Note: This article was meant to be accompanied by photographs but the shots I took were so awful that you, dear reader, do not deserve to have them inflicted upon you. Trust me.
It’s a sad fact that at this point in my life I prefer coffee shops to bars. Not because I suddenly crave the company of self-important anorectics hardwired into their MacBook pros, but because in a coffee shop one may enjoy a drink in relative peace. The loudest thing you’re likely to hear is light jazz and the soft tap of a keyboard as someone in a turtleneck writes bad poetry about the pale, distant girl who left them when their sweater went out of style
In contrast, for relaxation, most pubs are on par with the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The walls are lined with televisions, each displaying a different channel and they compete for your attention with the Keno machine and Sirius satellite radio. In the evening, a band comprised of the bartender's cousins sets up in the corner with their amplifiers set to "Crush, Kill, Destroy" and commence to playing "Sweet Home Alabama" with all the melody of two planets crashing into one another.
The West Coast Tap House, in Langford’s Sheraton Four Points Hotel, certainly didn’t change my mind on the subject. Oh, it’s clean, and the food is very good, but it suffers from the same level of television fetishism found only in modern bars and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.
My wife Nicky & I arrived shortly after two o’clock and the place was nearly empty. We took a bench seat near the wall and when a server found us ordered a soda for her and a coffee for me. Being that this was a bar, a “tap house” no less, a beer would have been preferable but I was driving and recent changes to B.C.’s drunk driving laws make it possible to have your vehicle seized if you get into your car after so much as reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
When it came time to order we decided to jump in at the deep end with the "Barn Door Wings" ($12), peanut butter and honey style. Yes, I know how it sounds and believe me, it looks worse, but by God they were good. They were more bone-in chunks of chicken than wings but the skin was crispy and somehow the thick, creamy peanut butter coating complemented it rather than making me ill.
Afterward our waitress came to collect the plate and a funny thing happened – when she asked how our meal was, she actually seemed interested in what we had to say. Certainly the place wasn't busy, but in most restaurants that kind of question is asked on autopilot regardless of how many customers are waiting. You could answer "It tasted like the night we drove old Dixie down" and the only response you'd get would be a vacant smile as Robyn or Jeff mentally composed their next tweet. Our waitress at the Tap House was a pleasant exception and worth mentioning.
While the service was friendly, each meal seemed to take far longer than necessary to come out of the kitchen and since there were only two other tables occupied, the delay was hard to justify. At the very least our waitress kept us in coffee and soda.
Eventually my burger arrived. I had chosen “JJ’s Hot Jalapeno Bacon Burger” ($15), an eight-ounce patty “infused with hickory bacon, loose chorizo, pancetta and fresh jalapenos”. The price included “The Red”, one of the Tap House’s signature “Scoop” toppings, normally a $3 extra. “The Red” has Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Jalapeno and house made red chili sauce. For a side the Tap House offers not only the usual suspects like fries and salad, but edamame as well. Granted, it’s a $2.50 addition, bringing the whole package to $17.50, but given the size of the burger it was nice to have a lighter option as a side.
The bun was piled high with lettuce, tomato and onion. It all looked like a mess waiting to happen and sure enough, once I put the package together enough vegetation tumbled out to keep a family of vegans supplied with self-satisfaction for an entire week. Suddenly I knew why the meal had taken so long to reach the table – the chef had been busily denuding every farmer’s field within 60 miles. After being pruned, it was still an impressive work, filling and spicy, but not worth $15.
Infusing the patty with goodies like pancetta and chorizo seems like a grand idea but I’d rather have them placed on top. It could help to avoid unpleasant things such as biting into a hard chunk of ground fat roughly the size of a pea. My only complaint against the edamame was that the spent husks started to get in the way after a while, and a bowl to place them in would have been convenient.
The West Coast Tap House is a decent pub that happens to have the misfortune of being in Langford, a suburb so devoid of soul that James Brown records refuse to play. It’s worth stopping by if you happen to be in the neighbourhood but I don’t know that there’s enough to draw residents of downtown on a regular basis. Except the peanut butter wings. Stop looking at me like that and try them.
Website for "West Coast Tap House"
Website for "West Coast Tap House"