Walk into The Brass Tap in Midtown Belvedere and you may get the feeling that you’ve been there before. You probably haven’t—the Baltimore location of the Florida-based chain is the company's first foray into Maryland. Despite admirable efforts to localize—there’s a smattering of standard Orioles flair on the walls—the neutral colors, furniture, plethora of TVs, and even the thin, laminated menus remind us of a Buffalo Wild Wings-type establishment. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As we’ve seen with places like the Greene Turtle in Fells Point and World of Beer in Locust Point, there’s a place for franchises in the heart of a city.
The Brass Tap does several things well, first among them offering a casual eating and drinking venue in a neighborhood that lacks them. University of Baltimore and Maryland Institute College of Art students, and people going to a show at the Meyerhoff or Lyric, will appreciate the restaurant’s outstanding beer selection and bar-food staples. With 60 rotating taps and dozens more bottled varieties, The Brass Tap is serious about its beer. We love the way the menu is organized by style, and appreciate that each beer’s ABV is listed. A beer club is in the works, and the bar frequently hosts beer release parties.
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We found its food to be more uneven. Among the “shareables,” an order of Peri Peri Wings stood out. While the meat itself was unremarkable, the South African-inspired sauce provided a nice blend of sweetness and spice. Despite the menu’s amusing linguistic grandeur, other items, like “house-made” tots, “angry” onion straws, and “boom boom” fried shrimp tasted like the same, generic ones you can get just about anywhere. The kitchen has a deep fryer, and it isn’t afraid to use it. Fair warning: The chicken fingers, hush puppies, and beer-battered cod are all extremely crispy.
Where The Brass Tap nails the art of bar food is its burgers. A half-pound “gourmet blend” of chuck, brisket, and short rib, they’re available with an impressive array of cheeses (smoked Gouda, jalapeño beer), sauces (poblano), and toppings (hummus, Peppadew peppers).
We especially enjoyed our sliders—three to a serving—which came with an order of solid fries. At $9, it’s a great deal. The bar and its adjacent high-top tables might feel a bit crowded for some people, so for a more relaxed atmosphere, sit in the sunroom or on the patio. Across the road, the sign for the iconic Mount Royal Tavern, a different bar in every way, is visible. In this neighborhood, there’s room for everyone.
›› The Brass Tap 1205 W. Mount Royal Ave., 888-901-BEER. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. every day. Flatbreads: $6; appetizers: $8-19; salads: $8-11; sandwiches: $9-14.