By Kelly Archer
When I arrived at The City Tap, I could hear the funk/rock/soul-jazz live music blasting off the Tap’s patio and into the gravel lot below. The band only had a few audience members, but it didn’t play any quieter for them. Casual beer drinkers and smokers who were perched on bar stools under hanging, exposed bulbs, watched in an aloof manner. This may sound overwhelmingly hipster, but I was assured that the rotation of live music throughout the week changes in tune and tone quite a bit — after all, this is a community bar and the weekly set list is designed to accommodate all tastes.
Through the old double doors, a mix of bearded men engaged in a hand-shaking, shoulder-tapping, spirited debate, while a large family grabbed a few beers after a Little League hockey game. The different groups co-existed so comfortably, it appeared to be a routine Saturday night for most patrons. Each coat prong on an old standing coat rack by the door even seemed to be designated for a particular local — I half expected plaques above bar stools reserving them for guests of honor.
I ended up playing around with a great old typewriter by the front window while sipping a North Carolina craft beer and debated whether the dilapidated old board games were for decoration only.
The City Tap is first and foremost a community bar. You’re going to get a few lingering stares if you don’t frequent the place, so if blending anonymously into a corner is your preferred bar scene, this might not be your move. The space is also small when excluding the patio, which can either feel cozy or claustrophobic depending on how friendly the crowd is. But the bar warms up quickly, and bartenders, though somewhat wary of newcomers, are happy to explain menu items and specials. Little touches such as the coat rack and a handful of old lamps make you feel as though you’re in a neighbor’s living room for their annual block party, which is the ideal setting for relaxed beer sipping and catching up with old friends.
Beer taps are the centerpiece of the bar for a reason: The drink menu focuses on North Carolina brews. There are 10 beers on tap from spots including Asheville’s Highland Brewing Company, Winston-Salem’s Foothills and Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery. There’s also a limited but affordable wine selection, as well.
The bar fare is Southern-inspired with a worldly flare, and locally sourced ingredients ensure that it’s uniquely North Carolina. Or rather, uniquely Pittsboro. Traditional smoked turkey sandwiches cozy up to tofu bhan mi on the menu, and the “Ploughman’s Lunch” fittingly comes with your choice of beer. Late-night specials including loaded hot dogs remind bring you back to bar-style comfort food. I was really impressed with the eclectic but grounded menu and even more so when the bartender could tell me exactly which farms the fresh vegetables called home — specifically Screech Owl Greenhouse, a Pittsboro family-owned farm.
As winter approaches, bar objective number one is to keep warm. Second: Get a bite to eat and throw on some layers, hoping they match. At the City Tap, it’s never going to matter what you’re wearing, where you came from or what time of day it is. If you want to grab a beer and some good Pittsboro-inspired noms, you’ve come to the right place. Once you get past a few lingering stares, the bar is quite warm and a mix of table sizes makes group or date outings equally acceptable. I recommend coming early evening with friends, having a late lunch or light dinner and catching some music after spending a day checking out all that funky Pittsboro has to offer, and if you think of it, play a round of Connect Four for me.