9145 Narcoossee Road | 407-440-4594 | nonataproom.com | $
For a neighborhood teeming with doctors, upwardly mobile professionals and PGA Tour veterans, Lake Nona's dining options are appallingly limited. Nona Sushi has offered area residents a consistently good product for nearly five years, but there's been very little else for Lake Nona to boast about. Now, with the shiny new LaVina Marketplace on Narcoossee Road, things are looking up. There's an outpost of Tim's Wine Market, the 407 Café serving decent crepes, panini and gelato, and this week's featured boîte – Nona Tap Room. Every neighborhood needs a gathering place, and with all the brews on tap, NTR is the sort of watering hole where they're always glad you came. The good folks here are a welcoming lot, and no doubt that's one reason why the place gets packed most nights.
The quality pub grub and relatively intimate confines would be reasons No. 2 and 3. In this cozy yet airy space, high-tops are the primary mode of seating. From our perch, the line of 50 beer pulls came into clear view. Friends who live in the area joined us, and we had great fun downing drafts from Goose Island, Bell's, Lost Coast and Sweetwater, and almost as much pleasure sampling the bacon-wrapped, cream-cheese-stuffed jalapeño poppers ($7.49) and fat "fire-hot" wings ($8.49). When bar bites are done right, they make those sudsy pints all the better, don't they?
I was happy to see a focused list of taproom fare on their menu, and not just an endless list of the usual fair-to-middling mains. No, it's not gastropub-quality, but I wouldn't hesitate to order the Nona Tap Room burger ($9.99) again. The half-pounder is marinated in Guinness (not that the stout's flavor was detectable), loaded with the usual toppings (plus cheddar) and sandwiched between halves of a perfectly toasted bun. We opted for the side of thin-cut sweet potato chips, but they were too overdone for our liking. The regular chips were far better, which we sampled alongside the chicken Philly sandwich ($9.49), a ho-hum hoagie notable only for its doughy roll. A proper-thick patty on the turkey burger ($9.49) with provolone and plenty of avocado was cause for praise, not to mention another round of beer. Specials, such as blackened mahi fish tacos ($8.99), are listed on a flat screen near the bar – though we wouldn't exactly advocate for their permanent place on the menu. They were, as one of our guests put it, "good enough." Same goes for the desserts – both the red velvet cake and the cinnamon-sticky monkey bread ($5.49) proffered the requisite cap of sugar.
Ultimately, it's the monthly rotation of brews that keeps Lake Nona residents coming back. Not surprisingly, NTR has a beer club that awards members a pint glass after downing 50 (different) beers, and a personalized plaque and T-shirt after 100. When 2010 U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell's Nona Blue Modern Tavern opens March 15 just a mile down the road, its promised 16 beers on tap will surely draw dwellers in Medical City to its posh environs. But judging from Nona Tap Room's devoted following, a draft proposal will need to be tabled before they're lured away.
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