Flavor on Tap

A quality beer in the suburbs used to mean the bartender served your Miller Lite really cold, in a freshly chilled frosty mug. But times have changed! You can (and should) upgrade your brew, and the Valley Tap House in Apple Valley is a great place to do it. An added bonus: the food is far superior to that of any suburban bar or grill I’ve eaten at.

Apparently, 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday is not early for the Apple Valley crowd, as we encountered a jam-packed restaurant. It took almost an hour to be seated. Service was efficient, if not overly friendly.

Valley Tap has 30 draft beers to choose from, ranging from local favorites like Surly and Fulton to popular microbrews like Lagunitas, Rogue, and Flying Dog. I loved the Brau Brothers Bancreagie, a tasty Scotch ale. My wife felt the same about the Harriet Divine Oculust, a Belgian-style pale ale that had nice light banana notes.

During happy hour (from 3 to 7 p.m.), appetizers are half-off and beers are 2-for-1. Even if we hadn’t been there in time for the deals, I would have happily paid full price for the flight of sliders: sloppy turkey, pit pork, and black-bean veggie, all decent-sized. We especially liked the pork, which has a great sweet-and-spicy combination.

The hot salty pretzels made my kids happy, while the beer-infused cheddar sauce made me even happier. The strong ale flavor managed to not overpower the yeasty pretzels.

The pub pies sounded more promising than they tasted. The braised beef, carrots, and peas inside were fine, but the puff pastry lacked flavor. Also good but not great is the pork belly on the flatbread pizza. The confit was a little dry, but the sweet bacon and golden-raisin relish gave a nice contrast to the blue cheese.

Valley Tap House highlights their Baltimore-style pit beef (rubbed in spices, slow roasted, sliced-thin), as they should. I am in love with the hot Italian pit sandwich: tender beef, ham, peppers, onions, mozzarella, and a spicy marinara sauce.  

The Lyn-Lake burger is a decadent caloric bomb made of eight ounces of beef topped with thick-cut bacon, a sunny-side-up egg, and mixed greens on a ciabatta bun. It’s messy and delicious.

Even the kids’ menu was great. For $5, my kids got to choose from a slider-sized cheeseburger, grilled chicken breast, or fish and chips; a side of a cup of fruit, small salad, or roasted vegetables; and a dessert.

Valley Tap House is the sister to the Lyndale Tap House in uptown Minneapolis, and the menu is nearly identical, except everything is priced $1 cheaper. As we left, I found myself hoping for a Maple Grove Tap House, in my neck of the woods. Great beer, great food, happy kids: it doesn’t get better than that.

The Valley Tap House, 14889 Florence Trail, Apple Valley, 952-431-2337, thevalleytaphouse.com

Jason Derusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.