3812 Ray Street, North Park
There’s a new shop in North Park called California Tap Room, and it makes excellent use of water, yeast, and grain. But maybe not the way you’d expect. This tap room isn’t specifically in the beer business. It makes pretzels. Big, hot, soft pretzels. The kind we usually associate with ball games, carnivals, and mall food courts. Or, if you’re a worldly pretzel eater, biergartens in Germany.
Whatever your favorite soft-pretzel memory, the Tap Room can probably accommodate it. They offer four styles of hand-rolled pretzels ranging from four to six bucks. The New York style is your basic, crispy on the outside/chewy on the inside treat. Thicker ropes of dough are used to make the Philly style, which ends up being softer and fluffier. German styles make an appearance, too. The Bavarian pretzels are bigger, with twisted ropes and a little sweetness. The Munich leaves sweetness out of the recipe, resulting in something more akin to sourdough.
If you want to go sweet, add a buck and get your pretzel dressed with cinnamon and sugar. Otherwise you can choose between light and heavy salt or something in between. So if you like a lot of rock salt on your pretzel, go nuts.
Each pretzel comes with a side of cheddar sauce for dipping. There’s a little green chili kick in there, and a little IPA as well — usually courtesy of the neighboring Mike Hess brewery. Or go with several kinds of mustard. By the way, since these pretzels are made with olive oil instead of butter, they can be considered vegan.
As of this writing, the tap is missing from California Tap Room — they are still waiting on a beer license. Draught beer will elevate the business. Even without that, I found plenty to enjoy with the Philadelphia and Munich pretzels. The texture of the Philly style won me over, while the slightly more savory Munich played beautifully with the cheddar sauce — which is about a hundred times better than Cheez Whiz.
As great as they look and taste, it’s probably going too far to call pretzels artisan, as they do on their website. But these are as good as I’ve ever eaten, even without butter, and an ideal snack for beer-friendly North Park.