Salt Lake’s 9th & 9th district has long been one of the most unique areas of the city. The quaint, yet bustling neighborhood boasts apartments and houses mixed right alongside boutique shops owned by locals, a coffee spot and a gelateria, and some of the city’s best restaurants (Pago and Mazza, I’m looking at you!).
What it didn’t have — up until now — was a little place to grab a drink. Leave it to Scott Evans, the owner of Pago, Finca and the newly-opened Hub & Spoke Diner, to come up with a fix. His solutions was one of Salt Lake City’s first neighborhood pubs: East Liberty Tab House.
East Liberty Tab House is as quaint as the neighborhood surrounding it, with a large patio that will be perfect for summertime people-watching and beer-sipping. The tiny tavern is sit-down style, with tables for friends to gather, have a drink and eat some not-so-average bar food.
The menu calls to mind the kind of no-fuss food that lets you focus on those people around you. It’s satisfyingly familiar and casual enough that East Liberty Tap House could easily become one of those once-a-week sort of places, especially if you live nearby.
The menu is small and rather reserved, starting with a list of snacks ranging from inexpensive (house pickles, $3; onion dip, $4; caramel popcorn, $3) to affordable (pea falafel, $7; mac and cheese, $8; cheddarwurst corn dog nuggets, $8).
It’s full of burgers (like the Tap House with American cheese and grilled onions, $10; or the BBQ Burger with blue cheese and fried onions, $12), a lamb sloppy joe with honey and chevre ($10), a series of salads ($7-$12), elk chili with fritos ($6 cup/$10 bowl) and delectable, shareable desserts (like butterscotch pudding, $5 and an amazing whisky brownie, $6).
The creative mind behind the kitchen is Phelix Gardner while Courtney McDowell handles the desserts. The familiar team tackles all of the Pago/Finca menus and they are proving to be a great collaboration.
The drink menu serves a handful of local beers on tap, bottled favorites from both near and far (including some pricy limited reserve beers), ciders, several wines and cocktails. While well-rounded and satisfying, it’s the Utah liquor laws that will have your head spinning (and not in the good way).
In the area surrounding the bar in the back of the restaurant (sectioned off by a half wall), patrons are allowed to drink without ordering food but ONLY if they are drinking beers on tap. (Wine and bottled beer are off-limits.)
You’re free to order any drink in the rest of the restaurant, as long as you order food. (That’s where small items like the pickles and popcorn come in.) This confusing sectioning off of sorts isn’t the owner/restaurant’s fault; the Utah DABC is purely to blame. Sigh.
Awkward liquor laws aside, East Liberty Tap House is a great place to grab a burger and a beer. In the meantime, let’s hope that the DABC will change its zoning laws so we an have nothing but a beer on the patio.
Go to East Liberty Tap House for :: a casual meal where drinks and friends are the focal point. Notes :: Open daily from 12 pm to midnight. Reservations are a good idea because the restaurant is small; they are available by calling 801-441-2845.