First Look: Tap 65, self-serve taproom with global cuisine, opens later this month

It should tell you something about the soon-to-open Tap 65 that owner Rick Patel wanted the design to be “as Instagrammable as possible”—a goal successfully met by the new Mid City spot’s interactive décor. Walls in trendy emerald teal are covered in big, naturalist-style images of plants, animals—and the occasional body part—perfect fodder for posing and posting. Stand next to the elephant in its own shadow box, or the king cobra, tiger, flamingo or hops-stuffed skull.

The bathrooms, festooned in avian wallpaper, are a selfie playground, as are the beer walls with 65 self-serve craft beer taps complete with digital descriptions. The menu is all about Indian-inspired elevated pub grub. And we haven’t even gotten to the splashy bar or craft cocktail menu. What a place to find yourself when it’s time to BeReal.

Patel, who opened Mid Tap in Arlington Marketplace three years ago, had a very specific notion of what he wanted to accomplish with Tap 65, which opens June 29 in Square 46 on Government Street. The craft beer options are vast and varied, and the self-serve system in which patrons access taps with a “beer card,” allows patrons to sip and sample away. Sours, IPAs, wheats, shandies and more comprise the roster, and the sheer number of different styles makes the place a playground for beer snobs. But it’s also intended to be fun and accessible, with servers helping novices figure out the DIY experience.

Tap 65’s decor was intended to be shareable and attention grabbing, says owner Rick Patel.
Access Tap 65’s craft brew taps with a beer card. A glass washing station cleans your glass each time.

One thing that Patel says he learned from Mid Tap is that while Baton Rouge might dig craft beer, it doesn’t love it so much that a place can dismiss other intoxicants from the user experience. In other words, you’re perfectly welcome at Tap 65 if beer’s not your thing.

Wines are taken seriously, with a rotating list of 40 or so selected to pair with the global menu and whatever season we find ourselves in here in south Louisiana (you know, hot or extra hot).

Cocktails also get top billing, with nearly two dozen original creations on the rotating cocktail menu. Many of them incorporate Indian spirits or tropical ingredients. As for food, the menu features starters and entrees that are heavily in the Indian space, while also flirting with other global cuisines, Patel says.

Tap 65’s Butter Chicken Masala served with an Indian lager.

“At our heart, we’re a taproom that’s going to be serving really nice food with Indian influences, that incorporate different cultures like Cuban, Latin American and Korean to give ourselves a different flair,” Patel says.

For example, head chef Larry Warren prepares Indian-influenced papa rellenas, a mashed potato ball made here with either paneer and vegetables for a vegetarian option, or seasoned lamb. The balls are deep-fried to golden brown and served on a mildly spicy sauce and topped with yogurt cilantro chutney and kachumber, an Indian salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers. It’s great with an Indian lager like Kingfisher or Flying Horse, Patel says, two brands that are sold by the bottle.

Elsewhere on the menu, diners find dishes like butter chicken masala with buttery fried naan, chicken wings with Indian-inspired sauces and charcuterie boards that feature either standard options, or Indian street food like cocktail-sized samosas, vegetarian and meat pani puri, spicy cashews, fried okra and other items. Another dish, the “biting basket” features crunchy puffed snacks made of garam flour and served with two chutneys, cilantro mint yogurt and tamarind date.

Tap 65’s Dressed to Empress cocktail made with Empress Gin.
Tap 65’s wing flavors include Buffalo, bang bang and chili mango.

Patel, a native of southern California and a former accountant, moved to Baton Rouge with his wife in 2009. His cousin was living here at the time, he says, adding that the city seemed like the kind of place where the couple could pursue their goal of entrepreneurship.

“I came out and just sort of fell in love with it,” Patel says. “People are super nice, and it just sort of hit home that this was where we wanted to be.”

They bought Subway restaurants, and later opened Mid Tap, fulfilling a personal dream of owning a restaurant. The new Tap 65 gives them the chance to push their ideas further with a broader menu of dishes, many of which stem from family recipes.

Tap 65’s team includes general manager Chris Swanson, owner Rick Patel and executive chef Larry Warren.
Tap 65’s patio includes ample covered seating.

They also like the idea of creating a drinking destination in Mid City, Patel says.

“We always wanted to be in Mid City,” Patel says. “This is the clientele we’re shooting for and the perfect part of town to be in. The improvements on Government Street are really special.”

In keeping with Baton Rouge’s adoration for patio dining, Tap 65 has generous outdoor seating with a full covered patio on the west end of the establishment and tables under party lights lining the front facing Government Street.

Tap 65 is at 515 Mouton St. It will be open seven days a week and will serve brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, find it on Instagram at @tap65br.