First Taste

New RoRo Joint Tap That Downtown Is Like Being Buzzed at West Elm

It's like being in a West Elm showroom with alcohol.
It's like being in a West Elm showroom with alcohol. Lauren Cusimano
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Sip, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Restaurant: Tap That Downtown
Location: 909 North Fifth Street
Eats/drinks: Beer, wine, and bar bites
Open: About four months
Price: $$
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, noon to 2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

You can’t just open a bar and eatery on Roosevelt Row anymore. In a neighborhood that's already saturated with food and drink options, your spot has to have an angle. What about 35 self-serve spouts of craft beers and some wines? Tap That Downtown is giving it a try.

This beer-and-wine joint, opened in December, occupies a literal house on Fifth Street just south of Roosevelt Street. It’s easy to miss, surrounded by high-energy hangouts: a live reading at Lawn Gnome Publishing, a guy played amplified harmonica tunes at Bud’s Glass Joint, music coming from Taco Chelo. But once you spot Tap That, you realize there’s a different vibe.

click to enlarge A pour of the Arizona Angel Aritage White. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
A pour of the Arizona Angel Aritage White.
Lauren Cusimano
Inside, it's all smooth wood, house plants, gold and black fixtures, and exposed brick. It's polished, like sitting around a West Elm showroom.

Here's how it works: Head for the cashier. He or she will give you a fob (they call it RFID) and a spiel about procedure. Hand over your ID and a credit card, and you get 32 ounces on your fob. No, you don’t have to drink all 32 ounces (for instance, there are 25 fluid ounces in a standard bottle of wine.) You can check out long before then or put more credit on the fob if you plan on staying a while.

The self-pour draft system in the back is equipped with “iPourIt technology.” Options include Sol Oatmeal Stout from neighbor Greenwood Brewing Co., Sangin Sangria from Cider Corps, and the Arizona Angel Aritage White. The digital face of the spout lets you know a few details about the beverage and how much is left in the tank. Snag a fresh glass, buffet style, from a shelf by the row of spouts. Touch your fob. The thing turns green. Now you’re free to pour.

Good things about our experience: The server brought us ice waters and complimentary seasoned pretzels without us asking. The staff is helpful in explaining their system and where the bathrooms are (around the corner from the back patio), the outside seating was especially nice against Fifth Street, and there’s a great lockup area for bikes.

We must file our gripes as well. There are three large tables set right against the 35 spigots, so if you try to sit there, people checking out the taps will be right up against you. Like, right up against you. In the COVID era — heck, in any era — it’s not fun to feel your hair move as people mill around behind your back. We bumped into no less than two people just escaping to the patio.

The 35 taps could also offer a few more local choices (though we fully understand they rotate). The majority of beers appear to be from California, even though Arizona has an absolute shit ton of craft beer options. And only five wine choices, with just one of those from Arizona? Why?

Finally, let’s bump these lights down. Some of those puck lights were glaringly bright. A few spots made us feel like we needed golf visors.

click to enlarge Recommended for a cozy, after-work hang or small, company happy hour. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Recommended for a cozy, after-work hang or small, company happy hour.
Lauren Cusimano
There is food here, too: flatbreads and pretzel boards, soups, salads, wings, mac and cheese entrees, and Korean tacos.

Checking out was a snap. No one was surprised how we hardly reached even the quarter mark of the 32-ounce allotment. But we still had a nice buzz going.

Our verdict: We recommend Tap That Downtown for a cozy, after-work hang or small company happy hour. It’s roomy, pleasant, and sans the hard stuff. While it might not fit in with a night of high-energy bar hopping on RoRo, it does well for itself on a weekday evening.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano