I've fallen in love with the new English/Irish pub on the south end of Tejon Street, the Wayfarer Pub. Just walking through the door, the rich wood interior, the bar on the left, and lots of tables and benches on the right warm your senses. Dartboards, pub trays and beer signs extend the sense of familiarity.
Equally important to me these days, while this is a great place to get a pint, it's also a place you can easily take your kids. In fact, all three times I've visited the Wayfarer, my children were treated the way I imagine visiting royalty would be treated, including not one but two maraschino cherries in their drinks, even the refills. (And no, I don't know why maraschino cherries and royalty are somehow connected in my subconscious.)
Let me answer the obvious question first: Guinness, Harp and Fullers lead the list of brews on tap, and there are plenty more by the bottle. But if you stop by for a pint, you would be seriously short-changing yourself if you didn't try the food.
My new favorite food: Chips and Curry. A plate full of the most delicious, crispy french fries comes with a bowl of creamy curry dip with a full-bodied flavor of curry and not too much heat. Tableside condiments also include a bottle of malt vinegar, which is the next best thing to sprinkle on your fries after salt.
If you're just popping in for a snack, there's a nice selection on the appetizer menu, where prices range from $3.95 to $5.50. The Wayfarer Potatoes are divine, heavenly balls of mashed potatoes combined with finely chopped leeks, carrots, celery and your choice of cheese or ham, then fried until crispy and golden on the outside. These are served with a roasted corn cream sauce, which was just fine, but I would rather have had more of the curry sauce. (Except for desserts, I can't think of many dishes that wouldn't be improved by an application of that curry sauce.) Other choices include Sausage Rolls, a combination of mild sausage and ricotta cheese rolled in phyllo dough and baked; and a Bacon Buttie, a buttered roll with some of the loveliest, leanest, meatiest bacon you've ever sunk your teeth into.
The bacon's also the centerpiece of Irish Fry, which at $8.95 provided me with enough sustenance to last about 36 hours. I fought the food and the food won. Two eggs, so perfectly over-easy that I could have cried, with grilled soda bread just perfect for soaking up the rich, runny yolk. Of course, that's if you aren't sopping it up with the mountain of delicious mashed potatoes; or that wonderful, salty, thick-cut bacon that more closely resembles ham than anything we colonists call bacon; or the sausages, which I could wax rhapsodic about for days -- black sausage, white sausage, and a couple of others, all juicy, meaty and seasoned just right. Of course, lest you think I went hungry, there was also a piping hot bowl of rich baked beans, and some grilled tomatoes.
It's extremely difficult to walk away from any meal at the Wayfarer still hungry. The Oyster Hoagie, served on a big, soft but chewy whole-wheat loaf with roasted red pepper and horseradish aioli, comes with a big mountain of fries as well. The Fish and Chips is truly superb, with lots of shatteringly crunchy batter over perfectly cooked, moist fish fillets, served with fries and a lively, slightly sweet coleslaw. The sandwiches run $6.50-$8.95, and also include burgers (one veggie variety), a turkey or veggie club and an orange roughy sandwich.
The orange roughy dinner is delicious, and heartier than you would expect from a fish dish. A lightly seasoned, very light coated fillet is perfectly pan-fried and laid over a mountain of those incredible mashed potatoes, served with sauted baby vegetables on either end of the plate to balance things out. The Veggie Pasta is an example of a simple dish simply done well. Bowtie pasta and fresh, crisp-tender vegetables are sauted together, lightly seasoned with a touch of garlic, and topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I'm anxious to try the chicken potpie and the steak and mushroom pie, which looked delicious when I saw them delivered to other diners.
A big sample of a little of everything comes on the Ploughman's plate. Yikes. Start with a heap of that sturdy soda bread and some crispy crackers. Add some sliced Swiss cheese, a nice wedge of properly runny brie and a cup of blue cheese crumbles. Then add some chunks of salty sweet ham, some thick, rolled slices of salami and a bowl of thick, olive-studded hummus. Throw in some broccoli florets and a handful of grape tomatoes and another of black olives. Add a house mustard with enough horseradish to make your sinuses tingle. That's the Ploughman's.
The dinners are reasonable, starting at $7.95 for the chicken potpie, the one "high-priced" item being the Wayfarer Steak for $13.95. I know there are desserts on the menu, including a root beer float with Guinness ice cream, but I've just been too full to sample any of them. If the desserts compare with the rest of the food, though, they're bound to be wonderful. If I'm ever able to save room for them, I'll let you know.