Since it opened three years ago, Woodbury’s Tamarack Tap Room has built a strong foundation on premium hamburgers, craft beer and fine bourbon. Fun with the family, fun with friends, fun with the team; good times are on tap here, and that’s the mission that drives the Tap Room owners and staff.
But there’s more to the appeal than the beer, spirits, or even the food. Tamarack Tap Room is warm and welcoming—the kind of place where people go to celebrate life’s good times and temper the bad times. Call it an upscale dining community with a purpose.
Servers and staff are trained to cater to customers and make every day feel like a special occasion. In a 24/7 clamoring world, having someone pause to listen and chat improves the experience and helps guests slow down. It’s a responsibility general manager Jesse Barton takes very seriously. “We always tell everyone at the beginning of every shift, ‘You never know what someone is going through,’” Barton says. “You’ve got the opportunity to change the whole trajectory of their day.”
Staff members are hired based on their ability to get along with people—previous restaurant chops come second. That strategy is leading to plenty of success, as Barton knows firsthand. He started out as a server and worked his way up, learning about the industry along the way. “I feel like in restaurant management, the best thing you can do is do everything. Otherwise, you don’t have any perspective,” he says.
Tamarack Tap Room has 14 investors, a group of diverse professionals with interrelated business ties whom Barton describes as “the best group of people ever.” During monthly meetings, they discuss numbers and other matters. But the investor presence is felt more often than that. They frequent the restaurant along with their friends and families. “You’re hard pressed to go one day when at least one investor doesn’t come through here,” Barton says. “Every single day somebody’s here. It’s pretty cool.”
The investors’ breadth of industry experience is an advantage in procuring craft beers. “We’re one of the larger tap rooms in the state of Minnesota. That definitely gives us some clout, too,” Barton says.
There’s plenty of room for family dining, groups and events. The 400-seat dining room grows by another 200 when the patio’s open. The bourbon sampling/cigar rolling event and others are held outside in the sunshine. In the fall, watch for the Oktoberfest celebration—a good excuse to say prost with a German beer. It’s all in fun and builds community.
“You’re hard pressed to find another job on the face of the planet where you get to deal with so much happiness,” Barton says. “Everybody that comes in: They’re smiling, they’re happy, they’re drinking their favorite beer, they’re eating some good food, they’re hanging out with friends, and we get to experience that firsthand. You’re watching that right before your very eyes.”
With 72 tap lines, there’s no shortage of beer. Whisky (bourbon, Scotch, rye, Irish), craft cocktails and wine vintages round out the libation list. Locally sourced, housemade foods keep patrons happily full.
How about a better-than-homemade burger amped up by premium quality cuts? Nothing’s processed, and the freshness comes through every patty. The burgers are beloved by patrons, with their enticing flavor combinations, and even a killer vegetarian option that rivals real meat (mission impossible—achieved).
Tamarack Tap Room has its own beer group, called the Founders’ Club. Among other member perks, the first beer (up to $10 in value) is on the house. The member list is on the main entrance wall, with an impressive roster of 250 to 300 neighbors. These are dedicated beer enthusiasts, and the camaraderie the group builds is a big benefit.
“We really want to promote a craft beer community, and we’ve accomplished that to a certain extent,” Jesse Barton says. “We’ve got an amazing group of people that come in here on a regular to semi-regular basis. The cool thing about it is that they all know each other ... They’ve become friends since joining the founders’ club. They give us input on different beers they want to see on tap, and we deliver whenever possible.”
With all but two lines dedicated to craft beer and changing features, the new tasting possibilities are almost limitless. “We get beers often that no one else is able to get, or if anything, there might be one other place that gets a keg,” Barton explains. Some beers are rare gems. “People are clamoring to get some of those exclusive beers.”
Many desserts, including the mini doughnuts and milkshakes, are made in-house. The caramel bread pudding is another enduring housemade favorite perfect for fall.
Pies and cakes come from Haute Chocolate. Woodbury-based baker-owner Jessica Van Hemert spares no detail in her hand-crafted creations. The mile-high French silk pie is a legend. A drizzle of chocolate, a crumble of bacon, a soak in bourbon (for bananas), a wash of simple syrup—it’s hard to nail down just what makes these desserts so scrumptious. Maybe it’s because everything is so over-the-top indulgent and delicious? The desserts end a meal in a big way, easily serving two to three people, and there still might be some left to take home. Prepare for table envy.
An ever-changing beer menu is tempting yet daunting. Don’t know what to try? Here are a few choice brews that the staff consistently recommends.
Kona Big Wave Golden Ale
Stir Crazy Porter
Farm Girl Saison
Hacker-Pschorr or Paulaner
Loon Juice cider
Prefer a bourbon?
The Woodford Reserve is approachable and tasty.
Living Well at Kowalski's
Living well is a commitment at Kowalski’s Markets. The signs are everywhere—a Live Well designation marks products that can help patrons with a healthier diet. The program launched earlier this year as an update to Kowalski’s popular Good Foods for Good Health initiative.
With so much nutrition information available at the grocery store, it can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult to know what to do. The Living Well program simplifies choices with quickly identifiable designations. The idea is to make it all easier and more inclusive. The new Live Well standards include around 25 percent more items than before. Nutritionist Sue Moores used her expertise to hand-select products at Woodbury’s Kowalski’s Market that meet criteria for the Live Well program, and marked them with easy-to-read notes; recipes and updates in the quarterly newsletter are also available.
Live Well-designated products are free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners. Overly fortified foods are ruled out. The overall wholesomeness of the item, along with local and sustainable production methods, is important.
And the Live Well designation applies to more than food. Flowers, essential oils, lotions, soaps, candles and spa-related items that promote happiness or stress-relief are also part of the initiative. “Customers are surprised at the things that fall into it,” says culinary and branding director Rachael Perron.
Check out just a few of these popular Live Well picks—perfect for late summer and early fall.
Minnesota Grown tomatoes
Minnesota Grown Honeycrisp apples
Kowalski’s Live Well cookies
Purely Elizabeth Pumpkin Cinnamon Ancient Grain Granola