17 Cricket Avenue
A family affair, McCloskey’s Tavern, the Main Line’s oldest Irish pub, has been setting ‘em up for over three-quarters of a century. In recent years, however, this welcoming establishment has gone from a local happy-tappy to an acclaimed “Best of Main Line” award-winning restaurant noted for the quality of its cuisine and service.
Everyone comes to McCloskey’s – and I do mean EVERYone. On any given day, the crowd is likely to range from recognizable regulars like a sweet senior lady dining solo while nursing her ever-present Manhattan, to couples, to families, to students, to professorial types, to office workers, to day-trippers of every size, shape, description, and persuasion. No matter who you are, however, this is a friendly place – and the bartenders & servers do their best to make it so; regular or first-timer, you’re bound to feel right at home here.
And the food isn’t bad either – certainly several cuts above the usual “pub grub.” Nearly everything is made in-house, so that should give you some inkling as to what this place is about. Take the traditional Mediterranean hummus, for instance. It may not look like much in the photo, but it is homemade, overflowing with an addictive garlicky flavor, bathed in extra virgin olive oil, and accompanied by freshly grilled pita triangles. An absolutely delicious snack or starter.
… As is the quesadilla, a flour tortilla filled with a savory mixture of cheeses, meats, and vegetables that is then folded into the shape of a half-moon, toasted under a broiler, and cut into strips before serving. The dish, of course, originated in Mexico; and the name is derived from tortilla and the Spanish word for cheese, queso. While McCloskey’s presentation changes weekly, recently sampled was the chicken version, packed with chunks of tender white meat, shredded cheddar, black beans, tomatoes, and onions. Sidekicks include a spicy salsa and sour cream.
The appetizer of panko-crusted tomatoes is another fabulous snack/opening move. Set on a tangle of greens, slices of tomato are coated in panko breadcrumbs, deep-fried, crowned with crumbles of herb goat cheese, and drizzled with a pungent balsamic reduction. I’m not quite sure what my wife and I expected, but the dish was a most pleasant surprise. A true gastronomic gestalt, the combination of flavors and textures was just right… but the whole was infinitely more enticing than the sum of the parts might suggest.
The only semi-disappointment among the starters was the cheesesteak spring rolls. They were good, but not terribly exciting… and the so called “spicy” chipotle dressing could have used a bit more pizzazz. The two salads I sampled also fell into the “good” but not “great” category. The Cobb salad – hardboiled egg, tomato, bacon, cucumber, avocado slices, and bleu cheese crumbles on a pillow of romaine and watercress – wasn’t bad at all… but the greens looked like they’d seen better days. The buffalo chicken salad (pictured) – crispy chicken tenders in a zippy buffalo wing sauce – also had a good deal going for it, including a great after burn courtesy of that first-rate wing sauce; but, once again, the greens looked a bit tired.
With the sandwiches & burgers, though, the kitchen is right back at the top of its game. The “Paddy ‘O Melt” (pictured), a takeoff on the traditional patty melt, combines a burger (or chicken breast) with sautéed onions and melted Swiss cheese on toasted whole grain bread. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool burger fan, don’t pass this one up. A variation on the theme, the grilled veggie sandwich – roasted peppers, sautéed spinach, garlic, onions, avocado, goat cheese, and basil oil – is also served up on that luscious toasted whole grain. I didn’t have opportunity to sample one during our several visits, but a woman at an adjacent table practically inhaled the sandwich before my eyes… It was messy but awesome. Definitely worth a try.
McCloskey’s also offers diners a number of entrées, several pastas, and what the menu calls “Traditional Fare.” These latter include: meatloaf with gravy, mashed, and vegetables; Dijon crusted salmon with tarragon cream; an excellent rendition of fish & chips, and there famous homemade crab cakes. There is also a dynamite shepherd’s pie (pictured) – a blend of ground beef, veggies & spices topped off with a generous portion of homemade mashed potatoes – which I can never seem to turn down.
Desserts are homemade by Ms. Bartender – and they are very good, indeed. My absolute fave…? What else…? the utterly irresistible peanut butter pie. Many peanut butter pies can taste oddly artificial and sport a rather off-putting texture. No worries here, though, as this is definitely the genuine article: beguilingly tasty, marvelously creamy consistency, beautifully textured graham cracker crust, and, just to add to the fun, artistic slashes of dark chocolate.
McCloskey’s Tavern is one of those little “joints” – in the very best sense of that word – with which it’s easy to strike up a long-term relationship. It serves up an excellent selection of craft beers and good, solid fare at more than reasonable prices in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere buttressed by super friendly service… And that’s a combo that’s hard to beat.