The story: The team behind the SOMA wine bar 25 Lusk decided to focus on beer and decided to create a modern beer garden — inside a mall! General Manager Chad Bourdon and Chef Matthew Dolan last year opened Tap 415, a gastropub on the fourth floor of the Westfield San Francisco Centre.
Why I went: One thing about restaurants at malls, they’re convenient. Especially when you’re watching a movie at the mall, like I did recently with my friend Craig. Afterwards, I suggested an earlier dinner/happy hour at Tap 415, which is an expansive new project dominating the restaurant row that includes M.Y. China and Cuppola. Happy hour is daily from 3 to 6 p.m. so we got there in time to order a beer and a couple of small bites before heading into the full menu.
The vibe: Not really a beer garden since it’s indoors, but Tap 415 does have the large communal tables that flood the dining area, and the TV screens showing games give it a sports bar feel. The big space may also be its challenge because it did seem pretty empty for happy hour (but it was a Sunday afternoon).
The menu: We’ll start with happy hour menu, which offers a featured beer, wine, and cocktail, and then six small bites, many bar classics such as sliders, BBQ chips, onion rings and little dogs. I tried the oyster shooter ($5) that came in a teeny tiny metal container looking almost like a condiment, and Craig and I both had one of the sweet shrimp tacos ($4.15 each) that was fresh and easy to eat. The main menu has a variety of items, ranging from sandwiches to salads to large plates. The style seemed all over the place, ranging from a chicken schnitzel ($20) to roasted porchetta ($24). One note: while the servers were friendly and gave you space to enjoy the food and beer, they didn’t seem to know the menu. When they brought the food over, I would ask about what’s in the dish and many couldn’t explain, often having to go to the kitchen for more details, such as the Cezar kale salad ($6/$12), which had a weird texture that I felt was quinoa but the kitchen said it was the gremolata (but I feel gremolatas shouldn’t be crunchy). Gives you little confidence in the food when even the kitchen can’t fully explain the dishes.
The booze: About a dozen beer on tap, many of them from local breweries around the 415. Also available are wine by the glass and a selection of cocktails. I started off with a decent beer from the happy hour menu but then I tried a beer that Craig recently discovered and love, and it was the Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin ($7), which actually is quite refreshing with a slight citrus undertone that made it an enjoyable brew on a hot day.
My favorite dish: The sweet shrimp taco with pickled jalapeno and avocado salsa verde was a nice, refreshing small bite that is a perfect starter to a meal or a bite to wash down a glass of beer with.
The last bite: While the menu seems ambitious, the execution is efficient but nothing special. There seems to be a lack of oomph on the plate, either missing flavor or excitement in a different flavor combination. Everything is predictable and won’t turn you off, which makes Tap 415 a safe bet for a simple meal with beer.
The deets: Tap415, 845 Market St., San Francisco (top of Westfield Centre). PH: 415.266.7900. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. (Closes 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 p.m.). No reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.tap415.com
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