Introducing itself as First Avenue's staple bar and restaurant, The Depot Tavern opened it's doors in June of 2010. Not to be confused with St. Paul's The Depot, this location provides a neutral place to hang out before or after a show. The interior space is inviting, if minimal. Be sure to bring a buck or two, because regardless of the fact that The Depot is a bit less fancy than some downtown bars, it still costs if you are drinking outside of happy hour.
Upon my arrival around 9:30 PM, The Depot was packed. Luckily there was one bar seat open on the very left end of the bar, which I (barely) managed to squish myself into. I hunkered down, knowing I had awhile to hang out since I was waiting for company later. I reviewed the menu, and trying to keep it on the cheap (which I always have to do it seems), I decided on the Bacon Pepperjack Grilled Cheese on whole wheat ($7.50) and a side salad for $2 extra. I gave my order to a less than enthusiastic bartender (seriously, isn't that whole attitude thing so 2006??) and viewed the 2 tv screens which broadcast the current happenings on stage, in both the mainroom and the 7th St. Entry (Soul Asylum in one, Arctic Universe in the other.)
I admit I was a little curious as to why I was never asked what kind of dressing I wanted or anything. But I figured out that all side salads must universally be the cesaer. The romaine was crunchy and fresh, but the salad was as overdressed as an evening gown at a beach party. I also think I tasted actual salt...I like salt, but was confused as to why it may have been sprinkled on top? The best part was the croutons. No overkill here, just a few croutons with some rye variations thrown in. They tasted homemade, and were soft and crumbly instead of hard and stale. Overall, an ok salad.
Bacon Pepperjack Grilled Cheese
I opted out of the potato selection and stuck with kettle chips. This was a slightly above average grilled cheese. The bread was hearty but softly grilled, making it a textural delight. The bacon was excellently executed, crumbled, crisp and salty throughout. The spice of the pepper jack came through well, and wasn't overly greasy. I got some significant garlic undertones somewhere as well, but I couldn't decipher if it was sandwich or salad ultimately.
Overall, The Depot was just ok. Nothing revolutionary. It felt a bit impersonal, and provides a neutral place to hang out if you have some extra time between engagements downtown. Seeing how the place thinned out around 1030 PM, and was near empty more towards close, I assume most people agree with my viewpoint. The Depot is likely here to stay. As they say; location, location, location.