Highland food favorites and beer
English and Irish cooking generally don’t get their due in the Lehigh Valley, with most places serving only bar food that scantly resembles that of the Isles.
Until recently, the lone outlier may have been McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub in Bethlehem. But now, thanks to a new spot in the Allentown Farmer’s Market, there’s another place nearby to get your bangers and mash. In fact, the restaurant, dubbed The Proper Little Pub, is owned by John O’Reilly and Jay Coleman, the latter a former manager of McCarthy’s.
The eatery opened in late June, and has since added beer to the menu. They’re also working on installing a small brewing system that will allow them to serve some in-house beers, like a Guinness clone and other Irish and British styles — in addition to cider.
The menu is very succinct, with just five dishes on the menu. It included some classics, like lamb shepherd’s pie, potato and leek soup, and Guinness beef stew — the soups come with a side of traditional Irish brown bread.
There was also an interesting take on a Philly classic: the Irish cheesesteak, made with corned beef, cabbage, onion and Cheese Whiz. For early birds, there was also an Irish breakfast sandwich with Irish soda bread topped with a choice of bacon or sausage, egg and Irish cheddar.
Setting and décor: Since the pub is located in the (typically) bustling Allentown Farmer’s Market, it’s not the quietest of locales, but the bar stool seating was out of the way enough to enjoy a meal with little hassle.
While a difficult task in a farmer’s market, the eatery does its best to replicate the look of a traditional pub — with a wood veneer, faux stained glass, framed pictures that resembled the White Cliffs of Dover, and flags from Wales, Ireland and more adorning the service area.
A board with the menu lineup sat on one side of the bar, with HP sauce and Daddies sauce available as condiments. Not only is the space a restaurant, it also serves as a market for those looking for Irish and English specialties, with a ton of fresh and canned items such as bangers, rashers, shepherd’s pie, and black pudding available to take home.
Food: I started my meal with the potato and leek soup ($4.50), a fantastic appetizer, especially with fall weather ahead.
Everything was served very casually, either in plastic or in to-go containers, and all of the cuisine was prepared earlier and reheated for serving. That aside, the soup tasted great, nicely salted (for my tastes, which may be too much for some), and was served with a slice of excellent Irish brown bread and two pats of butter.
The soup had large chunks of potatoes that delivered the right amount of softness, and leeks that simply vanished into the mix, yielding a rich and sumptuous starter.
Few things can make farmers shopping better than having a beer before doing so. While they’re still working on getting their brewing system up and running (their fermenter was still being figured out behind the bar), they’re already serving up favorites like brews from Fegley’s, Troegs, Yuengling, Victory and Banter’s Cider for a mere $5 a pint.
I finished my meal with lamb shepherd’s pie ($7.50), which I was warned would take a while to heat. In no rush, I agreed, and was rewarded with a wonderfully flavorful entrée. It was the type of meal that you might enjoy at Bethlehem’s Celtic Classic and yearn for year-round