Restaurant Review: The Halligan Tavern

I recently did a show in Derry New Hampshire and drove up early with a friend to grab a bite to eat before the show.  Being unfamiliar with the town, we happened upon a local pub and figured the menu would be typical, the service fast and atmosphere cordial as is the case for most pubs.  We entered the pub which had typical pub decor, beer signs, specials posted on posters and TVs throughout but the place was nearly empty with only 2 people in the dining area and one person sitting a the bar. The hostess was very nice and seated us at a table in the bar area.  As we walked to the table she noted that we should be careful because the floor in uneven in places which was quite an understatement.  The table she sat us at was so wobbly that the glasses of water would slide off as the table teetered.  There had to be a 2 inch height difference in the floor from on leg of the table to another.  We moved ourselves to another that was only slightly less wobbly.

The waiter was pleasant and brought us menus.  The menu listed typical pub favorite such as burgers, chicken pt pie, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese and the lesser common seared Tuscan scallops, pretzel wrapped salmon and yellow fin tuna sashimi.   Who would order sashimi in a pub in Derry?  The prices were uncommon as well and ranged from $15 to $21 per entree with the macaroni and cheese bottoming out at $12.  We were both in the mood for wings which were also on the menu and listed as “Chipotle rubbed chicken wings tossed with your choice of sauce:  barbeque, sweet chille or smoki’n hot”.  We opted for two orders of wings, one barbeque and one smokin’ hot and a half order of Caesar salad.  I ordered a glass of water and my friend a diet Pepsi.

A few minutes later the salad arrived and it was delicious.  The lettuce was fresh and crispy and dressed to perfection with enough dressing to taste but not soaking the plate.  The dressing had a beautiful, classic Caesar flavor with just enough garlic to taste but not enough to over power the subtle hint of anchovy.   The croutons were dangerously hard but flavorful once you could bite one.  Next came the two orders of wings which were visually indistinguishable and the waiter even noted that he was unsure which was which.  It was clear from the plate that the wings were baked and not fried as they were clearly dry and crispy with a layer of sauce so light that it barely got on my fingers.  Not sure which was which I took one from each plate and easily enough figured it out.  The barbeque had a nice subtly sweet sauce which added a nice second layer of flavor to the chipotle rub.  The wing itself however was dry and over cooked.  Now I prepared myself for the “smokin’ hot” wing which was not smokin’ hot.  It was as dry as the barbeque wing but the flavor was absolutely horrible.  It was not hot at all but rather simply tasted of raw chile powder and was barely edible.  Making a perfect wing is not easybut if you can’t make an edible wing what would entice me to order a more challenging dish like a pretzel wrapped salmon which sounds more like circus fare than pub food.  Hands down the Caesar salad was the star of that meal.

Once we were done the waiter dropped the check off and cleared the table without a word.  He came back, picked up the check and processed the credit card again in an odd silence and left the receipts.  Is The Halligan Tavern a do over?  Absolutely not.

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