Welcome to part II of this series about Utah County’s bars (see part I). I was unable to make it up to Pleasant Grove or down to Spanish Fork in March, so you may be seeing a part III coming your way next to cover The Tipsy Cow, Wee Blu Inn, and Star Saloon, with some extra info about the efforts of the guys behind the hopeful Maple Mountain Brew Co. But of the three spots I’m covering in this post, I’d say that two are Utah County gems, each in their own way.
Strap Tank was but a hopeful rumor when I moved to Orem in 2015. No one I knew could quite believe that a brewery might open anywhere south of Draper. But in May 2016, the place was open for business, and we’ve been stopping in regularly ever since. Strap Tank definitely got off to a rough start, with some watery beers
and decidedly mediocre food, but they’ve improved steadily since opening. The brewery offers a cool location, unexpectedly hip for Springville, with a warehouse-meets-sports-bar atmosphere not unlike breweries in other parts of the country. It’s a fairly family-friendly spot, with a kids menu and a very wide-ranging main menu. They have lots of interior seating, bar seating, and an outdoor patio, kind of like the Bohemian Brewery location in Midvale.
The beers at Strap Tank are good, with standouts being the Sportster Session IPA, the Red Ale, and a Saison that isn’t always on the tap list. Here’s the kicker: Strap Tank makes some excellent full-strength bottled beers, but you can’t drink them in the brewery. You’ve got to purchase them at a register in the lobby and bring them home to sample. I highly recommend that you do this, because everything we’ve tried from a bottle has been top quality, particularly the Barrel-Aged Saison, which comes in a 750ml bomber and totally blew us away. The bottled beers are what make Strap Tank a Utah County gem; if they keep producing and promoting these beers, I hope we’ll see them in liquor stores eventually, or better yet, be able to drink them
chilled from behind the bar. Luckily for those who want more than low-alcohol draft beers, Strap Tank does have a full bar, and the drinks are reasonably priced. On weekends they do a brunch with cheap mimosas and bloody marys, and on any given day you can get a decent margarita or specialty drink.
I have to admit that as much as I like Strap Tank, the food could be better. They do good burgers and appertizer items like nachos, wings, and cheese bread, but the prices are a little high and the menu gets ambitious once you venture into the entrees. I’m unlikely to take the chance on a $22 venison tenderloin when I’m at a sports bar. I’d love to see Strap Tank expand the pub food/sports bar food aspect of the menu and not overreach.
Strap Tank is open every day of the week, and Sundays are an excellent day to come here. We watched the Super Bowl at Strap Tank this year, and had no problem getting great seats directly in front of a flat-screen TV. But rest assured, on Fridays and Saturdays the brewery is reassuringly crowded with a mix of families, bikers, and sports fans enjoying table-fulls of brews and fries.
1750 West 596 South, Springville, UT 84663
I have a soft spot for this funny little bar at the corner of Geneva Road and Center Street in Orem. The Hitching Post is a die-hard enclave of hardcore drinkers, rare breeds in the Provo-Orem area, and spending a couple of hours here can really be a breath of fresh air if it’s been too long since you made it to Salt Lake or Vegas. The clientele at The Hitching Post is made up primarily of regulars, although the past few times I’ve been, the denizens have skewed a little younger, possibly because of the recent explosion of townhomes and apartments in Vineyard just across the street.
The interior of The Hitching Post is very dad’s-man-cave-circa-1980. With wood-panneled walls and acoustic ceiling tiles printed with advertisements for local businesses, you really feel like you’ve walked into someone’s cozy basement, complete with pool tables, tin signs for Duff Beer, and tiny outdoor patio. The drinks here are cheap and the bartenders, who will probably call you “honey,” keep them coming at a breakneck pace. The most popular items are house specialties with off-color names that often include Jaegermeister or Fireball, but you can also get a wide range of draft beers and some of the cheapest high-gravity bottles in the area.
If you’re visiting during the adjacent cafe’s operating hours, you can get some good bar snacks, from burgers and fries to full breakfast plates. The food is plain, but inexpensive and goes very well with drinks. Once the cafe closes, your options become limited to a frozen pizza cooked under what amounts to an Easy-Bake Oven: the pizza is placed on a tray that rotates beneath a very hot lightbulb until cooked. You’ve got to try it once.
The Hitching Post is a spot you visit for the drinks and for the atmosphere. There are some aggressively friendly locals here who will introduce themselves and invite you to partake in Fireball shots, initiating you into the bar’s inner circle of regular patrons. As friendly as the place is, it’s not a spot I would go for a drink alone; you cannot sit quietly by yourself at the bar here, although you can sit and have a wonderful chat with a small group of friends. (I have never taken pictures in this bar, because it seems like a good way to draw friendly if unwanted attention.) It’s the perfect place to go for a drink and a good complaint with coworkers right at 5 p.m. Expect to drink too much and pay what seems like not enough.
30 Geneva Rd, Orem, UT 84057
Callie’s is not unlike my previous stop, The Hitching Post, in that the “sports bar” portion of the place is awkwardly attached to the “cafe” part. But unlike The Hitching Post, Callie’s does not have a full bar, as reader Rod S. pointed out in Part I of this series. They offer beer only, and the atmosphere isn’t as cozy and welcoming as you might hope from a little local spot.
Several people told me to come to Callie’s for the breakfast items on the menu, but there’s little to recommend this place over Joe’s Cafe farther south on State Street (just do yourself a favor and spare yourself Joe’s sugared grits). If you do decide to eat at Callie’s, go for the house specialty: the “pitcher mound,” a plate of biscuits, gravy, hash browns, eggs, and cheese. Sounds strange, but it’s the perfect dish for sopping up the booze after a rough night.
As far as alcohol goes, you won’t find anything special here, but you can enjoy some good local bottles while watching an NFL game. Prices are reasonable, and as a Seahawks fan I have to add that Callie’s is a Seahawks bar. You’ll find 12s paraphenalia hung up around the drinking area, and the TV defaults to the Seahawks game if there’s one on. You can also get a can of Ranier if you’re really feeling the Seattle spirit.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from searching for alcohol in this area, it’s that Orem (and Provo to a lesser extent) is ripe for a good brewpub. With new “luxury” rental propertes and housing developments being built right and left, restaurants increasingly offering alcohol menus, and out-of-staters flowing into the area as Lehi continues to develop, I’m waiting for something like a Squatters or Red Rock location to open up and do great business. If Strap Tank can stay open all the way down in Springville, surely a family-friendly brewpub offering decent food, a clean atmosphere, and a full bar could clean up in Orem?
466 State St, Orem, UT 84057
Katharine Stevenson is a writer and homebrewer from Austin, Texas living in downtown Provo. When she’s not writing about software for a living, she’s writing about food, beer, or literature.