Our Gourmet: More pub than French cafe but still très bienSeptember 18. 2018 8:01PM
Taverne on the Square2 Pleasant St., Claremont; 287-4416; www.taverneonthesquare.com
Hours: Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday until 10 p.m.
Pricing: Sunday Brunch dishes $9-$13; appetizers & salads $6-$12; sandwiches & burgers $10-$14; entrees $12-$25.
One of the things we like most about this job is that it gets us out to explore places we’ve never visited before. With nothing on our schedule on a recent Saturday, Mrs. Gourmet and I decided to take a road trip.
A visit to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site has been on our to-do list for the longest time, so we set the GPS for Cornish and hit the road.
It was a perfect day in the Upper Valley, and after we roamed the grounds, taking in the scenery and the great sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ works, home and studio, we headed down the road to Claremont for some sustenance.
Taverne on the Square had jumped out at me in my exhaustive pre-trip research for its location, promising ambience and a casual and inviting menu.
Situated on Opera House Square in the circa-1860 Oscar Brown Building, the Taverne’s interior boasts high ceilings, lots of exposed brick with flecks of paint here and there that speak to more than a century of use and reuse, and touches of French decor that point to the owners’ background in France (which is mentioned, but not really described, on the restaurant’s website).
Arriving in mid-afternoon, we could have chosen lunch or dinner. We opted for lunch, but added some appetizers to get a broader sense of the menu. There are more French touches in the decor than on the menu, which, with burgers, sandwiches, steak, seafood and barbecue, is more American pub than French cafe.
Both of our appetizers had an accent, but neither was French.
My appetizer was the Rangoon Dip ($11). Now, I’m not a big fan of Crab Rangoon, because almost every version I’ve ever had has been more cream cheese than crab. That wasn’t the case here. This was a smooth, creamy dip that was, above all, crab, garnished with chopped scallions and a great sweet and spicy red pepper jelly that was a perfect complement. Served with lightly fried wonton wrappers, this was a fantastic appetizer that I would order again. And again.
Mrs. G chose the Spicy Chicken Egg Rolls ($11). A heartier app than the Rangoon dip, these hefty egg rolls were packed with shredded chicken, black beans, corn, salsa and shredded cheese, served with a chipotle mayonnaise dip. Three egg rolls cut into halves were a generous portion for us to split, and would have been a perfect size if we were only sharing one appetizer.
The menu says the North Country Smoker ($14) is the Taverne’s best-selling burger, so I picked it as my main course. The smoke comes from applewood-smoked bacon and North Country Smokehouse cheese sauce, topping a half-pound burger with lettuce and tomato and onion on a brioche bun. The burger had a great char, and the smoky flavors were good and strong at the outset, but the flavors mellowed as I worked through the burger and the cheese sauce squeezed out of the bun. I couldn’t help but think sliced cheese would have done a better job of keeping the great smoky flavor going throughout.
Mrs. G ordered the Cuban ($11). This was a big, tasty sandwich that followed the Cuban formula: pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard in a pressed panini. It was so big (or maybe it was because of the eggrolls) that Mrs. G had to pack up half of it to take home.
Service was friendly and informal. The bar has a great selection of beers, along with a long list of signature cocktails. Value factor was reasonable for a fairly upscale place, with most dishes under $20. Our tab came to about $57 for two apps, two sandwiches and a beer.
We tried to save room for dessert, but no luck. So we paid our tab and headed home, satisfied with a great afternoon spent in the Upper Valley.