Red Lion Pub
Disclaimer: This journal entry was written before the Red Lion Pub closed. It is a shame that it did give up the ghost because it was authentically Welsh. All good things must come to an end. And I pray that this pub did not fall prey to yet another sports bar — a fantastic watering hole for people who find satisfaction in congregating at loud, boisterous, tight spots to have beer spilled on them while screaming in conversation at the person standing in their personal space.
It appears that there is a nice concentration of Brits in the Chicago area. Dandy, because I have been getting my fill of 2:00 afternoon tea, scones with cluttered cream, biscuits (those would be cookies), and pub grub. Yes, Chicago has that covered with true representation in Lincoln Park. Located at 2446 N Lincoln Avenue, one would almost think that he or she was entering from one of London’s many cobblestone streets into a public house — restaurant in American-speak. Quaint, close, and complete with a friendly atmosphere, my friend and four others braved night for some Welsh food amid a bunch of drunk Chicago Cubs fans — who no doubt watched that team splash against whatever team they were playing. What finally occured to me is that the American equivalent of a British pub is a sports bar. I cringe.
Having started the ethnic restaurant ventures, I have become more exposed to indulging in a glass, mug, or bottle of beer on occasion. While I am far from being a beer snob, I do recognize that my strong aversion to beer came from sampling Miller Genuine Draft, Bud Light, Bud Weiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Rolling Rock, and some other Milwaukee-based drek during my collge days. We all started out with Old Speckled Hen, which is a stout ale. Dark in colour with a thick, foamy head, this tall glass of beer did not make me frown, gag, or want to slam the mug against the wall. It went down smoothly and turned out to be an ideal beer for washing down the good food we all intended to eat. So, we drank, we ordered, we waited, and had grand ole conversation.
There were seven appetizers on the menu. We ordered six out of the seven and that was because one of the appetizers had all been gobbled up earlier by festive hungry blokes and skirts — that would be men and women in the British vernacular. We started with a sausage roll, which was mild beef sausage wrapped in a pastry shell and served with mango chutney. We also had Welsh rarebit — toasted bread covered in a beer-cheese sauce and topped with tomato slices. A third appetizer that we downed was Devonshire spread. This was a plate of crunchy carrots and celery served with a vegetable cream cheese, rye bread, and water crackers. The morsels of fish, heaped high in a basket, were fresh Atlantic cod fried in a beer batter and served with tartar sauce that disappeared quickly. We also stuffed our cake holes with cheese and fruit. This all consisted of brie, blue cheese, and a herbed cheddar served with fresh fruit, rye bread, and water crackers. The last appetizer was a plate of scones and jam. Because there was no cluttered cream to go with the scones, we had home made whipped cream instead. Thank God it was not that concoction from a can. We had our palates set on eating beans on toast — yummy — but we finished off all of the appetizers and then ordered more beer.
By now, we had already come to the conclusion that nothing could go wrong after such tasty appetizers. There would be no fistacuffs from drunken locals. There would be no village idiot running through the streets wrecking havoc. There would be no mess at all. Well, guess what. Nothing went wrong afterward. We sat long enough to let the appetizers and beer go down before commencing to order a heap more food for our satisfaction. There were eight entrées on the menu. We ordered seven out of the eight because one of the entrées was representative of Ireland. Well, we figured we’d be purists about something if we’re doing authentic Welsh. Hahahaha!
We hit the jackpot. We had shepherd’s pie, which was seasoned ground beef with green peas in a crock, topped with mashed potatoes and then baked. Keeping in mind that there were six of us, each full of life and a love for good food, we also had bangers and mash, which were fried British sausage served with mashed potatoes and green peas — or English peas, if I may be so bold. Our third entrée was beef Wellington. This pastry shell filled with seasoned beef and vegetables came with a side of mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes. Now, what meal would be complete without fish and chips? I still remember a local hang in Nottingham called Jill’s that served the best fish and chips, hands down. This was a plate of Atlantic cod deep-fried in beer batter and reminding me so much of Jill’s. Our fifth entrée was steak and mushroom pie. This was top sirloin and mushrooms in a rich gravy with a pastry lid. The addition of scrod almondine went over incredibly well. These filets of fresh scrod, lightly breaded and sauteed in wine, lemon, and butter, and topped with sliced almonds, stayed on the plate for a good minute. Our final entrée was Red Lion chicken breast, which was breaded boneless chicken breast sauteed in wine and lemon, topped with capers and onions, and served with rice. Needless to say, the six of us sitting around the table in this British pub were not disappointed. And as a man who eats constantly, I can truly say that I miss London — when I’m not traveling to England on business or embarrased at American politics. Well, we polished off the entrées and ordered more beer.
I wish that I could venture over to to jolly ole England on a more regular basis. The Red Lion Pub has brought back grand ole times that I remember of laughter, great conversation, and delicious food. Hmm. I will not say that the food in Britain is exactly delicius, as quite a bit of it leaves a lot to be desired, especially if the palate loves spicy food. But my friend, other food adventurers, and I will go to some restaurant to stuff our cake holes with tasty bites from some oven. One other thing that I must add is that depending on how much you eat — my friends and I have no limitation on good food — the tab could come out rather hefty. With the six of us eating like the restaurant was having a free-for-all, the tab still was not exorbitant. The food is not spicy like that of the Middle Eastern, African, and South American fare that we’ve had, but it is damn good nevertheless. If you want something different yet slightly familiar, I say wander over to 2446 N. Lincoln Avenue, pull up a seat, and have at it. I recommend the Northumbrian Brown beer for your visit and if toad in the hole is on the menu, get it.
Many happy returns.