Checking in on Taphouse 15 in Jefferson

Situated at a busy commuter crossroads, its hard to drive by Taphouse 15 and not find the parking lot brimming with cars. This has long been a dining destination, but about five years ago an extensive overhaul created the sleek, modern bar and restaurant that features an always-stoked, wood-fired pizza oven.

Last year, the restaurants chef Ashley Cutler made a move to Morris Tap & Grill in Randolph. So we decided to check in and see whatif anythinghas changed.

Beer lovers will still find an extensive menu of more than 100 brews to pair with interesting pizzas on thin crispy crusts, like the Fig and Pig thats topped with blue cheese, pancetta, balsamic onions, fig pure and arugula, or the Jalapeno Popper that includes Parmesan, cheddar and cream cheese, as well as spicy peppers and bacon.

Other snacks include wings, quesadillas and crab dip, but the surprising starter was the vegan chili cheese fries. The big bowl of crispy fries, that seemed to be coated in some sort of magical flavor dusting, was topped with creamy black bean chili, an even creamier vegan cheese sauce, and a generous garnish of slivered scallions. The collection of flavors and textures was top-notch.

There are four salads that can be topped with chicken, salmon, shrimp or steak for an up-charge. Our big bowl of Milanese arugula salad came topped with more super-crusty, panko-coated chicken strips than we could eat, plus fresh mozzarella, red onion and cherry tomatoes in just the right amount of balsamic dressing.

On the lighter side there are pork, fish, beef and cauliflower tacos, and half a dozen sandwiches and burgers to choose from. We opted for the Steak Frites from the entre menu and again found more of the juicy hanger steak and truffle fries than we could possibly eat. The steak arrived medium rare, just as ordered, and was accompanied by ketchup, truffle mayonnaise and a nicely spicy chimichurri sauce.

With all our food being so satisfying, we were surprised to find the tiramisu dessert in a mason jar totally disappointing. The goopy mix of custard and lady fingers was nearly devoid of flavor and left us wishing we had opted for a slice of caramel praline pecan pie or maybe the wood-fired chocolate chip cookie skillet instead.

Despite the fact that we enjoyed our main meal tremendously, quirky service detracted a bit from the overall experience. Our drinks and first course arrived in a timely fashion, but the main dishes were pushed on us before we could even finish, and then the remains lay waiting to be cleared for far too long.

Despite a few drawbacks, Taphouse 15 is still well worth pulling off the highway for.

Taphouse 15, 75 State Route 15 South, Jefferson, 862-437-1300. Open for dining every day 11am10pm. Sunday brunch served 11am pm. Bar open until midnight, Sunday-Thursday; and 2am, Friday and Saturday.

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