I’m still a little at a loss as to what a gastropub is. I guess it’s like a classier Irish pub? In which case I suppose Egan & Sons qualifies. Check. It may even add a factor if the joint makes its own beer. Or brands its own beer. Honestly, I’ve never really been sure what the story is with Egan & Sons’ “signature” brews. But, check, check. There was a time when there were two Egan & Sons pubs, but it seems the closing of the other location, the opening of its fancier, sister restaurant, Halcyon, next door and COVID have kind of settled Egan & Sons in a good place.
But how could contraction, competition and COVID be a good thing, you may ask? Well, the other Egan & Sons over in West Orange was weird and kind of not on-brand with this Montclair location. That space has subsequently been through several iterations of bar and pub, none of which have been good or successful. The opening of the seafood-focused Halcyon next door — which is owned by the same folks as Egans — provided room for expansion of their current footprint, a shared kitchen (ands shared liquor license) and kind of a synergy between the more casual hang on one side and the more upscale hang on the other. And then came the plague. Which, ultimately, led to Egans having to solve for outdoor drinking and dining in a way that made for a good time. They pushed out the patio on the back of the restaurant into the parking lot, threw tables, heaters and high tops out there, added a second bar and created kind of a third level of dining in terms of super-casual on top of the comparatively more formal dining experience inside.
And whether this was kind of a happy accident or a plan, the outcome is the same. The place now has this kind of indoor/outdoor dynamic that makes it a more varied experience. Whereas we used to just go there and hope that we could jam into one of the tables for a traditional sit-down meal, I can now hit a high top outside to sit and drink a dragoon of beers in relative comfort outside (weather permitting). Not that the space inside isn’t pleasant, but the dining spaces are pretty packed and not particularly plentiful. Depending on if it’s date or singles night, you might even have to fight your way past the oddly thin space between the long bar and the bathrooms to commandeer a table from the hostess. They have done their best to hack away at the available room to get in more seating, but it’s still a crapshoot on a busy night — or a particularly nice day — if you’ll get to ever sit down. The decor is… I would say some sort of Victorian boho chic, with what feels like intentionally mismatched paintings covering every surface, lots of wood, marble, leaded glass, worn hex tiles… It’s a bit all over the place, honestly. But certainly not boring. The space up front is a little more casual than the back, with high tops and a more vintage pub-like feel. It does always feel dark in here, however, even on the brightest of days.
And that’s where the outside area comes in. Sitting inside on a nice, sunny day can feel a bit claustrophobic and gloomy because of the front-to-back way the restaurant is situated. But the back deck and subsequent outdoor seating solves that particular issue. In either place you can enjoy a menu of what amounts to upscale bar food. You have your usual nacho, calamari and wings. Along with burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, bar pies and even moules frites. As I mentioned, though, there is a legit kitchen back there and not some dude in a greasy apron with a two-foot flat top grill. Which I suppose elevates this from bar food to pub grub. Or — if we’re being precise — gastropub grub. Generally we get burgers, which are usually very good. At ten bucks, they are seemingly super-cheap by today’s standards. They come a la carte, however, and fries (which are also decent) will set you back another eight clams. I guess $18 for a burger and fries is relatively on par with other joints at this level these days, but it still hurts my soul a little.
God only knows why I’ve spent this many words describing a place that is essentially an institution at this point. And if you haven’t been there, someone will inevitably invite you. Either on a Tinder date, for an early evening meal with friends or for a few brews in the parking lot. All pub roads end at Egans, I suppose.