Fountain of youth

Beer and wine bar lets Winter Park's grown-ups feel young again

Fountain of youth
Jason Greene


Winter Park Village
480 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park

It may seem a tad ironic that 40- and 50-somethings would come to a place called “Taps” to feel alive, but they do – at least until 10 p.m., when their inner bugles sound “lights out” and a stream of 20-somethings floods in to close the joint. But irony doesn’t seem to be uppermost in the minds of the Beemer-driving imbibers who pay regular visits to Winter Park Village’s latest watering hole.

Situated across from Mitchell’s Fish Market, Taps is equal parts raucous taproom and trendy wine bar. We immediately warmed to the more tranquil side, furnished with cowhide ottomans and chocolate-brown banquettes – industrial, trendy and, with the exception of the Dali and Klimt prints flanking the big flat-screen, unpretentious. Young servers scurried about in black shorts and T-shirts – they may not be the most knowledgeable (the menu was described as “healthyish”), but they’re good-natured and quick to get answers to questions about which they have no clue. It took a few attempts to secure a North Coast Old Rasputin ($6) – they were out of most other Russian imperial stouts – but they do offer a robust selection of wines by the glass or half-glass, including a 2006 Silver Oak cab for a respectable $11.

Lush libations in hand, the next order of business was to pick from the bevy of starters and appetizers. The menu is small-plate-heavy – no surprise, considering Taps is more bar than restaurant – but salads and sandwiches also find their way onto the bill of fare.

We craved comfort, and the baked mac & cheese ($8), a small serving with fontina, Asiago and white cheddar, did just that – right through the layers of panko and crispy prosciutto. Baked meatballs ($10) were a tad heavy on the black pepper, but the thick San Marzano sauce and dollop of Romano cheese had us thinking that the kitchen was well in order. That is, until we waited a good 40 minutes for a sandwich and a salad to arrive. The explanation given was that a broken oven led to the backup. Luckily, Taps isn’t the sort of place you feel rushed to leave. When the lemon-roasted salmon salad ($12) did finally arrive, we were discouraged to see just one measly spear of asparagus, and disappointed that none of the advertised artichoke hearts made their way onto the plate. It was a well-portioned piece of salmon, but it amounted to a big slab of fish on a bed of lettuce. As far as sandwiches go, the chipotle-apricot barbecue chicken ($10) with avocado on grilled ciabatta would’ve been more enjoyable had it been lunchtime, so I finished it off the next day. On a subsequent visit to Taps, smoky guacamole ($9) with stale chips, boring roast beef sliders au jus ($10) and overly spicy Buffalo chicken lettuce wraps ($10) completely underwhelmed me. And they were still out of most Russian imperial stouts.

Desserts accentuate decadence over delicacy – a perfectly good chocolate lava cake ($9) was satisfying but didn’t wow us, while Belgian waffles ($9) with Nutella, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream was more novelty than confectionery. Despite the duds, it appears that Taps will settle into their Winter Park Village digs and make a go of it. If anything, the area’s grown-ups are sure to trumpet their cause.