For these reviews, I like to seek out little-known spots in out of the way places. The Pour House Pub, off a lonely road on Kent Island, meets that criteria.
We met a couple of old friends there on a Friday night.
That's right: 7 p.m. on a Friday in the summer, across the Bay Bridge. What were we thinking?
Fourteen miles and an hour later, we arrived badly in need of a cold one. Thankfully, the list of beers on tap hit us between the eyes as soon as we walked in this small, dark, cozy pub.
In fact, that's all I remember of the décor. Good food, good beer, good company – The Pour House boils it down to the basics.
This is lead owner Ivano Scotto's first foray into the pub scene, although he has plenty of experience in the restaurant business.
A native of Naples, Italy, Ivano immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago at age 16 and worked in several restaurants before launching his own, Squisito, in Chester. Today he's part of a restaurant group that owns seven eateries on both sides of the Bay Bridge.
He thought his neighbors on Kent Island needed a "Cheers"-like bar close to home. The Pour House Pub opened in March 2014 and shares the old Castle Marina Inn building with an Asian-sushi café … and possibly a restless spirit.
Ivano tells the ghostly tale of "Sarah" who looks out from the widow's walk, waiting for her love to return from the sea. "I've heard plenty of stories. I don't know if they're alcohol-induced," he said with a laugh.
Let's discuss the spirits on tap.
Every day, a dozen beers go up on the chalkboard. Less than half are staples; the others rotate, providing reasons for a return visit. The pub also offers a variety of crushes and other cocktails.
My husband ordered the Golden Monkey Belgian-style tripel from Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, with a whopping alcohol by volume content of 9.5 percent ($6). Dave found it surprisingly light and drinkable, with notes of fruit and spice.
Our server, Bonnie, made us feel like we were her only table. She brought me samples of a chocolate hazelnut porter from Fin City Brewing Company in Ocean City ($6) and Seed-Free & Joy watermelon ale from the 16 Mile Brewing Company in Georgetown, Delaware ($6).
While I like chocolate and watermelon, my taste buds couldn't reconcile either alongside pub fare. I went with a standard, the Leinenkugel Summer Shandy from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin ($5). Its lemony notes make it a refreshing quaff in the summertime.
Jennifer was happy with the house pinot noir ($6), while Steve joined us on the beer side with Fin City's Poor Man's IPA ($6). An avid fisherman, he figures the beer is named after Poorman's Canyon off the coast of Ocean City, a known spot for big sport fish like marlin, tuna and wahoo. Infused with six different hops, it certainly had the aroma of a fresh ocean breeze.
The drinks paired well with our Irish nachos appetizer – think nacho toppings over sliced potatoes instead of chips ($9).
Relaxed and happy, we turned to our entrees. Steve sunk his teeth into the "baconator" burger, a Pour House creation that uses woven bacon strips in place of buns ($15). For $2 extra, he got bison. The rich, flavorful meat was cooked just right and served with a mountain of tasty fries.
Dave chose the "colossal crab cake" sandwich, a softball-size portion studded with lump meat and not much filler that, for $14, was a good deal.
Jennifer enjoyed her nuts and berries salad ($8) with grilled chicken and avocado ($4 extra). It was chockful of toppings. She liked the balsamic reduction decorating the rim of the bowl more than the too-oily vinaigrette dressing on the side.
I ordered the grilled carnitas pizza, a special. It looked beautiful, but was a bit disappointing. It arrived lukewarm, and the slow-cooked pork was not flavorful enough to bust through the mild toppings of avocado and sour cream.
Pleasantly full but wanting to linger to enjoy John Nicholas' acoustic guitar, we asked about dessert. There were just two offerings: peanut butter cheesecake or a fried banana cheesecake chimichanga served à la mode with caramel sauce. Not able to wrap our brains around the latter, we chose the former.
Outsourced from Peace of Cake in Stevensville, the cheesecake was satisfying and not too sweet. A good pick.
Too soon, it was time to trek back over the bridge, but we vowed to reunite at the Pour House, maybe for brunch on a weekend or on a Thursday for Prime Rib Night.
Inspired, I'm off to find other hidden gems for good food and fun. Have a suggestion? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pour House
WHERE: 205A Tackle Circle, Chester; Kent Island
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Happy Hour 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday
CHEF: Gustavo Santana
APPETIZERS: $5 to $11
SOUP, SALAD: $6 to $12
SANDWICHES, PIZZA: $8 to $15
ENTREES: $12 to $26
BRUNCH: Saturday and Sunday, $7 to $13
RESERVATIONS: No, but recommended for parties of six or more
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards