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The Wasena City Tap Room and Grill, open since November in its namesake Roanoke neighborhood, has all the promise of being a great neighborhood bar.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
The carne asada pizza has a roasted red pepper sauce topped with flank steak, red onion, cilantro and mozzarella and Swiss cheese. ($13).
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Fish tacos ($9.25) at Wasena City Tap Room and Grill were assembled from the fish of the day, grilled and seasoned cod topped with shredded cabbage and tomato, with lemon ginger white sauce and a side of black beans and rice.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Few things are more enjoyable than spending a night out at a great neighborhood bar — the kind of place where you can partake in a cold draft and delectable munchies in the company of friends. The Wasena City Tap Room and Grill, open since November in its namesake Roanoke neighborhood, has all the promise of being just such a place.
Based on my two visits, it scored well for atmosphere, beverages and service, but came up a little short on food quality.
My first visit to the eatery was on a packed Friday night — every seat at every table and the bar was occupied. The dining room consists of two narrow rows of tables that run parallel to the bar, and waiting guests hover in a small area at the host stand between the kitchen and the front door.
My husband and I were pleased when a bartender approached for drink orders while we waited. We were even more pleased when we were seated in half the time we were quoted. Once seated, the service was very prompt and friendly.
We ordered two of the more than 30 beers on tap (Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, $5.50, and Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, $6) and sipped our cold brews while we looked over the variety of menu choices that include burgers and sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, tacos and burritos. We liked the lively atmosphere, the exposed brick and high ceilings and eclectic vibe of the pub decor.
We ordered the fried green tomatoes ($7.95), a Southern classic and a favorite of my husband’s. Our appetizer arrived promptly, but a bit more time in the kitchen might have improved the dish. The four tomato slices were unevenly coated in cornmeal, were dripping in grease and lacked that tangy unripened tomato flavor we love. The chipotle ranch dipping sauce did the dish no favors.
For dinner my husband ordered the carne asada pizza with cilantro ($13), one of the nightly specials (presented on a separate menu and including a suggested beer pairing). While the crust was very good — thin with crisp edges — the toppings were sparse. On the slice I swiped from his plate, I found the flank steak was chewy and the cilantro was non-existent.
I always order fish tacos when I find them on a menu. At the Tap Room, this dish consisted of well-seared and smoky-flavored cod filets (the fish of the day) inside each of my two soft, whole-grain shells. The jalapeno and red cabbage slaw added crunchy texture and a hint of heat, but salsa or pico de gallo would have been preferred over the single, half-moon slice of bland tomato tucked inside each tortilla. Just a little squeeze of lime would have made the tacos better, too; the lemon ginger dipping sauce just didn’t provide enough acidity .
Our next visit, which included a guest, was on a Thursday night and again the Tap Room was at full occupancy. Again we were approached for a drink order while we waited and we were seated in less time than we were told it would take. Our server arrived within a few minutes and took our drink, appetizer and dinner orders.
We shared the chicken tenders appetizer ($8.25). In a switch from the typical white breast meat, these tenders are made with thigh meat. While the appearance of the six oddly shaped pieces was not particularly appealing, the meat was very moist and the crunchy breading had a nice, peppery bite. The honey-dijon dipping sauce was a good complement.
After waiting a while (almost 40 minutes) after our appetizer plates were cleared, our entrees arrived. My husband tried the pork burrito ($8.95) for dinner and was pleased with the filling of meat, black beans, rice, tomatoes and cilantro. He was not impressed with the whole-grain wrapper, which he found dry, or the housemade salsa that accompanied his tortilla chips, which tasted flat. Also, while the housemade guacamole that topped his burrito tasted fresh, it had oxidized into an off-putting gray color.
My husband had a case of entree envy when our server presented me with my Carolina carnitas sandwich ($8.95), which turned out to be my favorite dish at the Tap Room. Served on a soft Kaiser roll, a generous pile of moist pork was topped with a healthy portion of the same creamy jalapeno slaw that graced my fish tacos, but this time, it really elevated the flavor of the sandwich.
Our friend ordered a nightly special, the “Angry Bird” turkey burger ($8.25). As an aficionado of spicy food, he was looking forward to a jolt from the jalapeno-pimento cheese and Sriracha-lime mayo. He found the burger to be moist (which says a lot for turkey) but for his taste, it did not bring the heat. Perhaps to a normal palate, this bird would have been plenty angry. He, however, found it to be merely perturbed.
The bottom line
For a cold beer, inviting atmosphere and prompt, friendly service, I would recommend Wasena City Tap Room and Grill. I wish I could say the same of the food, which I found to be inconsistent in quality and flavor.
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