Metuchen is a great food town. There are cafes, pizzerias, a fantastic ice cream shop, restaurants of every nationality you can think of, and then there’s Hailey’s Harp and Pub. Of course the food has to be good, but when it comes to pubs, the first thing I’m looking for is actually the atmosphere. Does the place bring it with the right environment? At Hailey’s, I felt it almost immediately. We sat at a high table by the bar. The tap was overflowing with beer, the bartender inundated with cocktails. The crowd was lively. Food passing by our table looked amazing. This was shaping up to be a good night, and it never wavered at any time.
Since not many restaurants outside of diners include soup with a meal, I made sure to go for an entree so I could taste their potato-leek soup. I’ve made it at home several times, and while I think mine is pretty good, theirs was much better. It was a bit looser, with just the right amount of salt content. The potatoes were firm but crumbled away into the creaminess of the soup. After that came our appetizer, which was an Irish Toastie. Two large, Texas Toast-sized pieces of bread (which tasted like they were grilled on the flat-top in butter) were piled with cheddar cheese, Irish bacon, caramelized onions, and their homemade mustard. It was excellent. I mean, what’s not to like about any of those ingredients stacked on top of each other? The bread was crispy, the cheese gooey, the onions and bacon had the savory qualities, and a drizzle of that mustard brought it all together.
It was at this point when I finished my Johnnie Walker Red on the rocks. With our meals on the way, I felt like I needed a beer to wash it down. I switched over to a Smithwicks, which is the only dark beer I like. They were priced at $6.75 and $5.25 respectively, which is fine. Since it was a Thursday, it just happened to be $5 martini night. He ended up trying three different kinds, including a Sweet and Sour, and his favorite, the French 75. It was a strong concoction of gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and champagne. I was jealous, but the beer did go exceptionally well with my bangers and mash.
For the first time in the two-plus years my friend and I have eaten together, we ordered the same thing. I contemplated trying the Gaelic Steak (which is topped with an intriguing Jameson Whiskey gravy) but being in a pub, I needed something authentic. Bangers and mash it was. There were three of these imported Irish sausages, as noted by the menu, placed in a triad over a bed of mashed potatoes. They were then topped with beans, and there was a side of some kind of delicious gravy. I’d never tried this before, but I imagine these were done as they should be. The sausages still were a bit snappy on the outside, and hot and juicy on the inside. The beans were tender and the potatoes were rustic. Looks can be deceiving: there was a lot of food on that plate. We both left stuffed. The meal, including soup, came to just $14.
The only negative I can pinpoint was the service being a bit slow, but it was a busy night and the guy was running all over the place. We were there for a little under two hours, but we didn’t have any place else to be. I will not even let that factor into my scoring, which is going to be a good one. We both agreed on 4 out of 5 stars for Hailey’s Harp and Pub. Neither of us could find anything wrong with the food or drinks. I could even see this score going higher with future visits, which will hopefully be soon and frequent. This is not pub grub here. This is food done real well. When you top it off with good drinks and an excellent atmosphere, you have a total success.
Hailey’s Harp and Pub is located at 400 Main Street in Metuchen, New Jersey.