Satisfying your hunger at Table & Tap



Top:T Table & Tap’s pulled pork sandwich is slathered with cole slaw. Above: Brussels sprouts appetizer. Left: Table & Tap’s house wine is bottled by Rutherford Ranch in Napa. GINA BIRCH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

Top:T Table & Tap’s pulled pork sandwich is slathered with cole slaw. Above: Brussels sprouts appetizer. Left: Table & Tap’s house wine is bottled by Rutherford Ranch in Napa. GINA BIRCH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

It might be slow, but it is steady—the return to full scale dining at Table & Tap. And it’s a treat in every sense of the word.

Donald Estep, Babcock Ranch’s director of food & beverage, says, “It’s an eclectic menu with a variety of food. There’s something for everybody.”

It had been years since I last dined here. Considering the fact there’s a new executive chef on board, a pandemic, and lots of outdoor space, it was high time to revisit. Table & Tap has lots of space indoors for distancing, and even more space outside for diners who desire the fresh air vibe.

The restaurant has a rustic feel, with a fireplace on one wall. The other is full glass, offering an unobstructed view of the lake. If you time it right, the sunsets are Instagram worthy. The bar is spacious with a sliding window to the outside dining area, adding to the open feel.

It’s a welcoming spot for a cocktail. We started with the SR-31. It features raspberry vodka, raspberry puree, fresh squeezed lime juice and ginger ale; it’s on the sweet side. The Old Fashioned is a house specialty. It sits in a small wooden barrel for two weeks, absorbing the sweet and spicy flavors of the wood before it’s ready to be served.

 

 

The wine geek in me perked upp when I saw Babcock Ranch as the house wine; it’s from a small little winery in Santa Barbara, California. Alas, the wine is really called Ranch and it is bottled specifically for Table & Tap by the talented folks at Rutherford Ranch in Napa. The cabernet has lots of cherry and vanilla notes.

Located on a ranch, you might expect Table & Tap to have steaks. They do, and more cuts are coming as season picks up. The prime beef is from Riviera Ranch, and the skirt steak is “the best you’ve ever had,” Executive Chef Julian Cardona says. Served with chimichurri,, a lively sauce made from herbs suchh as cilantro and parsley, the dish wass introduced as a special but has beenn so popular, it earned a spot on thee main menu.

 

 

Cardona is currently experimenting ta with a red chimichurri sauce and a few dishes that are a nod to his Puertoto Rican roots.

The meat used in the pulled porkrk sandwich is smoked on property. It’s sweet and tender, served on a toasted stmy bun that is slathered with creamy coleslaw for a mouthwatering balance.nce You know it’s a good sandwich when a guest raids your refrigerator the next day and nearly inhales the leftover portion, still cold.

Table & Tap may be on a ranch, but it’s still in Southwest Florida where seafood is a staple. Crab is served in a cold dip as an appetizer and also made into cakes for sandwiches and entrées. It’s even mounded in the middle of a comforting bowl of macaroni and cheese if desired.

Cavatappi pasta is used for the Ranch Mac, smothered in house-made cheese sauce and served piping hot. Enjoy it solo, with seafood, or a scoop of the pulled pork for a southern flare.

Chef Cardona’s favorite appetizer, Rustic Shrimp, above left, is sauteed in garlic butter and served with green onions and diced tomato. GINA BIRCH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

Chef Cardona’s favorite appetizer, Rustic Shrimp, above left, is sauteed in garlic butter and served with green onions and diced tomato. GINA BIRCH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

Chef Cardona’s favorite appetizer is Rustic Shrimp, and it is indeed one not to miss. Local shrimp is sauteed in garlic butter with green onions and diced tomato that sits in the bottom of the serving dish, begging to be sopped up. Order extra crostini.

Babcock Ranch is home to a 2.5-acre farm dedicated to growing much of the produce used at Table & Tap, including Brussels sprouts. Served as an appetizer, they are cooked with bacon and shallots. Garlic and pepper give the dish some heat, while creamy goat cheese adds a touch of decadence.

When our server said the green beans were the best she had ever tried, amazed at the passion she had for such an ordinary vegetable, we had to try them. A side dish I thought we would pick at was devoured;. They were cooked al dente, with lots of garlic and seasoning.

Other than a plate of vegetables, plant-based diners have options that include the Beyond Burger. My dining partner ordered one of the meatless patties, then asked if it could be topped with bacon—record scratch. Our server didn’t skip a beat or bat an eye, offering bacon crumbles instead of full slices.

 

 

It’s just one example of the great attention given to diners from the minute they walk into Table & Tap, to the time they leave. Every staff member we met seemed happy to be there and happy to receive hungry guests. Hungry not just physically, but hungry for what has been missing for much of 2020: being social, dining out, and being taken care of.

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