So a guy walks into a bar … he’s practically grown up in.
During high school, I washed dishes at The Pub in New Holland. My in-laws got engaged there. Whenever I came home from college, it was always the first stop I’d make. But until my recent visit, I hadn’t been back in a long time. The once happening hot spot on Main Street had taken a serious downward turn since its heyday a decade ago.
Now, all that is changing. Original owner Ola “Karina” Michalska is back, and things are looking up for The Pub.
“It’s going to take anywhere from six months to a year to get it back,” says Michalska, who left six years ago to create Vinola’s Restaurant & Bar in Leola. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we will bring back the new, old Pub.”
Physically, many things have already changed since my last visit. The worn-out carpet has been removed and the wood floors stylized to look like planks. Some of the interior is now painted with chalkboard paint, allowing daily specials and other messages to adorn the walls – an idea inspired by Vinola’s server Krystal Hummer.
New semicircle-shaped booths help to open up the dining area, and all the lighting fixtures are being replaced. The old bar display has been refashioned and modernized. And, to my pleasant surprise, there are some new tap handles.
“People’s taste in beer is changing, so we wanted to offer a better selection,” says Michalska.
Along with the usual domestic draft selections, The Pub offers Franziskaner Hefeweizen and Newcastle Brown Ale – on our recent visit, my wife and I each had two. It was a quiet Tuesday night, and some of the locals were enjoying the popular cheesesteak special.
In a perfect world, Michalska would have shut The Pub down for three months and reopened after the renovations were finished, but that option was not financially viable. Instead, she closed the doors for three weeks in order to make basic changes, reopening with limited hours and an abbreviated menu in November. There is still a lot of work to be done, but she’s making steady progress.
“The next change is that I’m going to be here full-time,” says Michalska, who currently splits her time between The Pub and Vinola’s. “I have to make sure the food coming out of the kitchen is up to my standards. I have to make sure the servers are doing what I want them to do.”
The Pub’s menu is now fully operational, and it has definitely changed. Michalska calls it downsized, but I think it’s more of an upgrade. The Pub steak salad (featuring mixed greens, cucumbers, eggs, tomatoes, fries, cheddar and steak) is one of the few menu items to have survived the transformation. Bar standards include wings (in seven different flavors), burgers and deep-fried appetizers. Specialty salads, sandwiches and entrees – ranging from rotisserie chicken to crabcakes – make up a significant portion of the menu. But burgers are the biggest draw.
The top-selling double grilled cheese bacon burger is exactly what it sounds like. Two grilled cheese sandwiches serve as the bun. Inside is a hefty burger topped with bacon and more cheese. Served with chips and a pickle, the decadent dish is a bargain at $8.95.
Despite the nice variety of the new menu, my appetite has found a singular target. Now, when I stop in at The Pub and pick up a fork, I’m aiming right at the gravy fries. The menu features four different varieties of gravy fries: The House (topped with braised brisket, homemade beef gravy, horseradish and provolone cheese), The Works (with bacon, sauteed onions and mushrooms, gravy and mozzarella cheese), Pot Pie (loaded with pulled chicken, peas, chicken gravy and cheese) and The Bolognese (served with Italian meat sauce and melted mozzarella).
Michalska walked me around the bar, pointing out the things that will eventually disappear. Some things will stay – like the portrait of iconic barfly Richard “Burky” Burkholder, which now overlooks the server’s station – but the pool table and buffet are already gone. Daily dinner specials have returned, and Michalska hopes her new happy hour will bring back the old regulars.
“We’re going to have all sorts of great stuff in here,” Michalska says. That’s awesome news for anyone who remembers The Pub from back when it was the place to be in Eastern Lancaster County.
• 503 East Main Street, New Holland; 354-2331
• Daily, 10 a.m.-12 a.m.