If you've ever been to the Tap Root Cafe when it wasn't full, I definitely was not there. Every time I've enjoyed the south-side cafe's shows, food or beer, it's been shoulder-to-shoulder with others doing the same thing.
So it makes sense that after just four years, the Tap Root is expanding to a new Midtown location. The café will close its Huffman Road location May 30 and reopen June 7 in the building that formerly housed the Fly By Night Club and Player’s House of Rock (33rd Avenue and Spenard Road).
Owner Rebecca Mohlman was studying to become a holistic medicinal herbalist when she decided to open the Tap Root (the name came from her herbal studies) as a juice bar. It was a career move she hoped would allow her to spend more time with her then-4-year-old son.
"At the time, we didn't even know that we'd get a wine or liquor license or a full kitchen. But, after working the juice bar, we decided to get the license, started bringing in music, and it just took off," Mohlman said.
For the past four years, the Tap Root has been more than just a bar in Anchorage; it's been a hub of community, art, music, and food, hosting art openings and countless musical performances from local and national musicians while also serving a gourmet menu, local brews, whiskey, and specialty beers at its tiny south-side location.
"If there is one word we stand on, it's community," Mohlman said. In addition to featuring the work of Anchorage artists and musicians alongside locally produced foods and beer, Mohlman intends to make further strides to support local farmers, bicyclists, Anchorage youth and artists. She has plans to install bike racks, host monthly workshops with musicians from the Lower 48 -- and possibly get schoolchildren locally grown lunches.
"Working with the bicyclist community and having a focus on sustainability and biodegradable and local products in the kitchen is important to me," Mohlman said.
The new kitchen will be open seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a menu heavier in appetizers and desserts. The whiskey bar will boast 23 tap lines and is scheduled to have 31 within six months of the move.
The new venue has already been stripped of its blue paint and diamond plating, remodeled inside and out to reflect the hip, earthy, eclectic vibe the Tap Root embodies. With four times the square-footage of the old locale and plenty of parking spaces, the Spenard location is better suited to the large crowds drawn to the Tap Root's nightly shows. The central location is also more accessible.
"I'll miss the old location—it's where my son grew up," Mohlman said. "But when I used to close my eyes and think of what I wanted the Tap Root to be, this was it. If I could have picked any place that I wanted in Anchorage, this was it."
Tap Root’s reopening June 7 will feature performances by local jazz musicians as part of its weekly Monday-night jazz night and then will fall into its nightly rotation of weekly performances.
Sundays: "Down and Dirty Blues Jam" with Rob Woolsey & Andy Mullen
Mondays: "Jazz After Dark" with Nick Petumenos & the Monday Night Society
Tuesdays: "61º North Open Mic" with Justin "Boot" of the Spenard S.A.T.A.N.S
Wednesdays: Bluegrass "Front Porch Jam" with Todd Grebe of Well Strung
Thursdays: "The Listening Room" featuring singers/songwriters TBA
Fridays: Live entertainment TBA
Saturdays: Live entertainment TBA
3300 Spenard Road
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. everyday
-- Ashley Skabar
Ashley is a freelance writer and journalist living in Anchorage. Her work has been published in the Tundra Telegraph, Alaska Dispatch, Anchorage Daily News, San Francisco Medicine, Backstage, Narrative, About.com and elsewhere. You can read her most recent work here.