Bengal Tap Room settles in Downtown
Since February, downtown’s new favorite sports bar, Bengal Tap Room, has inhabited the old Draft House on Third Street. Six months later, we sat down to talk beer and burgers with Eric Carnegie (Bengal’s Owner and Operator) and Montanna Mercer (Bengal’s General Manager).
How did you decide to take over Draft House’s old space?
Eric: We had an opportunity—the space next door (Cecelia, a modern creole restaurant) and above us (a private event space) were all a part of the same building. We knew we wanted this space and we knew there was a market for a sports bar downtown. Montanna worked at Draft House and she got to know the clientele who loved the craft beer aspect, so we got to blend the two.
What challenges have you faced in taking over the building?
Montanna: There was a learning curve regarding people coming in and expecting what Draft House was-—not in a negative way. We (and a lot of our customers) think that Bengal has a lot more to offer.
Eric: Absolutely nobody who has come into Bengal expecting Draft house has been turned off. When you come in, it looks clean, we have a great beer selection, and of course our food menu, and everything is run tighter than before.
How has the food menu been received?
Montanna: Everyone seems to love it. Our $5 burger specials on Tuesdays have been a massive hit and surpassed our expectations, and the quality of all our food is amazing.
Eric: The best part of Bengal is that we can give customers what they want—we know customers like to eat so now we share a kitchen with Cecelia. Montanna noticed that people wanted to play pool so we got a pool table. And everyone loves a covered patio so we made ours the best we could. We want to be everything we can be.
What do you do differently from other sports bars downtown?
Eric: Montanna’s done an excellent job keeping our beer menu diverse and unique—a lot of the beers in our lines can’t be found anywhere else in town. The crowd is diverse and we try to cater to that: we’re a sports bar but we try not to play any games over the speakers so we can have something for everyone playing on the TVs (excluding big games, of course).
Montanna: One of my favorite things about the bar is how homey it is – we try to know everyone’s names and get to know their stories or where they’re from. We want to take care of each other here because we are, in a sense, a neighborhood bar.
Eric: We want to make sure everyone has fun and stays safe. It helps that a lot of our customers can crawl home if they need to (Eric laughs).
Photos by Ronni Bourgeois