The Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name
By Nancy Powell
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the winds have kicked around sand and dust to mingle with the smokiness that settles outside the bar. Inside, there’s a fierce game of darts going on (a blind draw tournament as I come to understand), while mostly middle-aged men sit around the bar engaged rapid-fire riposte over soccer, pro-England joshing the opposition in playful chagrin.
Welcome to the Black Watch Pub, a traditional English pub located on the dusty corner of Central and Arrow Route (not to be confused with Arrow Highway, one block south). It’s a dark, dank, no-frills type of place populated mostly by locals, college bar-hoppers seeking cheap eats and pool play and pro-Union Jack soccer hounds commiserating with fellow Brits. Think of Black Watch Pub as a divier version “Cheers” where the waitresses are much friendlier than Diane Chambers, girly bartenders standing in for Coach or Woody, and tasty meals that damn near rivals any gastropub in the Empire (without the gastropub prices), in an atmosphere where “everybody knows your name.” And if you are a stranger, you won’t be for very long, as regulars like “Doc” will unwittingly strike up conversations without provocation.
On this particular day, Kitty, the sweet and affable daytime bartender, has assumed cheffing duties in the kitchen, showing her culinary chops with a deft hand. After Doc has finished schooling me on the praises of his beloved bar (and the Indian chicken curry by his favorite railroad chef, Bob, who also happened to serve President Clinton on one journey), my dining partner and I start off with a basket of salty, breaded Marvelous Mushrooms ($7) and the popular savory Sausage Rolls ($7), a duo of moist, juicy bangers enveloped in flaky puff pastry and served up with spicy mustard that will burn the hairs off most nostrils. A dash of HP sauce adds a nice, vinegary bite. Washed down with an ice cold pint, these two would make satisfactory pecking food for any Happy Hour crowd.
Next up are the Fish and Chips ($9.75), a surprisingly light and flaky affair for baseball-sized chunks of beer-battered cod. Depending on her mood, Kitty will create her batter using Coors Light or a darker brew. The slaw, a mostly dry mixed heap of shredded purple and green cabbage, is topped by a dollop of tangy mayo dressing and a plus for those who despise their veggies dripping in mayo. We also order the Bangers and Mash ($9.25), the ultimate English pub grub. Kitty’s dish consists of two plump, juicy sausages accompanied by a side of baked beans and three scoops of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. The sausages are nicely caramelized on the outside, yet much like the hot sausage rolls, still moist and oozing in juices on the inside.
Our last dish of the afternoon is a duo of meat pies, also known as Pasties and a staple in the working-man’s diet. These two “meat and potatoes” dishes have good, hearty flavor and its hefty proportions would crack satisfy any starving college student. The Steak and Mushroom Pie ($9.75) has an especially satisfying bent; a hot, steaming mound of beef and mushrooms baked to perfection inside a savory, flaky crust.
With nearly 18 beers on tap (including Irish Guinness and English favorites like Boddington’s and Newcastle) and new beers for less than $5 a bottle, the sky’s the limit when it comes to getting the best buzz and conversation in town. Cheers!
Black Watch Pub, 497B N. Central Ave., Upland, (909) 981-6069; www.theblackwatchpub.com. Dinner for two with drinks, $46. AE, MC, V.