Two stars for Tap 79's affordable and comforting pub fare

Food website Eater recently posted a mock menu that pokes fun at the sameness of “Every Trendy Restaurant, est. 2014.” Check it out online, or go to Tap 79, which offers a nearly identical checklist of ubiquitous dishes:

Organic baby kale Caesar. Beef jerky. Jar o’ pickles. Nuts ’n’ herbs. Truffle oil taters. Mac and cheese. 

Despite the gastropub’s predictable menu, its food is comforting, affordable and beer-friendly. Those are things chef-owner Alfredo Patino (Bin 18) says he thought Miami’s Northeast 79th Street corridor lacked before he opened Tap 79 in April in what used to be Buddha Sushi Bar. 

Tap 79’s chicken wings alone are worth a visit. Puffy, crunchy breading encases plump, juicy, steaming-hot drums. Three dipping sauces — addicting smoked blue cheese, slow-burning mango-habanero and sriracha mayo (see Every Trendy Restaurant) — make the wings sing louder.

Burgers blend short rib, brisket and chuck on house-baked buns sturdy enough to hold together half-pound patties plus add-ons like aged manchego with chorizo in the salty-spicy Barca Burger. Half a dozen other between-bun options include nonbeef proteins like chicken, lamb and tuna.

Patino’s wine-bar sensibilities come through in Tap 79’s burrata caprese salad, a departure from Every Trendy Restaurant in its clever use of confit tomatoes, briny speck and squiggles of pesto and olive tapenade. Every bite tastes bright, creamy and full of umami. 

Maple syrup and a glazed fig push dry, overworked lamb meatballs too far into the sweet zone. An allegedly roasted and rosemary-rubbed chicken with parmesan instead appeared as a thin, bland specimen under a blanket of melted Kraft White American Singles. 

The ticket containing my order of grilled calamari got lost on its way to the kitchen. Mistake discovered, the plate soon came out in rush-job fashion, a row of limp, rubbery squid that no amount of lemon juice could make pleasant.

To her credit, a very hospitable bartender noticed the barely touched plate and asked if I wanted it taken off my bill. I declined but said I appreciated the gesture. “We do that here,” she said. “We want everyone to leave happy.”

I would have left happier if Tap 79 had more effective air-conditioning than a portable fan propped on the floor. And if they had more beer. 

If I didn’t know better, I’d assume a gastropub named Tap 79 had that many beers on draft. The actual number is eight, including snoozers like Coors Light and Blue Moon and entry-level craft brew like Sam Adams Boston Lager. 

Bottled beer options are slightly more interesting; the citrusy hops in Founders All Day IPA and Cigar City Jai Alai are great at cutting through the heavier parts of Tap 79’s pub fare. Deal-seekers, take heed: Wine and beer is half-price from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays, sparkling wine is free for women on Wednesdays, and charcuterie boards are half-off on Thursdays. 

After nearly a decade at the helm of downtown bistro Bin 18, Patino says he opened Tap 79 in Shorecrest for locals to have “a place to stop for a good beer and a bite to eat.” 

He has accomplished that, even though his menu leans more toward imitation than innovation. With exemplary chicken wings, craft beer and neighborhood-friendly prices, Tap 79 is a place where you’re likely to leave happy. 

Critics dine anonymously at the Miami Herald’s expense. Follow Evan Benn on Twitter at @EvanBenn.

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