Liberty Tap Room & Grill
Cruise over to Irmo for a taste of lake life.
By April Blake Photos by Sally Scott
Life without a boat can make it a bit rough to enjoy lake living to the fullest. The blue sky reflects off of the lightly rippling water that grows choppy when boats whiz by one another, and the lush greenery cushioning the houses dotting the shores make for an intoxicating sight from anywhere along the shoreline. Those and the cooler breezes off the water than we get elsewhere, and the ever-so-faint smell of fish and lake-iness in the air are reasons enough why people near and far are drawn to the 50,000-acred watery jewel we call Lake Murray.
But that’s where Liberty Tap Room & Grill — or informally, Liberty on the Lake — comes in for the boatless amongst us. Giving full credit to the best reason for people to come, they have two stories worth of lakeside seating with views that sweep out beyond the docked boats, across the endless expanse of gently lapping water and the setting sun at the right time of day. Beyond the view and the desperately needed lake breezes that blow in from the water, Liberty’s menu and drink selections are enough to make downtown dwellers want to roll down the car windows and take a ride out towards Ballentine, where the restaurant sits in a cove on the northern shore of one of Lake Murray’s many fingers since opening in April 2013.
It truly is possible to ride your boat over to Liberty and park on the water at one of their specially-marked spaces on Dock B that have flag flying, though shirts and shoes are required to dine. Not many other restaurants in the Midlands can boast a boat-up option and many people take advantage of this chance to pair an evening ride on the water with dinner out. It’s easy to spot though, with the neon glow of the Liberty sign on the roof shining a beacon out for hungry boaters. For the rudderless among us, there’s plenty of parking for cars too. If the weather is right, there’s no reason not to sit outside to enjoy the scenery, whether from the upstairs or the lower deck.
Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., happy hour specials make for a good reason to stop by after work. Sangria, cocktails, a glass of wine, or buckets packed with ice and domestic beers are the perfect centerpiece for a table, besides the umbrella that provides just the right amount of shade. Or try something new in one of the microbrews that are Liberty-branded.
“New South Brewery, our sister brewery in Myrtle Beach, supplies the brand “house beers” for all of our restaurants,” said manager Tony Rametta. “Our house beers include Liberty Red and Liberty White ale, and we serve all types of microbrews in an attempt to focus on supporting most of the local breweries in South Carolina, but we carry lines from all over the U.S.”
Shareable bites like the crispy calamari with a zesty citrus-curry aioli or bleu cheese potato chips wrap will keep everyone lingering long enough to discuss the latest work gossip or the ridiculous traffic that everyone else is sitting in not too far away on I-26.
Looking past happy hour into dinner, the menu at Liberty is truly expansive. Best described as upscale casual American with a twist, there’s going to be one item, if not more, for each person here to enjoy, making it a great place to meet a large group with varied tastes. Beginning with appetizers, there’s fish for those who like to eat on a theme — the theme here being hey, we’re at the lake! There are several seafood options: bonfire shrimp, sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna with wasabi cream, and the classic she-crab soup. Not so much with the fish? Chargrilled Portobello mushrooms with a balsamic marinade and horseradish crema and baked pretzels with cheddar-beer cheese and lager mustard reveal just the kind of twist that Liberty’s kitchen puts on American food!
After evening appetizers, that big orange orb in the sky should be casting a rainbow of pastels across the sky and casting a warm glow on the table, which should be full of plates right now bearing entrees. Go classic with a certified angus cut of steak alongside a crisp green salad and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. Or be adventurous with seared Atlantic salmon sitting perfectly pink atop a warm farro salad and topped with a roasted red pepper almond romesco sauce. Chicken and waffles may be more unusual for a dinner offering, but with buttermilk fried chicken nestled beside a Belgian waffle and slices of Applewood smoked bacon, why not? Liberty recently rolled out a new spring menu that includes several new dishes as well, including crab and artichoke dip, Asian beef skewers, a classic double burger, chicken penne pasta, and a full rack of ribs.
The large outdoor space lends itself perfectly for musical entertainment, which Liberty serves up beginning in May once the temperatures warm up, weather permitting, of course. Bands frequently perform on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Since a summer storm can roll in off of the lake quickly, it’s best to check their website and social media for updates on live music.
“Liberty on the Lake offers 180∞ views of the lake, and that makes every seat in the house a delight,” Rametta said. “Breathtaking sunsets, great food, and a wonderful staff make Liberty the best place to dine on the lake.”
There is plenty of seating with 9,000 sq. feet that can serve 300 guests. But there is competition for those coveted outdoor seats during the prime lake-watching time of late afternoon into a dusky evening. People jockeying for space to watch the sky come alive with colors may find themselves waiting for a seat on occasion. It’s worth the wait, though, to sit and watch the simultaneous peacefulness and activity happening both on the water with the colorful sails of sailboats slicing through the water contrasting with the festive bustle of people enjoying themselves on the decks. Ah, the lake life indeed.