With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hartford Food Guy visits Vaughan's

Notwithstanding my English ancestry, I've always been partial to all things Irish. It probably stems from the fact that I went to elementary school (Holy Family) with many, many Irish-Americans, and from the fact that my favorite teacher was a 5' tall nun named Mary Eileen Hayes. Sister Eileen's older brother Danny was a carnation wearing, Irish-American politician of the very old school. Sister Eileen used to campaign shamelessly for him on election day, enjoining us to tell our parents "to save a vote for Danny Hayes" which we did, no doubt fearful of both God's wrath, as well as Sister Eileen's, should Danny Hayes not get re-elected to the city council.

My affinity for all things Irish has carried over into my adulthood and I am partial to (among other things) a good pint of Guinness pulled from the tap and left to warm to room temperature. Perhaps needless to say, I thus generally like Irish bars and pubs. There are a good number of Irish bars of varying authenticity in the area, but I'm blogging about Vaughan's Public House on Pratt Street in Downtown because I've known Johnny Vaughan since the glory days of the Half Door on Sisson Avenue and because the folks at Vaughan's put together a very nice breakfast for my and my wife's families the day after we got married.

After hitting the gym on Saturday AM I was starving, so I decided to hit Vaughan's and live it up a little (and in the process undo all the good work I had just done :<). I started with an order of the Glenkerry Potatos ($6.59), which are thick-cut potato wedges smothered in a decent curry and sour cream. You can't eat that sort of food and not have something with which to wash it all down, so I ordered a Smithwick's (pronounced "smiticks"), which is an hearty Irish red ale. For many years it wasn't available in the U.S. and if you wanted it you had to drive up to Canada, buy it, and hope to God that no one at the border was interested in looking through your car, which in the pre-9/11 days was a pretty safe bet. For lunch, I opted for another Smithwick's and the meatloaf sandwich ($8.99). Vaughan's meatloaf sandwich is definitely inspired by the meatloaf sandwich that was on the Half Door's original menu, but the Vaughan's iteration is definitely an upgrade. Vaughan's meatloaf sandwich consists of a generous slice of meatloaf on some nice toasted marble rye and is loaded with cheddar cheese, horseraddish, onion, lettuce, and tomato. Not fancy, and certainly not healthy, but quite delicious (:> x 15).

For desert, I ignored the bartender's recommendation to have the cheesecake and opted instead for the Apple Brown Betty. At $6.99 it has to be one of the best values out there, as you get a very generous serving of baked apples and cherries in a brown sugar crumble crust, topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream with carmel and cream. Delicious (:> x 25).

Vaughan's has a couple of large screen TV's that are usually given over to sports, quite often the English Premier League (or the Premiership as it is known). This isn't too surprising given that Johnny Vaughn came to the U.S. to play soccer at Central Connecticut and then for the now defunct CT Wolves. In any event, as I ate my meatloaf sandwich and downed my Smithwick's I watched a rather listless match between Newcastle United and Arsenal.

As Irish-American bars go, Vaughan's is pretty nice, with a beautiful bar and lots of woodwork throughout. There is even a large mural of famous Irish folks, ranging for Michael Collins to Roy Keane to James Joyce to Sinead O'Connor. It might be a bit over the top, but it's still pretty cool nonetheless.

Ironically, probably the least "Irish" part of Vaughan's is its name, as Vaughan is an English name. Johnny Vaughan, you see, is from Dublin and there are many people from Dublin with English names because Dublin was for centuries the hub of English rule. Thus, many English people came to Dublin and many stayed. Their descendants became what was known for centuries as the "Old English" and they even had their own status in the law until the English in London decided that someone born in Ireland with an English name was really just an Irishman, albeit with an English name.

Still, the English origin of Johnny's last name shouldn't stop you from from going to Vaughan's and having them pull you a pint and get you something to eat. It isn't fine dining, but you will have some good cheer, some good beer, and a good time.

Here's the link to Vaughan's website - http://www.irishpublichouse.com/


  1. I'm a huge fan on their pub salad with blue cheese dressing. It's delicious!

  2. You do have to give Bernie's cheesecake a try. Crust is oreo cookie and it's delish!

  3. Been eating Bernie's cheesecake for many, many years and it is very good.

  4. Vaughn's is awesome. Their fish and chips are great and their burger and pint for $10 special is an absolute steal.

  5. Vaughn's is a solid spot. They pour a lovely pint of Guinness.

  6. Being from ireland...off the boat, as they say. Vaughan's makes me feel like I am back home!!! Love everything about it!!!

  7. Johnny goes out of his way to make you feel welcome and for that reason and the awesome selection on tap it will always be the first place I think of to grab a bite and a pint Downtown.

  8. Vaughn's is awesome and Johnny is a class act all the way, try the caesar salad, best I've ever had. Literally.

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