Meet your honey there in the middle of the afternoon for an order of Champagne Onion Rings and a glass of bubbly, and either return to the office with a guilty look on your face or head over to the duck pond to while away a breezy hour or catch a classic movie at the Stanford Theater until deciding what to do about dinner.
I liked the Empire Tap Room much better when it had booths, like a real pub. It was sophisticated and classy and actually felt like a grown up place to sip a martini and talk with friends where they could actually hear you. (Cf. Nola's, only a couple of blocks away.) The bar was reasonably quiet at 11:00 p.m. and the grey-haired bartender was engaging and friendly, proposing a variety of cocktails (and even offering samples - score 1 for the TS!) when I couldn't decide what I wanted.
I went there for lunch at noon today with co-workers, and found the patio pleasant (white tablecloths feel crisp and clean, and they seated eight of us immediately) and the waitstaff adequately attentive. However, my inner smile when they brought bread turned to inner tears when I realized it was sourdough. Does anybody really like sourdough? I guess I'm in the wrong part of the country to be asking that.
I wasn't crazy about the menu - it's a grill so there were a number of meat choices in the $25-$30 range, both of which seemed a little rich for a workday lunch - but generally all of the dishes seemed entirely ordinary. I got the daily seafood special: it was sauteed salmon with a purportedly wine-based white sauce and green beans. The wine sauce might as well have been cream of wheat - it had no zip until I squeezed lemon all over it, which served mainly to rinse the sauce off - and the strip of salmon was, no joke, about an inch wide. They have pasta, which looked okay, and a variety of pizza options in the $15 area, which I might go for, if I were forced to eat a meal there again.
But a genuine highlight was the Champagne Onion Rings - look for them under "side dishes," not "appetizers." They were light and crispy, with a flaky coating that adhered to the rings, rather than a thick, second epidermis that peels away like on some rings I know. They come with two sauces: what appeared to be mayonnaise, and a cocktail-barbecue sauce that was ketchup-like, but sweeter and tangier. So delicious.
Bottom line: go for the rings and the atmosphere, but don't expect much from your main dish.