City Tap has already made a name for itself in some of the country’s most bustling food scenes like Nashville, Boston, DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia. In late October, the comfortable yet stylish spot, which focuses on craft beer and being at the forefront of food trends, opened in Loudoun County.
We recently had the chance to catch up with several of City Tap’s team members. The team included Hilaire Ashworth-Benson (Sales and Event Manager), Andy Farrell (Brand Director), Liz Gartzke (Director of Marketing), and Jon Ball (Managing Partner). We discuss details about the new location in Loudoun and how they’re keeping their already-successful brand consistent while also adhering to an eat/drink-local philosophy. They offered up the scoop on the new spot as well as their predictions for food and drink trends in 2020 and how their menus meet those trends, from shareable plates to specific dishes and pairings.
When did City Tap open?
We hosted our PR First-Look Party on Wednesday, October 30th, and we couldn’t resist opening up our doors to the public that evening for the Nationals Championship game. The rest of the week until November 6th were mostly friends and family nights to give our team practice.
What inspired the choice to open in Loudoun?
It was presented to us by a colleague. While it was going to be our first venture outside of major metropolitan, we all saw the potential and were excited to dive in. We could not be more thrilled about the warm welcome we have received from Loudoun County as a whole.
What is the restaurant’s philosophy?
City Tap boasts one of the area’s more extensive local, national, and international microbrew line ups, including over 40 draughts and an extensive bottle collection, with seasonal and rotating options, as well as house-made specialty cocktails and a beer cocktail menu. Complimented by our contemporary American regional cuisine and gourmet brick oven pizza menu, City Tap offers guests a rustic, comfortable dining and bar setting.
How did the restaurant get its start initially?
Our first City Tap was in Philly in 2010.
Does the Loudoun location’s menu mimic that of other locations, or is it more Virginia focused?
While our core menus are the same throughout each of the markets, each chef does like to show their local flair our weekly specials.
Where does City Tap House source its ingredients for food and drinks?
We have national and local partnerships for both food and beverages. Our beer program is especially focused on local craft brews. With Loudoun County being so abundant in these, we’ve been incredibly lucky to partner with some excellent local spots!
What is the inspiration behind the food and cocktails?
Our menu can best be described as the elevated American pub fare. The menu draws inspiration from modern-day America. We have traditional American staples like brick oven pizzas, mussels, and burgers. Plus, we have also included dishes that touch on the Mediterranean, South American, and Pacific Asian cuisine. It is a more holistic menu full of comfort food.
Please tell me about the chef at the Loudoun location:
Frederick Talavera is our Executive Chef. He was personally recruited by our Regional Culinary Director, Todd Fangman. They had worked together previously at another locally renowned restaurant group back in the day.
What are some of the most popular/unique dishes?
Our pizzas are always a huge hit, and this starts with our handmade dough from scratch that rises for 24-hours. One of our most unique pizzas is The G.O.A.T. with pistachio pesto, rosemary, sliced red onion, and truffle honey.
Most of our best sellers do come from our shareable section, including our Charred Miso Brussels with white miso and pomegranate seeds. Also, Korean Short Rib Tacos with quick slaw, chili sauce, and cilantro, and our Corn & Crab Hushpuppies topped with a citrus remoulade and served with honey-thyme butter.
What are some of the most popular drinks at the Loudoun location?
We have 40 draft lines and are rotating our selections daily, but the local craft brews always do well. All of our signature cocktails have done very well in this market, but the ones that stand out the most are the City Sling, Mashed Old Fash, and Cucumber Crusher. At the moment, we do not have any locally sourced hard liquors in our signature cocktails.
Who is the bar manager/lead bartender? How was he/she chosen? What does he/she bring to the bar?
Michael Senna is the newest management team member. He started as one of our opening team members. He immediately exhibited leadership and a wealth of knowledge of local craft brews, Virginia wineries, and, of course, he makes amazing cocktails! Top all that off with a great personality that exudes hospitality, and you have our new bar manager.
Which Virginia wines and beers are available?
The beers rotate frequently. Some local breweries that we frequently carry include Lost Rhino, Ocelot, Dogfish Head (Delaware), Flying Dog (MD), Alesatian, Devils Backbone, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Old Ox, 3 Stars, Rocketfrog, Hardywood, Blue Mountain, Brothers Craft, Strangeways, 2Silos, Ardent Craft Ales, and Fair Winds.
What are some of the most popular events so far?
Part of the City Tap brand is throwing fun promotional parties. We had an absolute blast with our 80’s Apres Ski Party, our alternative to your typical Ugly Sweater Holiday Party, and our Gatsby Inspired New Year’s Eve party. Both events had a great turnout with guests embracing the themes and participating.
Are there other events planned for the future?
We will be hosting a Drag Brunch on Saturday, February 1st, which is already sold out! There are also talks of an in-house Sunday night kickboxing class with one of our lead bartenders, Max. For Valentines Day, We have a Stoplight Pajama Party. The team is also participating in a handful of offsite community events, including a Chili Days Cook-Off hosted by Old Ox Brewery.
What are some predictions for trends in 2020 in terms of food and drink?
Of course, the market seems to be still trending towards offering healthier and lighter fare.
● We see the emergence of alcoholic kombucha and the continued explosion of alcoholic seltzer as people look for healthier angles for drinking.
● Non-alcoholic beers and “zero proof” cocktails are making a run.
● More of evolution for plant-based food (i.e., more items like the Impossible Burger).
● Alternative flours for everyday items – i.e., Coconut flour pancakes
How have those ideas about what will trend in 2020 informed decisions about menu offerings (food and drink)?
We recently revamped our entire menu for all City Taps, and our Corporate Culinary Director did an excellent job incorporating healthier fare. The good news is that while there are a number of locations, we aren’t afraid to change our menus (food and drink) on the fly to keep up with these favorable trends.
In reference to our lighter and healthier fare options on the new menu, the following items fall within this new trend:
- Nashville Hot Cauliflower
- East Side Poke Bowl
- Delhi Chicken Bowl
- Tandoori Kabobs
- Veggie Burger (house-made patty that’s plant-based)
- Breakfast Bowl
Are there pairings suggested on the menu (food with beer/wine/cocktails), or can you make some suggestions?
Charred Brussels Sprouts – Pilsner/Chardonnay
Korean Short Rib Tacos – Double IPA/Porter/Cabernet
Beet, Avocado & Orange Salad – Hefeweizen
Panang Mussels – White IPA/Saison/Sauvignon Blanc
Tandoori Kabobs – Hazy IPA
Veggie Burger – Amber/Brown Ale
G.O.A.T – Witbier/Brown Ale/Chardonnay
What else should readers know?
Great beer and even better food — for everyone – we’ve been dedicated to that very simple idea since 2010. Please join us at the bar. We’ve been saving you a seat.