Pau Hana Patrol: Bethel Street Tap Room
BY NINA WU / email@example.com
If you’ve ever felt that fresh-baked cupcakes should go hand in hand with cocktails, pupu and beer at a bar, then your day has come.
Bethel Street Tap Room in Chinatown has all of the above, plus strips of bacon on the house during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
BETHEL STREET TAP ROOM
1153 Bethel St.
Food entrepreneur Kawehi Haug, owner of Let Them Eat Cupcakes, teamed up with Karen Winpenny and Laughtrack Theater Co. owner Kim Potter to open the bar, which pays homage to Bethel Street.
The trio took over the space of what was formerly RaKuen Lounge from friend Anthony Carll and turned it around in less than two weeks, opening in mid-November. The concept, Haug said, is simple: a casual place, good food and cold beer at decent prices.
What definitely sets this place apart is the colorful cupcake display, cake lollipops and marshmallows behind glass in the corner near the window. The sweets are all available at Bethel Street Tap until closing time (except Sundays and Mondays).
Bethel Street Tap has a welcoming vibe in a simple, rustic space with most seating at a large, rectangular, wraparound bar. If you have a small group of friends, there are a few clusters of tall tables, but the bar is a fun place for singles and pairs.
The place does not have much semblance to the sushi lounge that once occupied the space, offering more of a contemporary pub feel that’s spacious and inviting. The dark walls are decorated with photographs of Bethel Street taken by artist Jeff Orig. A colorful chalkboard menu high up on the back wall offers the day’s specials around the words “eat, drink and be merry.”
There’s a nice selection of the usual draft beers, including Coors Light ($4 regular) and Guinness ($6) along with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Angry Orchard Crisp Apple ($6).
Also on offer are classic cocktails. “Nothing fancy,” said Haug. “No umbrellas.”
What caught my eye was the root beer float ($8), a fun mix of Jeremiah Weed sarsaparilla whiskey and vanilla ice cream topped with Coke. It was frothy, sweet and reminiscent of days when root beer floats were more popular than smoothies, with a little kick to it. Who wouldn’t love that?
For pickle lovers looking for a cocktail, the Dirty Pickle (Grey Goose vodka with house-made pickle juice) might fill the bill (regular $9). Haug said she’s planning to offer a self-serve pickle juice dispenser down the line.
Other “Tap Room Tinis” are sweet — including a Wiki Wiki Tini (Ciroc pineapple, Malibu, Smirnoff vanilla and pineapple juice, $8) and coffee tini (RumChata, Kahlua coffee and Smirnoff vanilla).
The selection of “provisions,” as the menu calls them, is simple but hearty fare. Choose from several hoagie-style sandwiches ($8 to $9 regular price), which all come with crisp potato chips and fresh, house-made pickles. There’s the Cheesy Caprese, with pesto and thick-cut, fresh mozzarella, sausage and peppers; the Big Bird (shaved turkey breast and Muenster cheese) or The Little Piggy.
Maybe it was the name, but I gravitated toward The Little Piggy, stuffed with kalua pig, havarti cheese and caramelized onions. Then there’s the bacon cheeseburger dip ($8), a sort of deconstructed cheeseburger: ground meat and melted cheese in a bowl served with warm bread. For pupu, the Seoul Bowl offers the popular combination of kimchee-boiled peanuts with kalbi-glazed edamame.
Prices are pretty affordable overall, but even more attractive with an additional $1 off (including the cupcakes) during happy hour.
We welcomed the fried bacon strips, served on the house in a tall glass — a nice touch. They go great with that root beer float or a cold glass of Angry Orchard Crisp Apple cider beer.
So, overall you have an array of salty eats to contrast with sweets, and it works. By the way, I couldn’t resist ordering a cupcake or two.
In the works: a cupcakes and cocktails pairing event.
Bethel Street Tap Room is a place I would want to go to hang out with friends and have a good time. It’s fun, with a slightly different twist to food and drinks, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else the team brings to the menu. The cupcakes add a quirky, sweet touch to the whole experience.