Monday, December 01, 2014

The PC: NABC joins forces with Taco Punk at Bank Street Brewhouse in downtown New Albany.

The PC: NABC joins forces with Taco Punk at Bank Street Brewhouse in downtown New Albany.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

One morning in late September, having only just returned from an invigorating holiday in Germany and Belgium, I learned that the eatery known as Taco Punk would be closing its bricks ‘n’ mortar shop over in NuLu, the much-hyped, trend-setting neighborhood of Louisville.

The thought of it inspired me to compose an entry with a provocative title at my primary blog, NA Confidential.

Dear Taco Punk: Come on over to the West Bank. I have a kitchen, you know.

From it its inception in January, 2012 as a fast, casual and fun quasi-Mexican joint, Taco Punk displayed an uncanny ability to make diners happy while at the same time dividing local electronic media opinion. It never made sense to me how or why this disparity was the case.

Obviously, owner/operator Gabe Sowder, a Jeffersonville native and Wabash College graduate, was trying to do things the right way, with locally sourced food and living wages for his employees. On periodic visits, I found the tacos and ambience quite enjoyable, but those in disagreement were particularly and sometimes nastily persistent.

Taco Punk was somewhat famously savaged by Rae Hodge of the University of Louisville school newspaper for exemplifying all the real or imagined sins of NuLu’s ongoing gentrification, then came immediately under fire from the now deceased Eater Louisville web site when Gabe announced a Kickstarter project (it fell short) to complete the restaurant’s build-out.

Yes, the local independent Taco Punk was more expensive than Taco Bell, the latter an execrable chain outpost of Louisville’s own mediocre Yum! Brands empire, but really, have comparative reasoning skills been so thoroughly purged from the collective Indyucky mindset that no one could see the considerable differences between the two?

Was Taco Punk just a bad fit for the often pretentious aura of NuLu?

When Taco Punk’s forthcoming demise was revealed, it had been four months since NABC suspended food service at Bank Street Brewhouse. I immediately sensed a commonality of shared experience, even if the parameters of it were not entirely clear to me. After all, BSB’s “gastropub-cum-bistro” kitchen operated for five years; after a rocky start, consumer reaction was mostly favorable -- and balance sheets decidedly less so, eventually dooming the experiment. We were pioneers of sorts, and often there are more advantages to coming next in line, as opposed to being first.

And then there is my own uncanny ability to divide local opinion. As it pertains to me, folks have been choosing between “love him or hate him” for quite some time now – and I adore it.

Eventually Gabe and I began chatting, and the impromptu collaboration we devised on the fly began with two encouraging “pop-up” weekends in November. Now that the trial run has concluded, we’re ready to see if we can make this combination into something more of an expended engagement, so look for Taco Punk at Bank Street Brewhouse on Friday and Saturday evenings from now on (except Saturday, December 6, when a private party is booked), with the strong possibility that Thursdays will be added to the mix in January.

After that, we’ll see which way the wind is blowing. The idea is to remain loose and flexible.

For these recent weekend pop-ups, Gabe offered a slimmed-down Taco Punk menu ideally suited to the limited kitchen and storage space in our building, featuring salsas, guacamole and five different tacos with a selection of garnishes. They proved ideal as paired with NABC’s wide selection of house-brewed beers, of which we’ve been able to maintain 15 or more varieties on tap at BSB of late.

In short, Taco Punk at Bank Street Brewhouse will function not unlike a food truck parked inside. This is precisely what we’ve needed at BSB, and is of proven, popular quality. It accents the taproom concept in the absence of a mobile food truck culture in Floyd County. While I still believe that food trucks and non-traditional vending are coming to New Albany, right now Taco Punk is a far better fit for us both.

Note that during regular weekly Bank Street Brewhouse business hours (see below) when Taco Punk is not operational, customers still are encouraged to bring their own picnic baskets or carry-out food from downtown New Albany’s many fine eateries, some of which will deliver to BSB. We’re localists first and foremost, and continue to support our fellow independent businesses in downtown New Albany, which at present does not have a concept quite like this. Our nationally renowned Indiana Statutory Compliance Restaurant Menu also remains joyfully intact, to be wielded with pride during periodic inspections.

We regard the fit as complementary. Our business is beer, and Gabe's is food. The combination of Taco Punk and NABC is a good one, and it will evolve, so stay tuned for further details.


NABC web site

NABC at Facebook

Bank Street Brewhouse at Facebook

Taco Punk at Facebook

Bank Street Brewhouse is the official downtown New Albany taproom of the New Albanian Brewing Company. Hours of operation are as follow:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday
3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (or later if merited)

Saturday & Sunday
Noon to 9:00 p.m. (or later)

We’re closed on Monday. On-premise pints and carry-out growlers/bombers are available every day, including Sunday.

Taco Punk food service hours on Friday & Saturday (Thursday beginning in January, 2015)
5:00 p.m. – close

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