Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Next Beer Stop: Rahway, NJ?

Rail House Pub Bartender Rachel

Ever since JJ Bittings opened a brewpub hard by the NJ Transit tracks in Woodbridge in 1997, The PubScout has been a fan. Not only a fan of the place, but of the ever-present railroad theme, whether it’s the little locomotive chugging along the elevated track inside or its real big brother thundering by at regular intervals outside.
So when SubScout Gonzo (John Gonzalez) alerted me to a new—as in one week old-- rail side pub with a large variety of beers just up the North Jersey Coast line in Rahway, I was intrigued enough to pay a visit to the fledgling operation. Mass transit near good beer can be a blessing.

Officially called the Rail House pub, it’s adjacent to the Rail House restaurant at 1449 Irving St., a cozy, upscale eatery.  At first, though, I drove right past it, as there is no outside signage indicating that it’s there—unless you count the neon Yard’s Brewing sign that hangs in the window (which usually gets my attention). Hanging a quick U-turn, I found a spot right in front on Friday night.

Call me old school ( or, if you prefer, just call me old ), but pubs should have interiors of either
1: old wood, wattle and daub (like Krogh’s in Sparta) or
2: old brick.
The Rail House pub is in the latter category. So far, so good. 

Joe (L.) and Allan (R.)

A quick look at the taps also yielded favorable results, so I moved down the bar to introduce myself to Manager Allan Maslo. Maslo is a savvy guy and totally committed to the craft beer revolution. Fortunately for the little guy, especially those who use the train to get to and from NYC, he’s also committed to common sense pricing and value. He joined the Rail House brass in September of 2011, and has since put so much effort into the pub side of the business that many patrons refer to the place as “Allan’s pub.” He is quick to dismiss that, however, and gives all the credit to his owner Larry Fishman, a former owner  of Asbury Park’s Stone Pony. Supposedly, some Jersey rocker got his start there.
Allan shared his beer menu with me and there are at least 49 beers of great variety and style in both bottles and on draft. Lagunitas, Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Rogue, Chimay, Yard’s, Troeg’s, 21st Amendment, Oskar Blues and many others are available.  The pub offers two sizes of each—12 oz. or 16.oz—with a concomitant variation in price. Pub regular Joe Ferris, himself a connoisseur of fine beer, has volunteered as a semi-consultant to Maslo as Allan earns his beer bones. If the beer menu in my hand is any indication, Joe knows whereof he speaks. Still, The PubScout offers his own extensive knowledge to assist in the learning process—though my services require a small fee of a beer every now and then.

Maslo knows, too, that not everyone getting off the train has either the time, the inclination or the cash to pony up big bucks for a gourmet meal, so his menu is designed to allow the traveler –as well as the visitor—to order a couple of good brews and a huge, fresh, delicious burger (also in many variations) and fries  for under $20 with some change left over. It seems to be a winning plan. I spoke to Patty, dining with her recent college grad daughter Kelsey, had been in three times already, and the place is barely eight days old.

Gonzo and I happened to be visiting during an “End of the World” party, and there were six—count ‘em—six different bands none of which I ( a fan of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw Woody Herman and others)  had ever heard of performing for the youngish (25-40) crowd. That target demographic is an admitted part of Maslo’s master plan. Maslo said, however, that with its Stone Pony roots, old school rock from Elvis to Pink Floyd is also standard fare. I think I’ve heard of those guys.

Tory and The PubScout
The Rail House Pub is not a very big place, but neither is it cramped, though it could be if the attempt to make Rahway a craft beer mecca catches on. That could happen, but it definitely needs a web presence, even one attached to its big brother at The Rail House Restaurant. As it’s only a week old, we’ll give them time to establish themselves and work out the necessaries of marketing that will aid the process, as well as the kinks that will retard it. As aforementioned, a BIG sign outside will go a long way toward that end, as will some interesting railroad-type wall hangings to give the place some authentic, romantic  iron horse character.

Let’s face it: a “Cheers”  it isn’t. Not yet, anyway.
But if Maslo and Company play their cards right, it very well could be. And Rahway could be more than just another stop on the North Jersey Coast Line.

More pics here...

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