Friday, April 17, 2009

New bar in Newtown

My local beer bar is Isaac Newton's, here in Newtown. Isaac's has a great rotating taplist; they don't get the really crazy releases that get the geeks all hot-n-sweaty, but they do have good beers, and not "the usual suspects." Their current taplist includes the Harpoon Leviathan Quad, Bell's Oberon, and Cape Ann Doppel Bock. Their bottled beers are excellent, well-kept and a wide range. To be honest...I'm not sure why I don't go there more often.

But the fact is, I don't, and I keep wishing for some good local competition to keep Isaac's on their toes. I thought The Grotto might do it, but the bar is a constant disappointment. Friends is a wretched Applebee's knockoff with 16 wasted taps (and don't get me started on the Newtown Applebee's), the Temperance House is bland and sanitized, the Brick Hotel has a couple great bartenders but a tiny beer selection, and The Saloon is perhaps the most misnamed place I've ever seen.

So when construction started on a place called The Green Parrot Irish Pub and Patio, where the late lamented Goodnoe's Dairy Bar used to be, I was hopeful. It opened on Tax Day, and last night I stopped by around 9:00 to see how things were.

The first thing I noticed, in the parking lot, was the pleasant smell of smoke. The GP uses a wood-fired kitchen to cook 90% of the menu. They also claim: "In the restaurant industry, pre-made foods are often used to cut labor and food costs. The Green Parrot will use only the freshest ingredients and will prepare its menu from scratch each day, eliminating preservatives, chemicals, MSG, and trans fats." Maybe, though I will say that the chef has solid bona fides and the smell of food was wonderful.

But I was there for the bar. It's big, a large rectangular space, and last night it was rocking. I lucked into some bar space when a couple at the bar joined a couple at a nearby table just as I slowly orbited the bar, looking for a lean-in space to order a beer. I got excited for nothing, though: I stood there for just under three minutes as the five bartenders walked by, walked by, walked by, before one finally asked me if I needed something. Someone really should have at least given me a "Hey, I see you, I'm in the weeds here, be with you soon" look before that.

It seemed like of the five bartenders, two knew what was going on. I didn't get one of them. I did get a smile, points for that, but then it was clueless. Not all their fault: the taplist wasn't exactly inspiring. Highlights: Flying Fish rotator, River Horse rotator, a house "Dirty Parrot Ale" which I didn't get or ask about, HopDevil, Yards Philly Pale...and 18 others, including Guinness, Beamish, and Boddington's...yawn. And my bartender not only didn't know what the FF and RH options were, she didn't seem to realize that I was asking which Flying Fish it was, not what Flying Fish was. It was Farmhouse, and it certainly was fresh!

Look. I don't want to crap on the GP. I've got my fingers crossed that they'll still get it. But for a bartender in this area to not realize that a brand like Flying Fish has more than one beer is simply inexcusable, personally and for the bar. And when you've got a well-supported bar like Isaac's selling Harpoon Leviathan in town, and Centre Beer selling some great cases, someone at the GP isn't doing their homework (and they're leaving money on the table). Not to mention their bottle selection is -- with the bizarre exception of Chimay -- incredibly small and mundane. Didn't look like their spirits were much to write home about either. Beautiful wine list, of course, and I saw two people drinking wine. (Okay, I know, that's for the dining room. God forbid I should have a better selection of beer for the dining room.)

Of course, I didn't mention the biggest thing about the bar: 17 flat-panel TVs, just in the bar. Last night they were all showing baseball, which next to no one was watching. At least there wasn't a viciously loud sound system.

I'll go back. I'd like to see what it's like in the afternoon, and I definitely want to try the food. I also have hopes that things will improve. Okay, you're an 'Irish pub.' You do not need Guinness and Beamish and Harp and Smithwick's...and you certainly don't need Bud, Miller, and Coors Light on draft and in bottle. Not to mention Amstel and Heineken Light, and MGD 64 and Ultra. That's 10 out of 36 beer choices taken up by light beer choices: use three. You've got a cider, Twisted Tea, and Smirnoff Ice: pick one. If you're only going to have 36 slots, you've got to use them more wisely.

Sigh. I started bitching again there, didn't I? Well, look, Green Parrot people. When craft beer is showing more growth than any other segment of the market, and you're in an area where craft beer is doing really well, and beer does better than wine and spirits in a tight economy, and the margin is better on craft than it is on light beer, why ignore that? Step up. Be smart.


bill mc said...

