I recently returned from a trip to the Cities, where I squeaked in a visit to the Groveland Tap, just off Snelling on St. Clair near Macalester College in St. Paul—a good stop en route to the airport.
A quick jaunt up Summit Hill will find you with one of 34 beers on tap in your hand in less than 15 minutes. If it’s the right time of day (11a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight), they will further entice you with happy hour prices and $5 bar munchies.
The Groveland Tap is part of the restaurant ownership group Blue Plate, which owns The Freehouse brewery. Because of this, all the restaurants in the group serve Freehouse beer. At happy hour, a pint of Freehouse will cost you a whopping $2.50.
Groveland Tap also offers a nice selection of other local beers in the $3 to $4 range, including Summit, Indeed, Finnegan’s, and Surly.
The Freehouse selections lack the character and balance of their local peers. Still, $2.50 is a deal to whet your appetite for the more robust taps available, and a good place to start while perusing the menu.
Their Beer Snack selection for five dollars is a tantalizing diversion, with choices like Poutine (a conglomeration of french fries, cheese curds and gravy), Chicken Wings, Onion Rings, Chicken Nachos, and Perogies (a doughy potato dumpling).
Groveland Tap’s Perogies are stuffed with a cheesy masher mix, fried on the grill, and served with crispy onions and a horseradish sauce.
The fact that the Tap uses Ellsworth cheese curds for its Poutine dish may somewhat assuage the guilt of ordering them, but after you taste the devilish combo of crisp fries and smooth curds smothered in braised beef gravy, it just won’t matter.
Needless to say, I recommend sharing and don’t attempt the Poutine and a Juicy Lucy on the same trip. The Tap offers a Poutine Juicy Lucy, but I haven’t had the nerve to give it a try—yet.
There are seven Juicy Lucy entrées on the menu, including the standard, stuffed with American cheese and the aforementioned Poutine. Others include the BCO Lucy with bacon, cheese and onion; the Buffalo Lucy with bleu cheese and buffalo-style chicken fingers; and the Ellsworth Lucy, stuffed with cheese curds.
I opted for the Blue Lucy, stuffed with bleu cheese and smothered in caramelized onions, with fries and a side of coleslaw. The Lucy selections take a little more time than your standard burger, but are worth the wait and provide more time to quaff another brew.
It’s clear Groveland Tap takes their beer seriously. I can tell they clean their lines frequently because the beer tastes fresh and crisp, with no weird or bitter aftertaste. The tap handles adorning much of the available wall space attest to their ever-changing selection.
But they also offer a clean and welcoming space that is a big hit with families. The entire back room is stuffed with large tables and high-backed booths, video games, and a pool table. While the location has been a bar/restaurant since about 1936, the Tap was closed for eight months in 1998 for a complete remodel due to a fire, and it still feels fresh and clean.
Our burgers arrive hot and smelling savory. The fries are crisp and lightly salted. The only minor letdown is the small amount of droopy, bland coleslaw. I ended up eating all of the slaw anyway, maybe because I needed to think I was getting some vegetables.
As we sit digesting our meals and nursing a final brew over a game of cribbage, I reflect on the congenial atmosphere, good service, and simple goodness that always come out of the Groveland Tap kitchen. From their gravy to their sauces they don’t get fancy; they just make good food well.
Thomas Walchuk has worked in the restaurant industry for most of his long life. He is currently an event and social media consultant with Tippy Toe Tunes, a collaborative endeavor he founded to help small business entrepreneurs. Visit TippyToeTunes.com.