Lost in the Tap House Grill
The cavernous space that used to contain Planet Hollywood now holds Seattle's Tap House Grill. What it's doing there, according to its tagline: "Giving beer the respect it deserves," with 160 varieties dispensed from behind a serpentine bar. The taps, in a lengthy double row, gleam as if they never have been and never will be used; it looks almost wrong when beer comes out of them. Far overhead hang 28 copper panels, a design decision that telegraphs both corporate luxe and an aspect of the guillotine. If the Tap House Grill feels familiar, you may have been to its 5-year-old sibling at the Galleria in Bellevue. Or you may have been to Fox Sports Grill, nearly next door, eerily similar in liminal subterranean feel. Or you may have been to an upscale/casual restaurant/bar at a casino: The blandishments of both grills are reminiscent of Vegas, minus the insistent chirping of slot machines. At both Fox Sports and Tap House, there's the sensation that time has stopped, that you should never—or may never be able to—leave.
Despite the beer/respect mission, the Tap House Grill seems all too aware that its expense-account/tourist demographic is largely lager-dependent and taste-averse. Beers like Nostradamus, Delirium Tremens, even Chimay Triple are relegated to an "Honor Society" list with a challenge and warning: "Are you worthy? Are you ready for the next level of beer appreciation?... Not for the faint of heart." A "World Tour" sampler ("awesome tasting brews from around the globe... our favorites") was diametrically opposed to adventurous, a journey with four pale specimens of familiar flavor—Kirin Ichiban, Fuller's ESB, Krušovice, and Hofbräu Original ("at home everywhere in the world," with Hofbräuhaus locations in Munich, Kentucky, and Las Vegas). The Kirin was a peculiar substitute for another beer they were out of: a Polish porter, Okocim, which might have been dark and rich and had something to say for itself. To accompany it all: the type of multifarious menu that promises something for everyone—steak, sushi, ribs, fish 'n' chips, spicy jambalaya linguine.
At one table, a man mentioned, casually, his private plane, then said, "Yeah, you get hammered, pass out for a couple hours, wake up and have a few more." In what would be a corner lounge if the room had any corners, five businessmen loosened up together, backed by a cushy crimson-upholstered wall. Amid broadcasts of every possible kind of sport, one television rebelliously played an infomercial for a device called My Lil' Reminder.