Flavor // A side of skee ball

It’s called Pat’s Tap, but it’s really Kim Bartmann’s. She’s the dining diva-cum-archaeologist who’s restored blasts from the city’s blue-collar past such as Bryant Lake Bowl, Barbette, the Red Stag Club and Gigi’s. Her most recent dig unearthed Casey’s, the longtime dive bar on Nicollet. After a bit of gentrification and a good scrub, it’s now Pat’s.

The beer list — well, the whole drinks menu — has been dramatically expanded, and improved (though you can still find a $3 can of Hamm’s), and the menu makeover is downright astounding. Sure, pretzels and cheese curds remain for the Hamm’s fans, but listed right above them among the Small Plates ($4-$12) are gougeres, and don’t tell me the guys in work boots and overalls know what those are (cheesy cream puffs, fellas).

The list represents what Bartmann calls  a “glorified pub menu,” all made in-house from locally-sourced ingredients and likely to make a Chardonnay sipper salivate. Moi, anyway.

Interesting stuff like goat cheese fritters, served, smartly, with onion marmalade and Garden Farm honey. Yummy. So are the lamb meatballs that cascaded from the grill — moist and true-flavored, just begging for the hint of mint and tart yogurt at their side. I also loved the wicked-good pork belly skewers, with a pinch of Spanish spices and lemon to offset (relatively speaking) their pure, unblemished fattiness. (Keep your medical insurance handy.) There’s also a selection of house-made charcuterie — pate, terrine, salami, rillettes) and half a dozen cheeses a la carte. Plus a section headed “Salads, Alas.”

Alas, also, we didn’t succumb, but steered straight for the Big Plates ($11–$18), which justified their name. The grilled pork loin was astounding — sweet and juicy slices drizzled with (!) bacon jus and served with cheddar grits (where’s the cheddar?) and strands of Swiss chard.

Roast chicken also proved a winner: none of your prissy white meat, no siree: succulent legs and thighs, served with horseradish mashed potatoes (pump it up, folks) and arugula. Ever see that in a taproom before?

Other intriguing entrees include rainbow trout, steak frites, and bangers and mash. Or head for the burger list. Nice left-wing liberal brunch menu, too. But a boring, generic dessert list: cheesecake, chocolate cake, carrot cake. C’mon, Pat! You can do better than that.

Fortunately, our party had snagged the sole booth where conversation is remotely possible, aside the skee-ball tables in the rear (looks like a combo of bowling and hockey). Otherwise, the noise level is simply impossible, and, as the accommodating host indicated, likely to remain that way.

Back to the beer: 20 (many local labels) on tap and a hefty lineup of lager, porter and stout in cans (plus a manifesto on the menu explaining the eco-reasoning behind this choice). The wine list is rich in little-but-oughta-be-better-known labels at reasonable prices, and cocktails? Of course — all the classics, and all under $10.

Pat’s Tap
3510 Nicollet Ave. S.