Rochester Tap Room offers beer galore and unique dishes

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Rochester – — It may be located in a strip mall, but the owners of the Rochester Tap Room hope the dozens of craft draft beers and super fresh menu items make it stand out in the suburban landscape.

Opening Thursday, the Rochester Tap Room was conceptualized by veterans in the industry. Co-owner Missy Markevics, a beer expert on her way to being a cicerone, used to be a partner at Penny Black in Rochester. Her partners at Tap Room include former manager at Great Baraboo Brewing Co. Mike LaBranche and chef Travis Waynick who has worked with Matt Prentice Restaurant Group and Andiamo Restaurants.

Besides the 60 craft beers and ciders on tap, the Prohibition-era-themed bar also has 100 wines and a cocktail menu. Most of the beer list is Michigan brands, as are several of the spirits used. An informative menu on an interactive tablet allows diners to browse the offerings, look at ingredients, check pricing and see what wine or beer pairs well with each dish Chef Waynick has crafted up.

"People are going to get comfortable food done in a unique way," said Waynick, who focuses on freshness. "We do everything in-house, we smoke the salmon in-house. I don't buy food, I buy ingredients."

Some of his signature dishes are maple duck confit sliders, coconut chicken and waffles, a smoked salmon plate and ale steamed mussels, as well as his spin on more accessible "bar food" type dishes like aged cheddar tater tots and chicken wings. There are also the standards of salads, burgers, and pizza. During weekend brunch you'll find a Caprese omelet, red velvet pancakes (those have been popping up a lot lately, it seems) and shakshuka, a northern African dish of poached eggs. There's also a children's menu that comes with free dessert.

One of Waynick's unique dishes shows his rebellious side. Not Your Mama's PB&J is a deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bacon jam, almond butter, macerated berries and freshly toasted baguette. During menu tryouts, partners and other advisers kept scratching it off the menu, but Waynick quietly insisted. It's likely to be one of the most popular menu items.

The 6,000-square-foot space, located at 6870 Rochester next to Papa Joe's Gourmet Market, is decorated in with reclaimed wood (and drywall painted to look like reclaimed wood), black metal, black leathery table tops and the walls are adorned with framed photos that depict 1930s America.

All guests get free aged cheddar tots on opening day, Thursday, as well as Friday. On Saturday, the first 100 guests get a $10 gift card good for a future visit.