ATLANTIC CITY - Not too long ago, I stopped with a friend at Tun Tavern Restaurant & Brewery to have a quick bite after a shopping trip to The Walk. Located in the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center and Hotel, it's one of the most convenient places to eat while in that area.
My friend thoroughly enjoyed a glass of Irish Red Crimson Ale (one of eight handcrafted beers made on the premises) with a decadent "One Tun Burger," two 8-ounce, juicy burgers cooked medium-rare with melted cheddar cheese, bacon and lettuce on a soft kaiser roll. If you're going to splurge on a hefty burger, this is the place to do it.
I was less enthused about my dish. Five nearly overcooked mushroom raviolis came swimming in a delicious, creamy sauce filled with slivers of wild mushrooms accented with smoked gouda cheese. There was so much sauce in the bowl it was like eating ravioli soup instead of a pasta entree. Sauce should be used to enhance the main ingredient, not overpower it as this one did.
I had mixed feelings about my first visit to Tun Tavern, so when I went the second time with a different dining partner, I left my preconceived notions behind and started with a clean slate.
There's a lot of history associated with Tun Tavern, dating back to 1685 when the first establishment with the name opened in Philadelphia. That tavern hosted notables such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.
The Atlantic City location has been here since 1998. Although I haven't had the pleasure of observing the brewery in action, it's quite impressive to see. The restaurant's contemporary decor has a big-city feel to it, with extremely high ceilings, lots of windows and an exposed kitchen.
Not at all formal, the service is exactly what I expect at an eatery like this: casual and pub-friendly. Our server was very attentive and couldn't have been nicer. She didn't hesitate to recommend her favorites on the menu, and we took a couple of her suggestions.
When a menu tags something "a favorite," it is certainly worth trying, as was the creamy spinach-and-crab au gratin ($11.99) that arrived bubbling, packed with crabmeat and surrounded by warm, freshly fried yellow, red and blue tortilla chips. This is an appetizer meant to be shared, because there is plenty of it. Spinach-and-crab dip has been around for a while, and this one is the reason people like it so much.
The Caesar salad ($6.99) came with a mound of romaine lettuce and homemade croutons, but it was practically drowning in dressing, which was tangy and delicious nonetheless. This was a classic case where less would have been more suitable, a minor glitch.
The Peggy Mullen ($27.99), named after the wife of Philadelphia's original proprietor in the mid-1700s, is a 12-ounce, boneless New York strip steak. The one we had was simply seasoned and cooked medium instead of medium-rare as requested. The steak was good, although not quite as tender as expected.
A medley of steamed, assorted fresh vegetables was overdone and missing flavor. We found no seasoning whatsoever on the vegetables. Garlic mashed potatoes also accompanied the meat, but they were very loose, almost soupy. Clearly, the steak was the best thing on the plate.
Grilled barbecue shrimp ($21.99) with onions and peppers came on two large metal skewers that we struggled to maneuver. The shrimp were tender, but an off-putting aftertaste lingered. Even the sweet and zesty barbecue sauce that coated the seafood could not disguise it.
Spicy basmati rice that accompanied this dish didn't wow us, either.
From a selection of many desserts presented on a tray, we shared one of only two choices made in-house: the apple cobbler ($7.99), a ramekin of warm, cinnamon-spiked apples topped with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream and swiggles of whipped-cream topping. Missing was a standard cobbler topping, but we understand that there are many versions of a traditional recipe, and every chef has his or her own style.
Overall, the food was good but spotty. It won't stop me from going again for one of the tastiest burgers around. With a rock 'n' roll soundtrack pulsing throughout, the atmosphere is hip and inviting. Being the only brewery in town makes it an attraction that stands on its own. Everything that comes with it adds to an already welcoming venue.
(Taylor Yarborough is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Yarborough c/o Food Editor James Clark at email@example.com. Restaurant-ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.)
Tun Tavern Restaurant & Brewery
2 Convention Blvd.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Tuesday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday
Liquor license: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Credit cards: All major
Price range: Appetizers, $6.99 to $11.99; entrees, $19.99 to $31.99
Our bill for two: $77 plus tip