In the most simple definition, a gastropub or gastrolounge is a dining establishment that serves both high-end food and beer.
Gastropub is derived from the words: gastronomy, love of the art or science of food; and pub. Nary 20 years old, the term has evolved from its origins and has become so much more - even taking on uniquely American characteristics.
The first gastropubs appeared in London in the early 1990's when young chefs, tired of traditional pubgrub, offered food of a higher caliber. During the “cool Britania” era of Tony Blair all things British found their way to America bringing the new Mini, Doctor Who, Colplay, and Gastropubs to colonial shores. The most recognized of the early US gastropubs is the Spotted Pig in Manhattan.
Beer is a mainstay at the bar, although traditional cocktails, and modern versions of the classics are starting to appear on US menus. Craft beers, often locally produced in small batches, are a key feature on the menu. It is not uncommon for a gastro pub to only have a few cases of a particular beer for only a few weeks, but given the vast number of craft brewers springing up there are usually a dozen or more of these selections on tap at any given time. Access to unique and seasonal brews has inspired many gastropubs to create craft beer clubs to inspire patrons to make repeated visits to try a new pint when it becomes available. Of course when patrons visit to sample the new beer they just happen to order dinner, funny how it works that way.
Gastropub food has an artisanal bent as well. It’s not uncommon for these restaurants to have a staff arrive in the wee hours of the morning to bake breads and desserts for that evenings dinner service. More often than not the food is locally sourced as well, some establishments going so far as to have their own flocks and herds at local farms where they can keep tabs on both the quality of feed and care the animals receive. Ever notice how the eggs at some restaurants taste so much better than others? Chances are that restaurant has their own flock at a nearby farm. Gastropubs take that a step farther and often have pigs and beef being raised specifically for them. This ensures a much better product as well as preserves open spaces in metropolitan areas.
Menus at gastropubs often reflect seasonal produce resulting in a naturally changing menu that reflects whatever is locally available. But what about that salad in February, it’s too cold for radicchio in NJ. Well before Mr. Boeing’s jets made it possible to buy flowers in NJ that were picked in Colombia a day or so ago, the Garden State had a thriving floral industry. Roseland was named for the acreage dedicated to growing flowers, both in fields and greenhouses. In recent years some of those old greenhouses have been converted to “farm land” providing greens and other salad ingredients. Taking old things and ideas and re-purposing them for modern needs is at the core of the gastropub experience.
Montclair has two gasto-eateries: Egan’s and Pig & Prince. Egan’s is more of a gastropub; Pig & Prince is more of a gastrolounge.