Friday evening Laura and I were in the mood to try something new downtown. Our friend and former neighbor, Josh Beeby, is the owner of Barley’s Tap Room, and several months ago he had opened a new venue called The Trappe Door. We decided to give it a try.
Josh is from Australia. According to the restaurant’s website, while visiting his home country, he had his first taste of authentic Belgian cuisine, and wanted to open his own place.
Previously the only Belgian restaurant in town had been Belgian Delights on Wade Hampton Blvd. With its closure came a culinary gap – one Josh was more than happy to fill.
The Trappe Door takes its name from the Trappist Monks, famed for their brewing. As the name implies, craft-brewed beer is a large part of this venue, along with the Belgian cuisine.
The Trappe Door is located in the basement of Barley’s Taproom. It’s a completely separate restaurant from that venue, with an entrance on Washington Street.
There is a good bit of space and plenty of tables, but the basement feel is hard to overlook, with low ceilings and exposed beams supporting the floor above. Dark colors and lots of brick add to the feel. In addition to the dining tables there is a bar on one side of the restaurant.
The place was hopping when we arrived. Fortunately we were able to find a table, but reservations for popular weekend nights are recommended.
As implied, the cuisine is Belgian. There are is a nice selection of appetizers, from $6 – $9. These aren’t your typical deep-fried mushrooms or cheese dips. There are shrimp croquettes, scallops, and baked brie.
The entree’s include a variety of meat dishes, and range from $12 – $18. These include pork tenderloin, seafood, duck, and several others. In addition to these there is an entire section of Moules Frites, or mussels with fries. These are served with a variety of sauces.
Then, of course, there are the beers. The variety is so great as to be almost baffling. Don’t expect Bud Light here – there are authentic pilsners, ales, lambics, and lots of other obscure brews, including high gravity beers. Some of these can be quite pricey, as much as $30 a glass.
There was also a nice selection of wines. The availability of single-glass servings was determined by which bottles were open at the time. Blackboards stationed around the place kept track of which were open and how many glasses were available. It was fun watching the servers mark off the availability, and from that determine which were the most popular.
We both started with drinks. Laura ordered a Cabernet from the blackboard. While the flavor was good, the portion size seemed a bit small for an $11 glass of wine. Upon consultation with our waitress, I ordered the Chimay Blue from the Trappist ale list. It was served in its own special glass, which is supposed to enhance the high carbonation of the ale.
For her entree, Laura went with the pork tenderloin, which was served with a mustard cream sauce, potato cake and green beans. She declared hers excellent. I didn’t get to try a bite, so I’ll have to take her word for it.
I ordered the Carbonades flamandes, which is a traditional Belgian beef stew. Mine came with a salad and fries. Apparently in Belgium they use mayonnaise instead of ketchup for fries. I got to select three flavored mayonnaises for mine. I picked truffle, raspberry, and curry.
My dish was OK, but not stellar. The beef dish was a bit heavy, but was tasty. Fries are fries, and eating them with mayonnaise just seems wrong, even if it does have fancy flavors. The truffle was almost too subtle, but it was good. I would like to try it on a sandwich or something like that. My favorite, though, was the curry. It almost masked the fact that it was mayonnaise.
Both dishes were very filling. Between that and the beer, neither of us had room for dessert.
Our server was very knowledgeable and attentive. Our only complaint was that the drinks were brought early, but the food took awhile to bring out. Unless you knew to order an appetizer (which we didn’t), there was no bread, crackers, or anything else to cushion the drinks until the food arrived.
Overall it was a good, albeit interesting experience. I can’t say I’m a great fan of Belgian cuisine, but Laura certainly raved about her dish. Even with the expensive drinks, we got out for under $50 for both of us. I would recommend it for anyone interested in a new cuisine, and we will certainly be back.