Quebecois couple Dan Lagueux and Valerie Vanasse invite you over for poutine. They’ve made their native comfort food — french fries topped with gravy — for their friends many times but now have ample parking and dining space for 100.
With a menu built around this “come over for dinner” idea, New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett) is the married pair’s first restaurant, a place for entertaining. Sports bar fans and lounge-goers will be at home here, but it’s properly identified as “a tavern, first and foremost,” Lagueux said. And though that word has a seedy reputation that conjures images of dark, murky basements, the actual definition is far from, he said.
“It means a more open place, actually; all it really means is ‘gathering place,’” he said.
The Tap House is aptly named, with 48 taps and a wall display of the kegs in a cabinet. The open room filled with high seating and booths large enough for eight to 10 people has a “pints and discussion” atmosphere, as Lagueux calls it, and the beer selection alienates no one, covering the well-known — Guinness, Budweiser, Stella Artois — and connoisseurs’ favorites — Rouge, Wells & Youngs, Oskar Blues. A back dining area is sectioned off only by a half wall so diners have a good view of the open kitchen and its wood-fired grills, rotisseries and smokers.
“The poutine is a personal touch for us; we’ve always liked when people have their own recipes and prepare them,” Lagueux said of the menu. “Since we’ve always liked to entertain, we wanted to have a little bit of everything.”
The Canadian dish ($9) is pomme frites topped with Parmesan cheese, black truffle oil, cheese curd and jalapeno and can be made into a meal with roasted chicken. Also on the starters menu are smoked meatballs topped with Gouda and marinara and Roman bread crostini ($9).
The majority of the menu features New American classic comfort foods: salads, sandwiches and six types of wood-fired, half-pounder burgers, all on fresh baked breads and buns, served with fries or blue cheese potato salad.
“We want the feeling of a backyard barbecue and sports bar, but not overbearing on each. We’re planning to add a lunch menu and a live pizza station soon to offer more options,” Lagueux said.
He and a food consultant developed the entrees, dishes like a beer-brined rotisserie half chicken, topped with barbecue sauce or lemon herb seasoning, with cornbread stuffing ($14), drunken glazed pork medallions doused with bourbon barbecue sauce and sides of bacon maque choux and polenta ($15) and their own 14-ounce dry rub hanger steak ($18.50).
Come warmer seasons, Lagueux and Vanasse, who source local beers like White Birch and Smuttynose, said they plan to source local food too.
The Tap House is an extension of entertaining and basement beer fests Lageaux has been throwing at his house for years — he and Vanasse actually met at one of those events. But it’s also a realization of a dream, he said, after years in the granite countertop business.
“It’s a good way of living, by constantly reinventing, but part of it was me tired of being a hypocrite. We have a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old and you tell them you should be what you want; I was happy, but I was not fulfilled,” he said. “Now I am both.”