Taproot Cider House
We go to a lot of breweries. Seriously, it seems like there’s a new one popping up all the time and they always have such great food, so we seek out breweries when we travel.
J doesn’t like beer quite as much as I do. We’ve been pretty fortunate lately in that many breweries are either doing hard cider or partnering with someone to have it available on tap. J likes hard cider like I like beer, so she’s always excited to try new things.
We woke up Saturday morning in Traverse City and had to be out of our hotel room at 11:00. J gave B a nap while L and I played games on her iPad in an attempt to keep the room dark enough and quiet enough for B to sleep. When he woke up, we loaded up the car and headed out on our day of fun before heading to Great Wolf Lodge.
J and the kids ate breakfast at the hotel. I chose to sleep the extra 40 minutes or so that they were gone. When we left the hotel, I asked about lunch. J said she was hungry and I had a place picked out in downtown Traverse City that I knew she was going to love.
Taproot Cider House is on the corner of Front and Park Street in the main downtown business district of Traverse City. The restaurant is in an easy to miss corner of the Radio Centre Development that turned an old gas station into a multi-use building in the heart of downtown Traverse City.
Easy to miss? Yes. Easy to miss. Not the building itself but Taproot is a little hidden. There is no visible signage on the facade of the building other than some square metal plates with the logo that sort of blend in to the building.
The entrance and exterior sign is underneath kind of a weird little cutout on the corner of the building. We actually drove by it once and were about to a second time when I noticed the “T” that blends into the building pretty well.
There’s a municipal parking ramp right next to the building, but we got lucky and found street parking on the Park Street side of the building. The Women’s March was about an hour away from holding their Traverse City sister march so parking was starting to get hard to find. We must have just lucked out when we found a spot on the street.
Taproot was a European cafe in it’s previously life, so it looks like the owners had some serious work to do the place. They call their restaurant “earth-to-table” and that’s true for pretty much everything in the store.
The take the taproot theme and run with it throughout the building. There’s an actual taproot from a nearby orchard above the bar and there furniture is made by a local metal artist. Even the light fixtures get into the mix with roots coming out from the fixture.
The restaurant had just opened when we walked in a little after 11:00 AM. A hostess saw us come through the door, which has a black curtain between it and the dining room to block the light from coming in, and showed us to a table near the back of the space. She left menus and went to get a high chair from the corner which liked like even it had been crafted by a skilled metal worker.
J was in restaurant heaven. Taproot has over a dozen Michigan hard ciders on tap. They have a couple craft beer selections as well, but even I found something I wanted to try. We sort of reversed rolls here and it was J who ordered the flight while I stuck to a single glass of something that sounded good. I didn’t write down the cider’s that J ordered, but the flight consisted of four 2-3 oz pours of each. She finished those four off before our food got to the table, so she ordered another four. It’s not every day she gets to partake in a flight and they had so many ciders on tap that she hadn’t tried yet.
I ordered the Taproot Madagascar Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Aged cider. Of course I’m not going to pass up anything that has spent time in bourbon barrels. J actually ordered this one too. While I thought the bourbon barrel taste was subtle on this dry cider, J thought it was much more pronounced. It was there and it was subtly delicious, but I didn’t find it to be as strong as I would have liked it. I have no regrets ordering this one though as it actually was incredibly tasty.
Heck, even L got in on the cider thing. At first she just ordered water, but J asked if she’d rather have a (non-alcoholic) Cider with her lunch and she said yes. I’m not really big on apple juice or apple cider, but L said I should try it so I did….and it was damn good.
We started with an appetizer which is not something we do often. J was going to order a salad but still wanted fries, so she got the House Fries off the “grazing” menu for the table. I didn’t pay close attention to the description when we ordered. When they were set down in front of us, they had a familiar, but unique color to them. These fries weren’t fried. They were baked. I used to do that all the time with fries and they were so good.
The Michigan russet potatoes are “fire baked” then topped with Gorgonzola and served alongside a chipotle aioli for dipping. Baked fries have such a unique taste to them. The skin that was still on the fries was crispy and the middle were just soft and steamy. There wasn’t a lot of Gorgonzola on the fries, but there was enough to keep going back for more. I had more coming with my sandwich, so I let J and L really have it with this appetizer plate.
J chose the Traverse City Salad. This large plate of local greens comes topped with dried cherries, ginger candied pecans, apple slices, red onion (she asked to leave off), and a cherry vinaigrette served on the side. It doesn’t really matter that it’s the middle of winter, this is a perfect fall salad and it’s one of J’s favorites. Traverse City produces such great fruits and vegetables it’s great to see someone take advantage of that. There wasn’t much left on her plate when she was done and it was a salad she talked about all weekend.
I passed on the Taproot Burger because there was too much stuff on it that I wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t a hard decision though. My replacement was the Cubano and once it was set down in front of me, even J thought it looked good.
This spin on a traditional Cuban sandwich starts with a house made baguette that is filled with cider braised pork shoulder, pickles, Swiss cheese, and a whole-grain dijon mustard. I pulled a little of the pork off the sandwich for J to try and for B who has been loving pulled pork lately. Once that was taken care of, I smashed the bread down as much as I could and tried to get the whole thing in my mouth. The bread kind of dominated this sandwich which is necessarily a bad thing, but I really wanted more of the delicious pork flavor to shine through. I think maybe pressing the sandwich like a traditional Cuban would be beneficial. I would still order this again in a heartbeat. Everything from the bread down to the pickles was amazing.
There is a small kids menu and we gave L her choice for lunch. She wanted a grilled cheese….which they don’t have, but seemed happy with the cheese pizza. The small pizza is hand tossed and baked in a brick oven. There are some pretty good combos for the adults, but for the kids, it’s a simple, but incredibly flavorful, red sauce and mozzarella cheese pizza. J and I ended up eating half because getting L to eat is a struggle most of the time. I wasn’t too upset she didn’t eat it all. It was something I was left wanting more of.
We kind of went a little overboard on this lunch, but J was really excited about the cider flights and we were all excited about the food. The total bill came out to a little under $70 which is really expensive for lunch, but we did order quite a bit of food and drink. I’m not saying it’s outrageously priced. I’m saying, we ordered a lot and everything that went in to our mouths was so flavorful and so amazing that I didn’t really feel bad dropping that much on lunch. Good food is worth paying the price for….and the food at Taproot is great.