. While I loved the beer list, I especially loved that the waitress we had really knew the list inside and out and was able to make intelligent recommendations to expand others’ horizons. For the first night I have to admit I was impressed.
Eventually the rest of our party arrived and we placed orders for Homemade Onion Rings, Louisiana Peel and Eat Shrimp, and Buffalo Chicken Wings. Because it was happy hour we were not only drinking cheap but eating cheap with half priced appetizers too! The Homemade Onion Rings ($4.48 HH/$8.95 regular) are described as, “beer-battered onion rings served with spicy ketchup and buttermilk dressing.” The Louisiana Peel and Eat Shrimp ($5.98/$11.95) are, “1 lb pit-spiced with charred jalapeno and tartar sauce.” The Buffalo Chicken Wings ($3.98/$7.95) are also available in dry-rub and sweet habanero and come with celery, bleu cheese dressing, and sit on a bed of slaw with buffalo sauce and bleu cheese crumbles.
Our food came out sort of haphazardly. We received the wings first, the shrimp several minutes later, and after much delay the onion rings came out last quite a while after the first two. In addition to the random delivery, none of the items, not just limited to the appetizers but throughout the entire evening, were at an acceptable temperature. Definitely some opening night jitters going on with the kitchen there but something which should be cleaned up in short order once they get everything going full blast.
The wings were nice and meaty and doused in sauce however the sauce didn’t carry the usual level of spice required of even plain Buffalo-style. While the meat tasted good and the sauce was ok, they failed to have any crisp to the skin which made them more like buffalo chicken than buffalo chicken wings. Everyone thought they were fine, including me, and for the price (for 10 wings) they were a steal. My favorite part was the buffalo sauce covered slaw they were sitting on. The bleu cheese was sharp, the sauce was tart, and the crisp from the slaw was outstanding. A really nice touch. I’d definitely order these again at happy hour prices.
The shrimp were soft and soggy. While the pit spices were evident, I could have done without them to be honest. The watery charred jalapeno tartar sauce was either overpowered by the pit spices or simply didn’t carry any of the usual tartar or jalapeno flavor. While I’m a pretty picky shrimp eater coming from the coast and eating similar buckets of shrimp every summer when I’m visiting, this was a total pass for me even at $6.
When the onion rings finally arrived they were big, plentiful and surprisingly lightly battered. The onions themselves were sweet and weren’t overly greasy. I am not much an onion ring guy but The Wife loves them. These were some of the tastiest rings I’ve had in a while on their own however the two dips did not do these perfect morsels any justice. The spicy ketchup wasn’t spicy and the buttermilk dressing was just as runny and boring as the shrimp’s tartar sauce fail. What these really needed was to be accompanied by a thick and creamy ranch that had just a bit of kick. Thankfully, because the rings themselves were able to hold their own without the sauce, I’d definitely go with these on a future visit for the $4.48 price tag without blinking an eye.
There were so many other tasty sounding options on the appetizer menu that I’d definitely want to explore some other items on future visits. The Beer Mussels steamed in ale and ancho chile and served with garlic sausage and a grilled baguette sounds incredible for $11.95. The Scotch Eggs served with pickled onions, homemade pickles, and three mustard dipping sauces for $7.95 definitely caught my eye and will be a must try next time. Finally, while a bit overdone lately and if done correctly, the Maple Glazed Pork Belly with spicy peach marmalade and grilled baguette for $9.95 would be like stealing from a meat market at happy hour. Mmm.
Much like the appetizers, the entrees offerings are not going to be found anywhere else south of the river. A slew of interesting pizzas ranging from the mundane Four-Cheese to the spicy Thai Chicken caught my eye. Even so the $8 to $10 salads seemed a bit much but the main entrees, burgers, and assorted other sandwiches comprise a wide range of flavors and definitely seem to be right on target for the local market.
We ordered burgers, sandwiches and kids meal pizzas, leaving the other items for another day. We picked up two kids meals which come with drink (milk), entree (pizza), side (roasted vegetables and fruit cup), and dessert (chocolate cake) for $4.95 each. While we actually received a full entree pizza instead to split due to kitchen error, this was quite a deal with a hearty amount of mixed fruit and a slightly strange roasted vegetable medley perfect for adults but not exactly well suited for kids under 3. By the time they got to the cake they were both stuffed so silly there was no choice but to box it up for later.
The Wife ordered a Tap House Burger with cheddar ($8.95) which comes with fried onions, lettuce, tomato, hand cut fries and refrigerator pickles on a Kaiser roll. From the single taste of the burger that I had, it was a burger. Nothing at all special there however it wasn’t unpleasant in the least. The Wife said it wasn’t the best she’s ever had but is comparing any other burgers to what you can get at The Nook really fair?
Our friends ordered The Philly ($9.95) and The Latin Pig ($9.95). The Philly is pit beef with melted white cheddar sauce, grilled peppers, onions and mayo. The waitress warned that the beef was a little more rare than most may prefer but when the sandwich arrived it did not appear rare at all. The Latin Pig, “pit pork drenched in mandarin hanabero sauce, avocado, fresh cilantro and mayo,” was loaded with avocados but according to our friends lacked any real depth of flavor which would have set it apart as “Latin”.
I ordered the Thai Dragon ($9.95) which was described as, “pit pork, sweet and spicy chili sauce, cilantro, red onions, bacon, and peanut sauce.” Instead of fries I ordered a side of horseradish mashed potatoes for $1.95 more. The horseradish mashed were great. Fluffy and yet dense, like all homemade mashed potatoes are, but carrying the distinct horseradish flavor in the background. While not as nose-clearing as I like, I’m sure it was plenty good enough for most. A really nice twist and one I enjoyed.
I took two bites of the Thai Dragon sandwich before declaring it a bacon and pork sandwich. Whether it was the strong flavors of the pork and bacon or the sauces themselves were lacking, there just wasn’t anything Thai about that sandwich at all. Just as I was finishing the second bite our waitress asked how it was and I told her it just wasn’t Thai anything. She suggested I try something else instead and while I never do that, I was a little buzzed from three great beers and was in the giving spirit of Christmas so I relented and went with her suggestion to try the Pit Pork sandwich.
Described as, “slow-grilled Berkshire pork, with buttermilk coleslaw and sweet habanero BBQ sauce,” this $9.95 sandwich was definitely better than the Thai Dragon and had managed to provide a nice crunchy texture from the slaw and a lovely BBQ with a bite aftertaste that had me clamoring for more. I don’t know if the Thai Dragon flop can be corrected as it seemed to have everything as intended but I don’t think I’ll ever bother to find out if it was because I’ll be busy wolfing down another Pit Pork sandwich instead. Mmm mmm.
Overall our meal, as mentioned in the disclaimer, would have come to $43.26 (with 3 beers) and our friends’, $39.28 (with 2 beers). Definitely reasonable for the amount of food ordered and the number of beers consumed. While others have noted that as the night wore on their service degraded, our server was prompt, knowledgeable, and overall wonderful. I am certain that once the opening issues are ironed out this will be quite popular with the locals as long as the prices remain low and the beer list remains as great as it already is.
Have you eaten at the Valley Tap House in Apple Valley? If so what did you think? What items did you order and what, if anything, would you want to try in the future? Were you impressed with the beer list? Would you like to see any other beers listed instead? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Valley Tap House
14889 Florence Trl
Apple Valley, MN 55124-4630
Monday to Friday: 11 AM – 2 AM
Saturday – Sunday: 10 AM – 2 AM
See all the pictures from The Valley Tap House in Apple Valley on Flickr here.