190808SHOPIERE

Nikki Bolka, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this tenderloin ‘double onion’ steak stacker during a recent visit to Shopiere Tap in Clinton. The sandwich featured homemade shoestring onions, chunks of beef and caramelized onions.

CLINTON

We heard good things about Shopiere Tap, so we headed over on a Friday night.

To say the place was congested would be an understatement. We guessed it was because of the tavern’s well-known Friday fish fry, which is so popular it is now included on the Wednesday night menu.

With a crowded parking lot and a line out the door (which we were told was “lighter” than usual), we crept up to the bar to put our names on the list. Every stool was occupied, and several patrons were standing. The oversized dining room was brimming with people, and just inside the door a large crowd was waiting to be seated.

Looking around, we noticed the overall atmosphere was a happy one. There was a lot of laughter and upbeat music playing in the background, and it was easy to chat with those around us. And let’s face it, it was a Friday night—the end of a long work week for most and a reason for all of us to celebrate.

We would have faced a 45-minute wait had the hostess not told us about some outdoor seating available in the back of the restaurant. We decided to ditch the wait (and the air conditioning) and sit outside under an umbrella at a patio table.

It was definitely warm, but we had a pretty view across the creek to Sweet Allyn Park. I kept hydrated with a Blue Moon from the tap ($3.25), and Helene cooled off with a whiskey Old Fashioned sour ($5.50).

The “tap teasers” appetizer menu had some interesting options such as breaded smelt ($5) and fried green beans ($4.25), but what caught our eyes was the house-fried pickles ($4.25). They were wonderful. Hand-cut pickles were served piping hot, tart and with a good crunch. You don’t get those every day.

Jennifer loves a good fish fry, so she didn’t hesitate when placing her order. Choices included both cod and walleye served either deep-fried or grilled with lemon pepper and drawn butter for an extra $1.

Jennifer opted for the two-piece fried, house-made, hand-dipped, beer-battered cod dinner ($8.75). Lightly battered and fried perfectly with a moist and flaky center, the fish was top-notch. Her meal came with two savory potato pancakes that were nicely seasoned with a mild onion flavor. Also included was house-made, not too mayonnaise-y coleslaw, which could have used some celery seed and possibly red cabbage for color. Bread and butter as well as applesauce for the cakes also accompanied her meal.

I can verify that the fish was yummy, as I had the fried cod on a po-boy-style sandwich ($8.25). The bread was heavy but delicious when dipped into the tartar sauce, and the lettuce and tomato added freshness. I was happy with my choice to upgrade to waffle fries for an additional $3.50.

Helene went with the house favorite smokehouse burger (quarter-pound $8, half-pound $10) and upgraded to shoestring onion rings ($1.50).

Sitting on a brioche bun was a mound of pulled pork that was wonderfully tender. The caramelized onions were sweet, the house-made coleslaw crunchy, and instead of overwhelming the burger, the barbecue sauce allowed the flavors to meld, making for an amazing comfort dish. The shoestring onion rings also were fabulous.

Nikki, our resident meat eater, ordered the tenderloin “double onion” steak stacker ($9), which featured the homemade shoestring onions Helene raved about, chunks of beef and caramelized onions. The hoagie bun was grilled and brushed with garlic butter, which was another nice touch. Paired with battered fries, it made for a tasty meal.

For dessert, we walked across the street to the Soda Shop and Ice Cream Bar, which is set in a mid-1800 building. We bellied up to the bar, which is reserved for adults, and shared a grasshopper ($5.25) served a classic fountain shop glass. The drink sported that distinct shade of green and tasted like a chocolate after-dinner mint.

We also couldn’t resist splitting a cup of “This Sh#t Just Got Serious” ($3.45) ice cream, a new Soda Shop flavor featuring salted caramel, cashew and fudge. Both items were worth the trip across the street.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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