Walking into Tamp and Tap is quite a surprise. Knowing it’s a coffee shop with a long beer list does not incline one to expect the bright, attractive place we found.
Owners Mitch Buckner, Taylor Berger and Daniel Flanagan are all involved in various other food service establishments in town. When they first came up with the idea for a Downtown coffee shop, they wanted to make something unique. What they’ve created is something one might more likely expect on the West Coast.
The coffee list comprises all the expected entries, plus two unusual ones. One is the pour-over coffee, brewed to order. The coffee is placed in a cone atop a stand, and the heated water is poured over it into a flask that is delivered to your table with your cup and a chocolate-covered coffee bean as lagniappe.
More interesting is the cold-brewed coffee. This is made in a contraption that looks much like a chemistry class experiment — or maybe a moonshine still. On top is a container of chilled water. This drips very slowly into the container of coffee grounds. Each little drop makes its way through the coffee and down a spiral glass tube into the flask at the bottom. The resulting liquid is diluted slightly before serving. Far less acidic than regular hot-brewed coffee, it is served chilled from a tap, right up beside the draft beer taps.
There is also a selection of tea drinks, including hot loose-leaf teas and green tea or chai latte. Iced tea is either your basic brewed tea or a really delicious blueberry tea. Both are unsweetened, but there’s a dispenser of simple syrup to sweeten it.
There are seven beers on tap. Currently there are two from local High Cotton, one from local Ghost River, and one each from Nashville’s Yazoo and Blackstone. One from Rogue Ales in Oregon and one from Shafly in St. Louis round out the selection. Beyond the draft list, there are a dozen or so craft beers available in bottles.
The same menu is served for lunch into the evening. The chef/manager, Sam Miller, was formerly at Erling Jensen’s and helped to plan the menu once it was decided to serve more than coffee and beer. He says the menu is still a work in progress. It’s a short list of six salads and seven sandwiches. All are named after car manufacturers of the early 20th century.
On one visit, my friend and I shared a salad, and each of us had a sandwich. The Halladay salad was a combination of baby spinach and arugula for the greens. There were candied pecans, Gorgonzola crumbles, house-pickled red onion and strawberries. The champagne vinaigrette was tasty, and the combined flavors made for a good salad, but it was a bit small for $8.
The first of the sandwiches was the Norwalk. It was served on a house-baked baguette, with what was listed as “smoked bbq chicken, red cabbage slaw, d’affinois.” The “d’affinois” refers to a cheese “Fromage d’Affinois,” a Brie-type cheese. It’s a great, full-flavored cheese, which is a good thing, because the chicken, while tender, neither seemed smoked nor had any hint of barbecue flavor. With the finely shredded marinated red cabbage, it made quite a tasty combination. Again, it seemed a bit small for a $9 sandwich, especially since all sandwiches are served with no side items.
The second sandwich that day was more substantial and very tasty. The Stanley was served on hefty slices of toasted brioche spread with an artichoke aioli. Piled with smoked turkey, Fontina cheese, candied pancetta (an unsmoked Italian-style bacon), pickled red onion and arugula, it was altogether satisfying.
The Dusenberg salad starts with a bed of mesclun mix (spring greens). The tomato slices on my salad were indeed heirloom style, and perfectly ripe. Slices of English cucumber topped the salad, along with a couple of garlic-seasoned toasted baguette slices topped with the same Fromage d’Affinois. Although the dressing, listed as “black pepper honey balsamic vinaigrette” could have used a bit more seasoning, with the $2 optional add-chicken topping it was a good salad.
The sandwich that day was the menu item we least liked. The Rambler was listed as “focaccia with roast beef, cheddar, beemster, fried white onion and shiitake confit.” The cheddar and Beemster, a very full-flavored Dutch cheese, should have added a lot of flavor, especially with the onion and shiitake mushroom confit. It just needed something. It was dry, and we both thought the flavors weren’t complementary. You can add a side for just $1. Cucumber salad has cubes of English cucumber marinated in a very sharp vinegar dressing. Another side is an orzo salad, which I found delicious. There’s also a house-made hummus, chips, or a small side salad.
There are several desserts available, including mini pecan pies, little cupcakes, chess squares, strawberry chess squares and brownies. They also make chai, coffee or green tea milkshakes.
Right now, their breakfast menu is limited to an English muffin with jam or topped with an egg with ham or bacon. There’s also a yogurt-fruit-granola parfait. An expanded breakfast menu is in the planning stage.
The chef is also working on a menu for a Sunday Bluegrass Brunch. In testing stages are such amusing-sounding dishes as Brioche French Toast with Brown Ale Maple Syrup. Or English Muffin with Chorizo Scrambled Eggs and Manchego Cheese. Since they don’t have a liquor license, they’re experimenting with such beverages as Hefeweizen Mimosas.
Although the service starts with ordering from the counter, you’re given a number, and the only thing you have to do for yourself after that is sweeten your beverage of choice. Flatware — real, not plastic — is brought to you rolled in a real cloth napkin.
The evening business hasn’t quite caught up with the daytime, but they’ve added a trivia night on Wednesdays, $3 drafts on Thursday evenings, and a $2 pint “Kill the Keg” night during the South Main Art Trolley Tour on the last Friday of the month. And there’s a happy hour from 5 to 6 every evening with $1 off all beverages, beer, coffee or tea.
Tamp and Tap
Address: 122 Gayoso
Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. every day
Reviewer’s choice: The Stanley sandwich ($9), The Stoddard sandwich ($9), the Dusenberg salad with added chicken ($9), blueberry tea ($3), chilled mocha coffee ($4)
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars