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Claire Jeffers

Claire Jeffers is a freelance writer living in Portland, Maine. Follow her on Twitter: @claireeats

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Posted: May 31, 2016

The new Somerset Tap House at Whole Foods Market is surprisingly awesome

Written by: Claire Jeffers
Somerset Tap House

Somerset Tap House at Whole Foods in Portland Claire Jeffers photo

Somerset Tap House at Whole Foods Market has been open for almost two months, and one thing’s for sure – grocery shopping will never have to be the same again.

The idea is genius. Take a spacious, light-filled portion of a popular natural foods grocery chain and transform it into a stylish American restaurant and bar. Include local beer on tap, traditional pub food (with a kids’ menu), outdoor seating and a few TVs – and the notion of barreling through busy aisles of farm fresh greens and organic blueberries to excavate the last ripe avocado doesn’t seem quite as bad anymore. At the very least, you can sit back and relax in a tranquil place after a stressful shopping marathon, or have a reason to visit Whole Foods without a shopping list.

Situated where the Whole Foods juice bar and café used to be, Somerset Tap House is the first full-service restaurant for the national chain, with about 60 seats (including 15 at the bar), a wait staff and a general manager.

One mission of this new pub is provide patrons with plenty of local craft beer, also Maine-made kombucha and soda, as well as gluten-free and non-alcoholic options.

Twenty-four beers are on tap, all listed clearly on a large board above the bar; in addition to the name and price of each beer ($3.50-$10), the board includes each beer’s ABV (alcohol by volume) and how many miles from Somerset Tap House the beer or brew was made. For example, Maine Beer Co.’s Lunch IPA is listed as “15.3 miles from here,” Smuttynose is 63.5 miles, and Urban Farm Fermentory’s Ginger Kombucha is a mere 0.5 miles.

The menu at Somerset Tap House has no complicated dishes to wade through. Instead, it’s packed with items like lobster rolls, fish ‘n’ chips and burgers. Even the wines are described by simple tasting notes such as, “youthful ripe red berry, full bodied” for the Chateau de Campuget Rose ($7 glass and $18 bottle) and “light citrus, crisp acidity; refreshing” for the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde ($6 glass and $15 bottle). (Wines by the glass range from $6 to $10.)

Four TVs remain on low or mute, and elegant glass orb and gaslight pendants create a fresh space where you’ll want to take friends or meet for a drink. There’s a “Buy a Buddy a Beer” board, which is a little corny but adds to the easygoing nature of the place. You can write a friend’s name on the board and the beer you’d like to buy for them – a good way to get people to interact with Somerset Tap House like a true modern-day pub.

The restaurant has already hosted some tap takeovers, and plans to do more, and the staff is eager to seat people on the patio as the weather warms.

So, the next time you go to write your shopping list, put Somerset Tap House at the top. Welcome to grocery shopping in the 21st century.

Somerset Tap House

WHERE: 2 Somerset St., Portland
PHONE: 774-7711
HOURS: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day
AMENITIES: Four TVs, natural light, table service, outdoor seating, “Buy a buddy a beer” board, clean restroom, easy-to-read menus, professional restaurant staff, Whole Foods Market available for all your grocery needs.
PARKING: Whole Foods parking lot
BOTTOM LINE: The Somerset Tap House at Whole Foods Market in Portland is the pilot pub restaurant for the natural foods giant. Located where the juice and coffee bar used to be, Somerset Tap House has modern look, graspable menus, 24 taps featuring local beer, $8 flights, gluten-free options, soups, snacks, salads and entrees, as well as food and drinks for kids. Incredibly convenient (especially if you’re doing your grocery shopping), spacious and broadly appealing, this trial run has a good chance of sticking around.

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