Wow, I didn't know Goodnoes was gone, ate many a time there in my salad days. I also remember when they used to have live radio broadcasts( few minutes each) for the local AM station.

Sigh...the memories of youth.

Rich said...

You know, I get that a lot where I walk into a place and you see a tap list that says, Troeg's or Dogfish Head and that's it...9 out of 10 you ask the wait staff which beer it is and you either get deer-in-headlights looks or they explain to you that it is a local brewery.

Last weekend I was at a local establishment in Lancaster and I asked for a Lancaster beer, meaning Lancaster brewing company. The waitress said, "Well, we have Troeg's, that is like Lancaster...let me go talk to the bartender." Bartender comes over, "We have Troeg's." OK, your a LANCASTER least carry the local selections. I'll have a coke please.

No excuse for stuff like that.

Lew Bryson said...

I know what you mean, but I can't complain too much on that point, Rich: they have Victory, Flying Fish, River Horse, and Yards. They could have Philly Brewing and Weyerbacher too, but four's not bad.

Steven said...

I'd give it another go in a few weeks, even a few months. Hard to tell on a place that's only been open for a day (yes, this is me being optimistic, after all -- it's Friday!).

Lew Bryson said...

Yup, that's what I usually do. It's only fair.

sam k said...

Can you tell the folks at the Green Parrot straight up instead of preaching to the choir here and hoping they take notice without any direct feedback?

BaltimoreMan said...

I hate it when the bartender doesn't know anything about beer. At my beer bar (I think Max's Taphouse is evefyones beer bar though), I go to one bartender. He knows most of the beer. He knows what I like. There have been many times when I order a beer, and he says, "No." I like that. I can depend on his opinion to grab me a beer when it is crowded and I can't speak directly to him. Nice to be able to do that. Hopefully, Gp can get with the picture and teach the bartenders something about the beer.


Lew Bryson said...

Gets into a weird area there, Sam.

First, I want to see what happens after the first kegs run out.

Second, dickhead factor. Blogging about it is one thing, actually walking up to the experienced restaurant people who own and run the place and saying, "Hey, you know what's wrong with this place of yours, the one that has been packed each night it's been open so far? I can tell you. (Oh, and by the way, I've never worked as a bar manager or operator.)" Zero credibility, and rightly so.

Besides, there's a very good chance that this place will fly. In Newtown, the Applebee's did so damned well they had to expand it after the first year. It's not like the bar's real high.

I'm just saying what I'd like to see, and what I think they could do to be even better. Their beer choices are just one baby step above pedestrian. But that's a small complaint to make in the first week. So it's wait and see. Going and saying something to them now would be presumptious. At least, for me.

---Guy said...

Gotta agree with Lew. When you have a business serving the public, EVERYONE has an idea about how you should be doing it differently/better. People do mean well but sometimes you just wanna choke somebody.

I'm thinking of putting up a big sign behind my bar:

"If you have free business advice, thanks but we already have enough"

Bill said...

The thing is, sure, they don't "need" all those macros both on tap and in bottles... but if people buy them both ways, and buy them more quickly than they do the local craft brews, it doesn't matter that there's a better margin on craft brew. Volume probably trumps profit margin here. It sounds like they're trying to get as many folks into the tent as possible, hence the ersatz Irish pub/sports bar/fresh food well made combination. Alas, they may have picked the few craft beers they did just so folks like you and me would have something to drink -- our segment may be growing more quickly than beer overall, but there's still much fewer of us than of "them."

By the way, I'd love to have both Guinness and Beamish on tap at one establishment.

---Guy said...

I forgot to add a smiley face:


Anonymous said...

I too was there wednesday night...and it took me almost ten minutes to get a drink.....get a clue girls!!!!

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote this blog is obviously an attention seeking asshole. It's 9 t.vs dickweed and the reason we don't have the selection of beers that you would like is because the place wasn't built for you. Get a life and a proper job and lets hope we don't have you for a customer. There's enough ego-maniacs in this town without having to deal with your bullshit!!! -T/Red

Lew Bryson said...

That's Mister Attention-seeking Asshole to you, pal.

Just one more lesson on how to handle customers and criticism; thanks for that!