There are a few constants in any college town. Normally, the constants are a disproportionately large number of apartments, chain pharmacies, dollar stores and 24 hour gas stations selling questionable herbal remedies and iPhone accessories. Places like Main Street Tavern are just as ubiquitous and often find themselves becoming the lifeblood of the residents’ social lives. Hosting concerts, serving food and pouring a drink (or 12), the Tavern is a hotbed of activity in Montevallo, and The Alabamian decided to put its popular grub to the test.
A seat-yourself establishment, our party took one of the large tables in the back. We were promptly greeted by a cheerful waitress who took our orders quickly, with the air of one not flustered by big groups of diners. She effortlessly juggled nine separate checks, a commendable effort indeed.
The menu for the Tavern is an interesting mix of American bar food and Italian staples, with pastas, steaks and burgers sharing equal space on the menu. Also included are seafood options such as a blackened tilapia sandwich and a catfish platter.
I ordered the top sirloin with a side of macaroni and cheese. Ignoring the fact that the macaroni was actually rigatoni, the pasta was tasty but seemed lacking in something. Perhaps a grind of black pepper or a sharper cheese would have brought the dish up a notch, increasing interest across the tongue.
The sirloin, ordered medium rare, looked promising. Nicely seared and well trimmed of excess fat and gristle, I was eager to dig in. Upon doing so, however, I was greeted with a steak cooked on the raw side of rare. These things happen, but this was a fairly large error for any experienced chef.
Another issue was the saltiness of the food. My steak, while juicy, had the flavor of the meat completely overwhelmed by the salt. This was not localized to my plate; many of the other members of our party reported that their dishes were over-seasoned. Everyone who had eaten at the Tavern before claimed that this was an isolated incident.
A positive note was the J Lawley pasta, named for a UM professor. The dish consisted of rigatoni tossed with herbs, parmesan sauce and shrimp. The shrimp were nicely cooked and the sauce was rich, creamy and flavorful, with herbs and diced tomatoes bringing acidity and earthiness to the party. This wonderfully balanced dish was presented simply and without pretense, as is proper for Italian style cuisine.
A final concern that must be addressed is the price of the food. Many complain about how much the Tavern costs. Looking at restaurants such as Outback or Applebees, it turns out that the prices are comparable. Another thing to note is that the portions are positively massive, ensuring leftovers for all but the most insatiable of appetites.
The Tavern did not get popular by serving sub-par food. While the steak was disappointing and complaints abounded about the over-salting of the food, this seems to be an isolated incident; the high quality of the J Lawley pasta seems testament to that. This in mind, if you are looking for some stick-to-your-ribs fare that won’t break the bank, the Tavern could be for you.
The Alabamian gives this Main Street staple 3.5 out of 5 feathers.