If you are coming here to see how the Pub is for gastric bypass patients, I promise you I will get to it eventually. But I must ask for a few minutes to just wax nostalgic. You’ll find your review in here somewhere, but The Pub is more than just food for me, and you’ll see that in the words below.
Remember when you were a kid, and there was that one “nice” restaurant that your parents took you to for special occasions? You never went for your birthday or your special occasions, but if it was maybe Mother’s Day or your dad’s birthday, this was the restaurant you went to. Well, we had a couple of them. One of them was Zaberer’s Restaurant in Wildwood, but that was a pretty good drive for us, so it was more of an annual tradition to go there. The other place, which was closer but always a big deal to go, was The Pub.
Located in Pennsauken, NJ, The Pub, back in the day, was THE restaurant to go to. Known for the steaks and killer salad bar, The Pub would be mobbed no matter when you went. It was always loud, you always had an hour or more to wait before you were seated, but you knew that a good “grown up” meal was waiting for you. The restaurant itself is a massive building, with big, heavy wooden doors. You walk in to almost a castle-like room – stone floors, high ceilings, wood beams. The dining room is just a giant room packed with tables, featuring the high ceilings with wood beams. The feel now is very 50’s – almost as if they’ve done nothing to update the place in more than 50 years. They probably haven’t.
The Pub has closed once, but the owners regrouped and reopened. I do not know if they draw the crowds they did in the heyday, but we arrived at 9 PM on a Thursday night and there were only a handful of diners there. We were promptly seated at what may have been the exact table I’ve been seated at in the days of old, when I would come with my dad, my grandmom, and my sister Bean. The menu we were handed seemed very familiar, also, and for all I know, it was also the same menu I held in my hands when they were the hands of an eight or nine year old girl.
Jim is not impressed, and he’s making snarky faces at me for bringing him here, but I knew at least one thing he’d appreciate was the fact that you get a pitcher of ice water on your table. He drinks a ton of water, so I would have thought this little treat was right up his alley. The waitress comes over and takes drink orders. I have an unsweetened iced tea, which is my always anytime drink; and Jim orders an Arnold Palmer and his water.
We browse the menu, and it seems the Pub is still famous for it’s steaks. They have open hearth cooking here – back way before it was the hip thing to do. The menu also has a pretty extensive list of seafood, and I find charbroiled scallops, which are a great food for me – or anyone after gastric bypass surgery. They are high in protein, very low in fat and calories, and they are usually melt in your mouth easy to chew. I order the scallops, which it says come with mushrooms and peppers; and Jim orders what they call a Carpet Bagger – a 9 ounce filet mignon, topped with lump crabmeat. Crab is another one of those foods I can easily eat, so I know I’ll get to sample at little of Jim’s dinner, too
The very friendly waitress invites us to visit the salad bar, which is at the far side of the room. The one on our side is closed, which I attribute to the late hour, so we make our way across the room. The salad bar is not as spectacular as I remember it being, and if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery, this is a bit of a disappointment. I tend to load up at a salad bar on things like hard boiled eggs, chunks of turkey or ham, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds – all those protein foods. You will only find the eggs here, and on this particular evening, they are mushy The lettuce is nice, although plain, and there are grape tomatoes, cukes, shredded carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, and a few other standard salad bar type items. For the specialty items, you will find an orange cranberry sauce that I would think having had gastric bypass surgery, you would be taking your life into your hands to eat. If there was any portion of a tart cranberry in the sauce, I couldn’t find it. The one bite I took was so sugary sweet, it almost crunched in my teeth. There is also a potato salad – the kind with mayonnaise; pasta salad; marinated mushrooms, and a few other items that I passed on. They also have a premade Caesar salad. Still on the salad bar after all these years is The Pub’s famous zucchini bread. As a kid, we would eat plate after plate of this delicious bread – similar in consistency to a pumpkin bread or banana bread. But, bread is not my friend and I don’t know how much sugar they put in the bread, so I skip it. Jim eats a piece at my suggestion, but he’s not particularly bowled over by the flavor.
One good thing about the Pub is that unlike the upscale steak joints, you get a full meal here. In addition to the salad bar, you get a choice of baked potato, mashed potato, baked stuffed potatoes, or rice if you are having seafood; and then there is usually a vegetable or cole slaw included as well with your meal. Jim’s meal comes with string beans, and mine comes with the previously alluded to mushrooms and peppers. Um, pepper. Um, piece of pepper.
The order comes out, and my scallops are still in their “previously skewered” position – lined up in a row. They look lovely, but as I try to separate them, I soon find out that these ceased being scallops quite some time ago and during the over cooking process have now become tiny little white hockey pucks. There is exactly 2 mushrooms accompanying my tiny little tooth breaking scallops, and there is one – count it, ONE – sliver of pepper that looks like it was trying to escape the plate in favor of a more dignified death amoung the charcoal in the hearth. I admit, however, that the mushrooms are quite tasty. I wish I had ordered a skewer of them. On the side was a small container of cocktail sauce that was a little too ketchupy tasting and another container of something that had developed some sort of unpleasant skin on it that was a bright orange, but when I stirred it up to see what was under the orange, it was more of a Thousand Island color sauce of some kind. I didn’t ask what it was as I was not going to eat it, since it turned that funky orange color on top, nor did I think it would help rehydrate my scallops, therefore making it just a container of something fatty that I shouldn’t eat anyway.
Jim’s steak looks really good, covered with a thick layer of crabmeat and diced red and green bell peppers – but not too many so that the crab is overwhelmed. I’d say he had more peppers than I did, but that would make you believe he had a plate full, but really, there were just a couple of small dices of the peppers in his crabmeat. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium, which is how he requested it be prepared. He seemed to really enjoy the steak, but I made the unfortunate mistake of eating a scallop before sampling the steak. The scallop got stuck – you know what I mean, you WLS survivors! – and I wasn’t going to risk chasing it with a piece of steak.
I ate one of the scallops, which I had to cut with my steak knife, since they wouldn’t break with the side of my fork, like scallops should, and this makes me hesitate to recommend the Pub to anyone who has had gastric bypass surgery. I’m wondering if you order anything other than a steak if it will suffer the same culinary misfortune my scallops did. I know dried out chicken is tough for me to eat, but they do have a few baked dishes on the menu, which may fare better than the things cooked on the hearth.
The biggest disappointment of the night, however, was not that the food was bad, but that the food was bad and I remembered it being so great. I always felt like such a grown up when Daddy would trust us to come and eat here and be on our best behavior. We would wait in the massive lobby, mouths watering, anticipation building, and Daddy would order us a Shirley Temple and we would get steak and have such a great meal, we would walk out stuffed, satisfied, and so glad to have gotten taken out to a “fancy” restaurant. Having a disappointing experience at the Pub seemed to tarnish some of the memories I had. I left wondering if things here were always as bad as they were tonight or if they’ve gotten bad over the years. Maybe it was just one bad meal, and I should try it again. But walking into the restaurant, I just didn’t have the feeling I had as a little girl, walking in, holding my father’s hand, feeling all grown up and special.
I had a list of restaurants I wanted to try before my gastric bypass surgery. I feared I would never be able to eat real food again, and I made Jim take me to a bunch of restaurants to eat my favorite foods. Just days after my surgery, I was crying over not being able to have gotten to the Pub. I’m now sorry that I got there at all. I should have left the memories what they were.
Sometimes, you can’t go home again…..