Dining Out review: Tap Union Freehouse
Where: 1300 Washington St., Vancouver.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday.
More information: www.tapunionfreehouse.com or 360-726-6921. Tap Union Freehouse is also on Facebook.
Health score: Tap Union Freehouse received a pre-opening inspection, for which a score is not available. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.
Why: Tap Union Freehouse is a family-friendly establishment that provides local, nationally recognized and hard-to-find craft beers. There are 25 rotating taps and a menu with simple meal choices to enjoy with beverages.
What I tried: My dining companions tried the Moroccan Garden sandwich, the Union Reuben sandwich and the grilled cheese sandwich. I settled on the Cubano sandwich.
The Moroccan was a hot-pressed sandwich that combined butternut squash, zucchini, pickled red onion, mushroom and black olive tapenade, chevre and a house Moroccan seasoning. My dining companion loved the complexity of this sandwich and noted she couldn’t compare it to anything she had previously tried. All of the flavors imparted an exotic essence that was very appetizing.
The Reuben was made on rye bread with house-smoked pastrami, swiss cheese, turmeric and caraway sauerkraut, and garlic Dijon mayonnaise sandwiched between grilled rye. Two notable differences between Tap Union’s Reuben and other Reubens is the absence of Thousand Island dressing and that the sauerkraut was chopped instead of shredded. Overall, my dining companion (who will always order a Reuben if it’s on the menu) liked the sandwich and said that the house-smoked meat was lean and flavorful.
The grilled cheese sandwich also departed from a sandwich of the same variety. Instead of just cheese, it contained saut?ed mushrooms and garlic Dijon mustard. Two cheeses are used in Tap Union’s version — house-smoked cheddar and provolone. The combination on the grilled cheese was rich and tasty, and the mushrooms added texture as well as flavor.
My selection, the Cubano, contained house-smoked pork, shaved ham, swiss cheese, a house pickle, garlic Dijon mayonnaise and a touch of strawberry jam. I found that the ingredients created a singular flavor where nothing really stood out from the rest, and overall, the sandwich was quite sweet.
Both the grilled cheese and the Cubano were hot pressed like the Moroccan. Unlike a regular panini, the bread did not have grill lines.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Among the sandwiches is the Italian Grinder made with shaved ham, hard salami, capicola, provolone, pickled red onion, shredded lettuce, olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano; a Spicy Swine filled with smoked jalapeno, shaved ham, cream cheese and garlic Dijon mayonnaise; and a smoked turkey and bacon topped with cranberry relish, cream cheese, lettuce and tomato. Small plates include beet-marinated deviled eggs, smoked pork tacos and smoked tofu tacos. A dark chocolate and Brie grilled between wedges of French bread and rolled in cracked pepper, cinnamon and sugar is offered for dessert. Gluten-free items include the wedge salad, beet salad, and the Thai caramel popcorn. Sandwiches are served as-is, no substitutions and a la carte. Beverage focus is on beer, cider and wine.
Atmosphere: The two-story space has a 1930s and 1940s decor that celebrates Vancouver’s history. Downstairs consists of the bar as well as a few tables and chairs and an outdoor patio with seating around a fire pit. Upstairs offers lounge seating with leather sofas and chairs and a few tables. Old photos decorate some of the wall space and embossed metal tin decorates the back bar, adding a touch of glimmer in an otherwise muted color scheme. Board games are on hand for patrons to use.
Other observations: I found the staff behind the bar was not very welcoming, though the staff who brought food to our table was polite and friendly. The food exceeded my expectations, and the atmosphere is subdued and relaxing.
Cost: Sandwiches cost $9 and $10. Small plates cost $3 to $10. Salads are $10 and $11. Dessert costs $8 and $10.