Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Shannon Rose Pub in Woodbridge, NJ

An Irish Pub to call Home, and to call home about

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

There are some pubs that you walk into and within ten seconds, you know it "works." It looks right, feels right and, well, just IS right.

The brand-spanking new Shannon Rose in Woodbridge—it has an older sister in Clifton-- is just such a place. The rustic crimson exterior alone is appealing to those who savor the Irish pubs from the Old Sod, but the minute you walk in, The Shannon Rose makes an even bolder statement: "This is your pub."

It opened at 11 AM on June 22. I arrived at 11:25 and by 11:30 I had met a bevy of gorgeous hostesses, waitresses ( I think they have to be 9.5 or higher to work there) and congenial GM Victor Rezabala. But even had those meetings not occurred, I'd have had plenty to occupy my attention.

As in the medieval cathedrals of old, your eyes are automatically drawn upward to the high, gilded ceilings with the suspended Victorian lamps. A towering, massive wood bar simultaneously intimidates and invites you sidle up. Of course, you don't have to sit at the first bar you come to, because there are FOUR—count 'em—FOUR bars scattered throughout this bi-level food and grog emporium. Three of those bars are on the main floor and one is high above on the second. All stock a wide assortment of beers for my fellow beer-nuts, and one, Shannon Rose Amber Ale, is made especially for The Shannon Rose by none other than Flying Fish in Cherry Hill. It's outstanding, too, so don't miss it.

By all means, take a walk around the place. You want noisy pub hubbub? Sit in one of the big areas. You want privacy? You'll discover little nooks and crannies that give pubs their character. I saw two chaps working intently on their laptops, which indicated wireless access to me. There are five different areas, each named with a theme. My party sat in the section called The Library (we writers are drawn to such places, I suppose), which was aptly named for the twenty-foot high shelves stocked with books, the photos of famous Irish authors, and quotes like, "I'm a drinker with writing problems" from Brendan Behan embossed into the wood paneling.

The other areas are The Victorian, located under the aforementioned massive towering bar; The Gaelic, a back room where a wide variety of entertainment will perform; The Cottage Room, a cozy, quieter place where the laptops were being used; and The Mezzanine, a huge upstairs area designed to host parties or accommodate the overflow crowds which are likely to be packing this place.

All areas have access to widescreen TV's, but there's just so much to look at in The Shannon Rose, only the diehard TV buffs will focus on the electronics. The bar in "Cheers" didn't need a TV, after all.

Of course, the food will tell the tale eventually, as will the service and the prices; and while I had no food on this visit (a fact which smartly prompts a return), I can attest that the beer list is impressive. Apart from the FF/Shannon Ale, I noticed Arrogant Bastard, Dogfish Head IPA, Magic Hat #9 and other famous micros sprinkled among the more mainstream offerings, including Harp and Guinness, naturally. Clearly, this pub is committed to good beer, and that earns it high grades in The PubScout's book.

As to the service, the waitstaff I spoke with all seemed very excited to be employed at the Shannon Rose and were looking forward to positive, lucrative experiences. The Rose has special $2.50 Pint Nights among other promotions, and if that applies to all the micros as well as the canoe beers, it sounds like a good deal—not to mention a positively lucrative experience for the quaffer.

The Shannon Rose, named after two principals, a daughter and an owner, is a must visit for anyone who enjoys beer, people and pubs. With more than ample parking in the Shop-Rite center complex on St. Georges Ave (Rt. 35) in Woodbridge, it's decidedly NOT your father's quiet little, out-of-the-way pub, though I'm sure dad would enjoy himself here.

This dad sure did. That's why I'm going back tonight.

I'll give it its official food evaluation after I sample the special corned beef spring rolls and the Shepherd's Pie. That, of course, is the mark of any good Irish pub. And if it's as good as The Shannon Rose's first impression on this writer, we have a winner, folks.

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