Restaurant Review: Atlas Tavern
Atlas Tavern set up shop on the ever-expanding Polaris Parkway development. It’s actually pretty close to the original mall, but tucked down a less-traveled street that runs along the east side of the shopping center. The tavern storefront occupies the first floor of a tall building with its own parking lot out front.
The most normal entrance to the tavern would probably involve walking in through a proper doorway. That said, the door is right next to a floor-to-ceiling opening to an outdoorsy dining area right next to the sidewalk. So it’s tempting to enter the establishment by walking between unoccupied tables in the open expanse. Either path leads guests to the front of the bar and more options for table-seating.
The menu is physically odd. It’s a mini clipboard with a leather cover. This might be somehow related to the Atlas theme, and there is also a mural of him with a giant mug of beer on his back. Perhaps the original Atlas had a thing for leather-covered clipboards. Beneath the floppy leather cover, the menu itself has some impressively fun elements, including lots of fries with random toppings and interesting-sounding sandwiches. It’s approachable without being mundane, it’s stuff you don’t just find everywhere. The execution of these offerings can be uneven, ranging from disappointing to awe-inspiring.
So, bad news first: The Great White North Fries (essentially poutine, $7:50) did not meet the table’s aspirations. The menu promises stout onion gravy, cheese curds, and fries. It delivers on these things, but the onion gravy was thin and (forgive me) mucus-like. It tastes like instant gravy and lacked the flavor, stout, onion or salt, to justify its existence and presence on otherwise respectable french fries.
With that out of the way, it’s worth noting that all can be forgiven by going directly to the Nachos. They come in 3 sizes. Something “small” sounded potentially disappointing, something described as “stupidly large” sounded intimidating, so that left the size in between those options ($11).
What arrived is, heretofore, the biggest platter of nachos witnessed on the entire planet. It’s built on a pizza tray, a giant pizza tray. Layers between the chips include: cheese melted directly on the chips, shredded lettuce, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and two standouts: 1) a cup of super meaty chilli. It was all good quality ground beef with just a few token beans. 2) a guac-chimichurri hybrid that should be bottled and sold for hoarding. The sauce has the smooth silkiness of traditional guacamole, and the aromatic spike of a good chimichurri.
All this to say, the whole french fry tragedy will be overlooked.
For those whose preferences run more toward sandwiches, theirs are made with locally-owned Lucky Cat Bakery buns. It’s a nice touch.
The burgers are super-tall with the Classic version ($10) offering a good-quality patty with muenster, mayo, ketchup, pickles, shredded crunchy lettuce and tomato. The beef blend is said to be fancy: sirloin, chuck and brisket. It’s a nice burger, but generally it’s hard to appreciate any fancy meat once it’s been ground into oblivion.
A couple of the chicken sandwiches stood out. Both are built on fresh-fried slabs of crunchy chicken. It’s not so much the chicken that makes them good options, it’s more how that chicken is teamed with condiments.
The Chicken Parmesan Hero ($10) comes in a long bun with a generous supply of marinara and melted mozzarella to tie the whole thing together.
The Southern Fried Chicken ($11) comes off as lighter option, as the poultry is teamed with thick cut pickles and a slaw that really adds something: it’s coarse cut and not too sweet, to let the rest of the flavors of the chicken, pickles and bacon jam have more play space.
The menu also offers a selection of wings with roughly a million sauces and salads. The Caesar Salad ($8.50) is generously portioned and delivers the requisite romaine, parmesan, croutons and garlicky dressing.
Beverage-wise, the full bar offers everything from Ohio-based beers on the draft list, to a lemonade made with Tito’s. The servers have been upbeat and friendly.
You’ll find it at 8944 Lyra Drive.
For more information, visit atlastavern.com.