I've become a fan of Kim Bartmann, the owner-operator of places like Bryant-Lake Bowl (click here to see the Road Tips entry on Bryant-Lake Bowl), and the Red Stag Supperclub (click here to see the entry on Red Stag Supperclub), as well as other restaurants in the Twin Cities such as Barbette and Tiny Diner. One place that I've had on my culinary radar for quite sometime is a homey little tavern owned by Bartmann and her sister, Kari, along S. Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis - Pat's Tap. On a recent visit to Minneapolis for work, I stopped into Pat's Tap for lunch.
The "Pat" behind Pat's Tap is Kim and Kari Bartmann's mother, Pat. Her illustrated face is part of the logo featured on the left. The Bartmann's grew up in Wisconsin where neighborhood and backwoods pubs that featured burgers, cheese curds and pool tables were the social center for friends and family over the years. Kim Bartmann loved the name Pat's Tap, not only because it was her mom's name and she thought it was a cool name for a bar, but because it's also a palindrome. Kim Bartmann opened Pat's Tap in the fall of 2011 in the space that was formerly Casey's Bar, a retro neighborhood lounge that had been around for years before closing.
Kim Bartmann is also big in environmental causes and is one of the local leaders in making her restaurants more energy efficient. The Red Stag Supperclub was the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) restaurant in the Twin Cities (or the whole state of Minnesota, for that matter) and Pat's Tap was the second. The urinals in the men's bathroom at Pat's Tap are waterless, they used reclaimed furniture for many of the fixtures, they feature a water reduction system in the kitchen and bar, and there's a solar panel array on the roof to help heat water and the building.
It was a warm day when I pulled up to Pat's Tap near the corner of Nicollet and 35th St. in Minneapolis. (see map) The front exterior of the building was sort of a contemporary industrial brick facade. The patio area out front was full of people enjoying lunch, but I was wanting to eat inside, preferably at the bar.
The inside of the restaurant features a mix of vintage fixtures including a number of old metal beers signs, a vintage juke box, a tiled floor and a tin ceiling. A number of low and high top tables were interspersed throughout the small dining area.
The classic-style retro bar looked like a throwback from the 50's. Kim Bartmann initially felt when Pat's Tap opened that the bar was too sleek. She wanted it to be more like the trashy and well-worn Northern Wisconsin bars her family frequented when she was growing up. To me, the bar was pretty cool looking. There's a vintage four-beer tap in the corner of the bar.
The centerpiece of Pat's Tap is the skee-ball machine that is in the back corner of the building near the restrooms. This is a vintage-1950's skee-ball machine that was restored by Kari Bartmann in her garage. Kim Bartmann said one time that they have to literally drag her away from a skee-ball machine when she encounters one. The one shown here costs just a quarter a play and I understand it's a popular diversion for people who come to Pat's Tap.
I took a seat at the bar and was greeted by the bartender that day, Pauley. He gave me a menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Pat's Tap features a number of local and regional beers on tap and in cans - no bottles. Cans are easier to recycle than bottles and that's another part of Pat's Tap LEED-certification. I ended up getting a 16-ounce can of the Summit Saga IPA from Pat's Tap's extensive beer menu.
The menu at Pat's Tap is an interesting gastro-pub mix of appetizers and salads, burgers and sandwiches, and a number of eclectic entrees ranging from grilled pork chops and grilled chicken legs to mahi tacos and shakshuka, a Northern African/Middle Eastern-inspired dish of poached eggs in a tomato, onion and chili pepper sauce. Pat's Tap also features cheese and charcuterie boards as an appetizer or an accompaniment to entrees.
I was leaning toward getting a burger, but I saw a sandwich on the menu that sounded rather interesting - the Bloody Mary Sandwich. It consisted of two fried eggs with bacon, pepper jam, a Worcestershire Sauce aioli, a slice of an heirloom tomato and served on slices of toasted tomato bread. That sounded more like a breakfast sandwich and it's also featured on Pat's Tap weekend brunch menu.
For lunch that day, I ended up ordering the cheddar cheese burger with fresh heirloom tomatoes slices and house-made dill pickle chips. Pauley explained to me that the cheddar cheese was actually grill-top fried to give it a caramelized layer on top. I thought that sounded pretty interesting. House-fried chips came with the burger, but for a $2 buck upcharge I was able to get fries.
The burger was thick and juicy, but the caramelized Wisconsin cheddar cheese helped bring the full taste to the burger. The lightly-toasted bun was light and spongy, and was a great complement to the overall taste of the burger. This was one burger where I went, "Mmmmm...." with the first bite and I did it again about halfway through again. This was an outstanding burger.
As I was enjoying my burger, a guy came in and sat a couple three seats down the bar from me. He announced to the bartender that he was on a burger quest - his favorite burger joint had closed about six months prior and he was on a quest around the Twin Cities to find his new favorite burger. I interjected that I had the cheddar burger and it was excellent. He ended up ordering the bacon-Swiss cheese burger with a burger patty that was part beef and part bacon. It came with onion straws on the burger. As I was finishing up and paying my bill, his burger came out. We had briefly compared notes on burger places around the Twin Cities and while he didn't say that the burger he had at Pat's Tap was the best he'd had on his journey to find his new favorite place in the area, he thought it was a very good burger.