By Jason Gatsby, TSB Contributor
The humidity got the best of me last week. Stepping outside for the first time after a long day of work on Friday, I started to perspire instantly. My clothes stuck to my frame, and I could feel the moisture in the air weighing me down. I needed shelter, and I needed a refreshing beverage -stat.
My friends and I decided it was time to cool off, relax, and catch up over a few beers, and we headed off to The Pub in downtown McKinney. To our surprise it happened to be “Craft Beer Week.” (Think Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, for example.) From May 13-17 the restaurant was featuring a new craft beer every day. For beer connoisseurs like myself, the Pub is another great spot to stray away from your “go-to beer” and try your hand at something different. The Pub offers an assortment of beers to accommodate just about every palate that walks through the door.
My friends and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that happy hour takes place every Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. And, I was quickly informed about The Pub’s Facebook page where the latest specials and events are posted. (Thanks again social networking for making my life easier with your accessibility to pertinent information!)
Located on the Square in downtown McKinney, The Pub was established in the spring of 2010 and is the little sister of the Fillmore Pub in the Historic District of downtown Plano.
By definition, a pub is a “tavern or bar.” Without a doubt, drinks are the primary focus of The Pub in McKinney. The Pub offers a large assortment of beers and cocktails, but the wine selection is very limited. If you’re in the mood for an intimate meal with pretentious wine, then detour away from the Pub.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was taken aback by the dim lit setting. The décor is comprised of a wood laden interior with antique beer advertisements covering the walls. My eyes took some time to adjust to the darkness that consumed the room. The juxtaposition of the bright sunlight relative to the dark tavern took its toll on me. I stumbled over a bar stool and was forced to use my trusty phone as a flashlight to read the menu.
If it’s your first time dining at The Pub be prepared – patrons are asked to seat themselves. Given my past experiences at The Pub, this can be disconcerting, as occasionally have I felt as though I had accidentally donned my invisibility cloak as, at times, it is nearly impossible to find a server.
I’ve been to The Pub many times and I could tell that the front of the house has had a turnover in staff. I’ve had abrasive servers in the past, but our waitress was gracious and smiled often. We felt welcome. Even though she was attentive, her knowledge of the menu was miniscule. A slew of, “I’m not sure,” “I think so,” and “um, I believe so,” were answers to my questions. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, considering that she is fairly new.
The Pub’s menu has been truncated over the years. What once folded out, now fits the front and the back of a single piece of paper. Condensing the menu, this change is probably for the best. A menu consisting of starters, salads, burgers and sandwiches along with four “Signature Dishes” helps with consistency and keeps things less complicated for the cooks.
Let me remind you, that you’re at a pub, so throw your diet out the window and start your meal off right with Pub Pork Rinds ($6) and Loaded Cheese Fries ($6.50). Don’t get me wrong, The Pub does offer five salads, ranging form $6-$8.5. Chicken can be added for an additional $2, but their salads aren’t the highlight of their menu. Stick to the bar food.
Light and airy, the house made Pork Rinds are crisp and salty. I have yet to see the crispy pigskin appetizer on any other menu in McKinney. Deliciously paired with a frosty Pale Ale and covered in spicy Cholula is the best way to indulge in the pork cracklings.
The restaurant offers a choice of fries, or chips, soup or salad as accompaniment to the burgers or sandwiches. I recommend either the house-cut fries or the tomato basil soup, both of which do not disappoint.
Patrons may choose from four variations of French fries – Steak fries, hand-cut fries, shoestring fries, and sweet potato fries. The Loaded Cheese Fries consist of thick cut steak fries, cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapenos, chives and ranch dressing. They are the sliced version of the veritable potato with all the fixins. There is nothing “healthy” about the Loaded Fries. They’re full of delicious fat and starch, perfect for your diet’s “cheat day”. The sweet potato fries were disappointing – soggy and without any seasoning.
One friend of mine ordered the Ham Panini ($8.50), but the waitress said, “We don’t have the press thing to make the Panini’s.”
I understand there are issues, and sometimes uncontrollable variables, that come with running a restaurant, but I wish the server would tell their customers what they have and do not have before it’s time to order.
I was thrilled to discover that all burgers and sliders are made from Wagyu Beef provided by Local Yocal Market, also located in downtown McKinney. When cooked to perfection, the burger is luscious and juicy. There are four adaptations of the half a pound burger served on a soft challah bun with your choice of cheddar, Swiss or American cheese ($.75 extra). My counterparts and I like to stick with to the simplicity of “The Burger” ($9), but the Chipotle Burger ($11) with onion rings, cheddar cheese, and chipotle BBQ sauce is great variation if you’re feeling exceptionally gluttonous.
We were disappointed in the Pulled Pork Sliders ($10). Four slow roasted pulled pork mini sandwiches with a tangy BBQ sauce with jicama slaw on the side sounded enticing, but there was but a tablespoon of tasteless meat on every bun. I wouldn’t have minded if I were paying $5 for a tiny portion of bland pork that required copious amounts of sauce and slaw to give it any depth of flavor, but $10 – no thank you.
Out of the four signature dishes, the Pub Fish & Chips ($12) and the Steak Frites ($16.50) were on the border of mediocrity. The fish was light and flaky, but the batter was thin and somewhat soggy in some parts. The steak is branded as a “Flat Iron Steak served medium,” but the steak was medium well. Flat Iron is a cut from the shoulder of the steer. There is more marbling and depth of flavor, but beware the shoulder is not as tender as the loin. An herb mayo accompanies the steak, and provides some much needed rehydration for the exceedingly dry portions of the meat.
It’s best to opt out of desert. The Bacon Brownie ($6) was dry and tasted as though it was made days prior, and came across as a weak attempt to get in on the savory, sweet craze. Do yourself a favor if you are cravings something sweet and head to Dairy Queen down the street a piece, and get yourself a Blizzard or a dipped cone, and save a few dollars.
If you’re looking for a place to congregate with friends and family over a few drinks and bar food that is moderately priced, then the Pub is right up your alley. Be mindful that you and your party may not get the best service, especially if the restaurant is swarming with people, but you’ll be in for a good time.
Location: 204 W. Virginia St. McKinney, TX 75069
For hours, check the Facebook page.
Over All: 2 stars
Food: 2 stars
Beverages: three stars
Service: 1 star
Atmosphere: 2 stars
FOUR STARS = Extraordinary; THREE STARS = Excellent; TWO STARS = Good; ONE STAR = Fair; NO STARS = Poor
$ = Inexpensive: entrees $10 and under; $$ = Moderate: $11-$17; $$$ = Expensive: $18-$24; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than $25
TSB’s Chow Hound attended culinary school in San Francisco, one of the most influential food cities in the U.S., and where food and wine are idolized bordering on an obsession that comes close to a cult following. While there, he worked in a number of award winning kitchens which are nationally known among well-versed foodies.