Fresh, Locally Sourced, and Just Down the Hill

Thom Lappin gives KUA an inside look at Poor Thom's Tavern in its second year of operation

As the only sit-down restaurant around Meriden, Poor Thom’s Tavern has been the residents’ first choice due to its high quality dishes and pleasant environment.

Stella Chen
The Tavern always loves a little school spirit.

Last Wednesday, I met up with the owner of the restaurant, Thom, in the iconic red building at the bottom of the hill. As soon as I walked in, I spotted the words “Welcome Back, KUA!” written in orange on the blackboard, next to a drawing of a tree. Thom is aware of how much the community of Kimball Union Academy factors into the appearance and atmosphere of the Tavern.  “KUA was part of my biggest plan,” he said, “ people that lived here needed it too. When it’s winter and people don’t want to drive up all the way to West Lebanon, they could always come here.”

Mr. Thom Lappin with his iconic sign

It’s been a little over a year since the Tavern first opened, and its creation is still fresh in the owner’s mind. Thom’s experience in construction allowed him to design and build the Tavern by himself:“I usually built for what other people want; it was nice that I could build something that I want.”

The Tavern was constructed in eight months, and Thom settled on calling it the “Tavern” because he aimed for a traditional New England style tavern that harkened back to a time when a tavern was the place where people met, drank, and ate. When I asked what inspired the rabbit logo, Thom explained, “My last name is Lappin, which means rabbit in French.” Thom’s daughter, a sophomore in college, designed and made the woodcut of the rabbit.

The walls are decorated with on-theme prints

Every day sees a bustling crowd coming through the Tavern’s doors, and Thom has gotten used to being busy during open hours. Brunch starts from 10 to 2 every Sunday, but Friday nights are always the busiest time. If patrons are nervous about not getting a table at a peak time, they’ll be pleased to know that the Tavern accepts reservations.

One aspect that keeps people coming back for more is the never-stale menu. “A chef comes in every morning at nine. He preps all the food for the day and makes it all fresh,” said Thom. The Tavern’s general idea of fare can be characterized as “local” and “fresh”. Ingredients come from local places around Meriden, such as Taylor’s Cheese, North Country Smokehouse, and Jeff Marsh. “Our burgers come from Maine, we want to get grass-fed burgers that are antibiotic free,” Thom pointed out. The menu’s local roots and old New England aesthetic combine to create a cozy, comforting place to grab a meal.

Since the opening of the Tavern, it has undergone three menu changes in 15 months. “We took the cuban off last October or November, we got it back on when the new menu was made because people keep asking about it.” While there are lots of delicious dishes, Thom suggested that his customers to try the wood-fired pizzas: “I built the pizzas by myself, with the help of some local people in town.” One of the pizzas, called the “The Dust Pan”, is a creation by the employees in the Tavern during their free time; it contains fries, chicken, bacon and onions. When asked to explain the iconic title of the pizza, he laughed and said, “I asked [the employee who had first mentioned it]: ‘Did you swept that off the floor?’ And he said: ‘Yes I swept those off the floor.’ So that’s we called it The Dust pan.”

Although busy, Thom always keeps track of customers’ reviews. Feedback from customers continues to shape the menu and ambience of the Tavern, so Thom encourages any visitors to share their thoughts.

The New England aesthetic is complete with prints and decor that match the ambiance

In just fifteen months, Poor Thom’s has become a tastemaker in the area, and residents of Meriden and beyond have come to rely on it for a great source of food and atmosphere.

P.S. If you’d like to know what the staff of The Claw ordered at The Tavern (and what we thought of our food), click this link: