We all know that Shakespeare was a famous playwright, but apparently the bard had quite a taste for the suds, too.
Take a tour through the namesake pub's selection of 80 bottled beers and you'll be composing sonnets also, if only (hopefully) in your head.
Shakespeare's is not your typical over-lacquered, over-stylized version of what Americans think a British pub should look like. The place is a little on the grungy side, but I mean that in a good way. It's small and dark (illumination comes from strings of Christmas lights) with a few booths and tables. The regulars (and there are plenty) sit at the long, curved wooden bar, the end of which is reserved for those who fancy a game of darts.
The joint was jumpin' on the Saturday afternoon we visited. Grandparents, babies, young people and middle-aged couples were all on hand, which made us think that not everyone comes to Shakespeare's strictly for the beer.
Our son highly recommended the burgers, his personal favorite being the Black & Bleu ($9.95), a Cajun-spiced concoction topped with Stilton bleu cheese and Swiss. My wife opted instead for the Caramelized Onion and Brie burger ($9.95) which she liked so much I had to wait for her to go to the bathroom before I could sneak a bite. The sliced onions (and there are plenty) are sautéed in balsamic vinegar and their sweetness perfectly complements the meaty juiciness of the hefty 8-ounce burger. (I would have ordered it without the Brie because that just seemed to gild the lily.) The burgers at Shakespeare's have a crispy salt-and-pepper coating that not only adds flavor but keeps the meat moist. (These are three-napkin burgers, which is always a good sign.)
I ordered the Fish & Chips ($9.95) which came with cole slaw and a side of fries (chips to you Brits). The generous portion of cod was batter-dipped and deep-fried, just like they do it in the U.K. I boosted the taste of the mild white fish with a few shakes of salt and a splash or two of malt vinegar. If the fish had been served on newspaper and if it had been 40 degrees and raining, I would have felt like I was back in Newcastle.
When we were first seated, I told my wife, who has never met a Chardonnay she didn't like, that she should, for one day, overcome her aversion to beer. They don't all taste like Miller Lite, I told her, and some might surprise her with their wine-like depth of flavor. Being a good sport, she ordered the Fullers ESB ($4.50), an English beer that boasts, and I quote, "cherry, orange, soft malty toffee and caramel notes." It sounded like a candy bar to me, but she liked it.
Shakespeare's has an interesting selection of appetizers, all of which sounded like they would go well with a pint of something imported. We opted for the English Dustbin Lids ($6.95), better known in America as potato skins. These were filled with English sausage, onions and mushrooms topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream. The sausage was a nice touch, but the whole dish needed to sit under the broiler a bit longer.
Shakespeare's also serves salads, wraps and a small selection of desserts. If you're not a fan of burgers (which would be a pity because that's what this pub is famous for), the restaurant will substitute a marinated chicken breast for $1 less. Our server said she had worked at Shakespeare's for more than two years and had yet to sample one of the burgers. I felt like giving her a hug and a pat on the back just to console her.
Perhaps she had been too busy composing sonnets in her head.