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Commercial Taphouse is more about camaraderie than cuisine.

Foremost a Taphouse


Seems I'm always harkening back to yesteryear, but the truth is, when you've lived in this burg long enough you do begin to see a multitude of reincarnations on the restaurant scene. Some are improvements on the old eatery, some don't come close, but either way it's interesting to compare and contrast. On a recent Saturday night I visited one of my old haunts, the former Commercial Café. Back in the late '70s and well into the '80s, the Commercial Café served the very best in ribs, helping start the local rib festival and winning an award or two. The place would be packed most any night with folks who knew where to find good beef or pork smoked to perfection. Now called the , the atmospheric hole in the wall on North Robinson Street in the Fan (right behind Konsta's which used to be Soble's) looks a lot like my old favorite but doesn't taste the same. We arrived by 7 p.m. and were seated promptly at one of a wall of eight tables for four. The interior looked much like it always has with dark colors, ceiling fans, a tin ceiling and 11 coveted bar seats. Unusual light fixtures of punched tin fill the space with soft light, and one waitress scurried around to take orders at all tables. As I looked over the menu, I could see that this is now a place with a Southwestern theme, a food focus which, in my opinion, wore thin sometime around 1995. There were appetizers (wings, onion rings, nachos, etc.), sandwiches (chicken, club, vegetarian, etc.), burgers, salads, pizzas, all with ingredients like black beans, jalapenos and jack cheese. Also offered were fish and chips, rice and beans, fajitas, a gardenburger and the Taphouse recipe ribs. Ah, ribs. Now, that sounded good, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to eat a whole half-rack. So Bottomless Pitt ordered the full rack, and I ordered a special burritto filled with veggies and grilled tuna. Our two friends who joined us chose rice and beans, and an appetizer order of riblets, a quarter-rack in a basket. We settled in and nibbled on a basket of chips and salsa ($2.25). The salsa was delicious, if a tad too spicy, but we watered it down with some of their microbrewed beer offerings that justify the taphouse moniker. For beer drinkers, it's always fun to try the wild and weird - our favorite for the evening was a raspberry concoction. Our entrees arrived within 30 minutes, and we eagerly dug in. Unfortunately, the ribs scored a mark in the contrast column when held up against the old Commercial Café ribs. Generous in portion, they were also full of fat. Those that weren't fatty were very flavorful, B.P. reported, but those that were were inedible. Our friend who ordered the riblet basket nicknamed hers "fatlets." Fortunately, the hush puppies and fries that came with the entrée ribs were quite good. The rest of us plowed through our dinners (all less than $10) with slightly less disdain, but no particular affection. My burrito was full of dry tuna and white rice. I ate it because I was hungry, but it wasn't anything to write home about. Our other friend enjoyed his beans and rice, accompanied by sautéed veggies. By the time we'd finished our entrees, we had no interest in dessert. As we assessed what we'd eaten and took stock of the Commercial Taphouse, we realized that, for a place that is first and foremost a taphouse and secondly a grill, the food's mediocrity may just be on a par with any establishment of its kind. Looking around, we saw people happily drinking beer and eating club sandwiches - they weren't there for a gourmet repast, but for camaraderie and a great beer selection. Alas, even if culinary expertise is not their pot of tea, the Commercial Taphouse should at least do what they say they do on their menu or scale it back to suit their

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