Friday, January 9, 2015

Taphaus: A Modern Beer Garden In Jersey City

       (view from right in front of Taphaus)

Walking into Taphaus for the first time, I immediately fired off a text to my friends saying "Oh god, this is my nightmare." But once I walked in another 4 feet or so, past the large crowd of overgrown frat boys concentrating on getting hammered, I began to experience an entirely different Taphaus - more beer garden then club and one I liked much better.

While waiting, I sat next to a middle-aged couple at the bar there to relax, then later had dinner a table away from a small group of women in their early twenties celebrating a birthday and amongst several other various groups of friends and dates. Luckily, Taphaus is large enough to accommodate a hugely mixed crowd successfully. With its long bar, communal seating, and smaller tables, there's a place for everyone to hang out and it's a nice change of pace from most Jersey City drinking establishments that tend to draw one type of crowd.

The beer menu is vast and offers some variety, but not as much as I'd hoped considering the number of taps they have. I would also have loved better descriptions of what they did have - the menu doesn't offer much beyond title and .abv so you're really relying on name recognition. They do have a full bar for those not into beer and although I didn't have any this time, there were some cocktails on their list I'd be interested in trying.

As far as food goes, the menu is probably best described as gastropub and then some. It would be easy (and probably delicious) to split a bunch of appetizers here, but there are plenty of options for main courses.

My group decided to start off with the Buffalo Rock Shrimp which I highly recommend and I think ended up being the group favorite. Coated in a tempura batter and then fried, the shrimp stayed very tender but maintained the crisp exterior even with the addition of the house-made buffalo sauce. The sauce itself was quite good - tangy and addictively mouth-puckering without any major burning and the shaved celery with blue cheese crumbles on top rounded it out well. It's a great take on your typical bar wings.

We also ordered the Grilled Guinness Chicken Club, the Spicy Jalapeno Infused Brat, and the Short Rib Au Jus Burger. All three were good, but perhaps slightly more complicated than they needed to be - a common theme throughout the menu. While I like to see different ingredients and flavor combinations, there are a couple of instances where it leans towards gimmicky rather than worthwhile. For example, the chicken club had prosciutto bacon on it. Great idea in theory, but in reality, it ended up getting lost amongst everything else and was probably a waste of prosciutto.

That said, there were no major complaints about the food. Portions are quite large which is probably good for those who have a full night of drinking ahead. There was a weird double bread thing happening with the club where the bottom and top had two pieces of toast. I imagine it was intended to help keep the sandwich together but it ended up making it messier.

The jalapeno brat was not as intensely flavored as the name would suggest, but the pretzel roll was a nice addition. I also liked the tribute to more typical beer gardens with a few different brat options - Taphaus is all about showcasing updated classics.

The short rib burger was very good with incredibly tender and flavorful meat  but although the picked red onions helped lighten it up a bit, they had also been used a little too generously. Still a good burger and one menu item where the more complicated ingredients paid off.

I should also mention the sauces. Pretty much every meal comes with your choice of sauce and this is where the kitchen's updated flavors really shine. I was especially impressed with the Sriracha key lime aioli which I assumed would be too sweet and fruity, clashing with the spice. Instead, it was a smooth citrus-flavored heat that I could barely stop eating.

All in All
Taphaus is a nice addition to Jersey City, especially by the waterfront where options are more limited. However, the location also makes it more of a hike for those not in the immediately surrounding buildings and while it might be worth it occasionally (especially if you want to impress people with the views), I personally wouldn't consider it someplace to hang out on a regular basis. The variety of the crowd and huge space are definite pluses and price-wise, it seemed pretty reasonable (most beers are between $6-$8 and you can easily eat well for under $20), but while the beer list and menu are solid, they aren't quite enough to be a draw all on their own. 


  1. Happy to have found your blog! Love it, esp as a JC'r trying to keep,up with food scene here. Great review! Didn't even know it existed! Do you recall if there was parking? Like Batello?

    1. Thank you and I'm glad you found it too! The location is a bit remote and amongst a couple of high-rise apt. complexes, so right now there's only street parking (which isn't terrible but isn't great) or a paid parking garage. They are working on getting a dedicated lot, but it's going to be a while.