Tap’d Ventura
546 E. Main St.

When I heard that space which housed Amigo’s Cantina, on Main St. in Ventura, was “Via con Dios,” I was curious what the next manifestation would bring. After months of much-needed remodeling the anticipation is over, and Tap’d, a cutting-edge craft beer and food establishment, has interactively brought new life to a prime downtown space.

Conceptualized by Sean Ardoin and Robert Washington — with help from Melvin Nunnery and Mark Covarrubias — this tech-forward take on the tap house is a unique and progressive approach. Patrons wishing to imbibe need only trade an ID for a “coin,” which magically unlocks any tap you choose and you simply pay by the ounce. Through some ridiculous set of algorithms the system is 99 percent accurate and 100 percent convenient. Modeled after the vastly popular open floor layout, Tap’d is basically a self-serve tap house that feels like an Apple store, except this Genius Bar offers beer … lots and lots of sumptuous beer. All varieties are represented, and the local line-up consists of the usual suspects — TopaTopa, MadeWest, Leashless and Ventura Coast Brewery. The row of tasty beverages isn’t the only feature at Tap’d however, as Chef Matt Burin brings a sophisticated and accessible approach to the menu.

Burin has a zestful passion for the culinary arts, and it pairs well with his confident friendliness. Hailing from Quebec, he toted down some authentic Great White North flavors to expand the palate of local gastropub culture.

One of these items is a favorite of mine — poutine. For those unversed, it’s a pile of fries underneath a melted blanket of Wisconsin white cheddar and lathered in turkey gravy (otherwise known to cardiologists as the “gravy train”). It’s one of those flavors that makes you appreciate being human.

Another curious creation that threw me a delicious curveball was the house-cut “ketchup” chips. A first rate interpretation of the popular Canadian comfort food, the flavors were pleasantly familiar to me, recalling my time spent exploring British Colombia and eating my fair share of the staple.

I next moved on to the German-style pretzel, because pairing it with my berliner weisse beer seemed more than obvious. The consistency of the dough was ideal, cooked to the point where it almost crumbled when torn, but then didn’t. Served with stone mustard and traditional cheese sauce, it is the classic vorspeise (vorsh-pie-zuh, German for appetizer) to devour with your family during the first quarter of the Rams game — Tap’d has multiple flat screens for your viewing pleasure.

In addition, the starter options at Tap’d include sliders (beef, chicken, shrimp or pulled pork), double-baked wings, a hefty portion of three bean nachos, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, beer-braised meatballs and the always “kid approved” chicken strips.

The second item I decided to explore was the Quebec flatbread, a solid take on the classic offering. Pillow-soft pizza dough cradles mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes, creating a combination of bold familiar flavors. I was impressed with the low acid marinara sauce, which, being Italian, is how I gauge the authenticity of such creations. I would recommend a side of caramelized balsamic onions as a topper; the sweet and salty presence pairs ideally with the mélange of meats.

Finally, having seen several pass by, I decided to indulge and order the signature “Tap’d” burger. It was a generous portion of every element involved, as the glistening half-pound patty was joined by Wisconsin cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, an extra-large onion ring and bookended by a bourbon-bacon jam smothered brioche bun. It was a glorious task of gluttony to which I readily obliged. The “Growler” burger is even more bananas, as Chef Burin doubles down on the patties and invites barbecue pulled pork to the party.

Other entrees that grace the menu are a trio of salads (a classic Caesar, a standard house and a balsamic prime rib), a roast beef dip, a portobello burger and the southern-influenced fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit. I plan on returning in the near future to scarf down the last offering.

Tap’d is a much welcomed addition to the burgeoning downtown Ventura scene, and should fare well due to the unique approach taken. So head down and experience craft beer and food 2.0, because the future is here … and it tastes damn good.