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McCloskey's Tavern: Worth the Calories

This week, food writer Clara Park reviews McCloskey's Tavern in Ardmore.

Depending on how you fared in the genetic lottery, you may or may not have a stance on healthy diet and exercise. I've always been an active person, playing sports in high school and college. Now many years out of school, I still hit the gym, go on a run or go to yoga as often as I can to maintain my weight.

Still, my yoga girls and me make it a point to grab a burger and beer after class whenever all of our schedules allow it. A weekly ritual of yoga followed by burgers and brew have generated plenty of laughs from our friends and significant others, which is understandable. Why spend an hour in downward dog, dolphin planks and other strenuous poses just to negate everything you just did with one burger and beer? The answer is simple. We exercise so we can we can eat freely. I'm opposed to the I-don't-eat-anything-but-lettuce-and-water to stay thin school of thought. There is too much enjoyment in eating (at least for me).

McCloskey's is a staple for the yoga girls. It is a true restaurant and tavern. The menu is no afterthought, or simply a sponge for alcohol. The selections are well conceived, well prepared, and varied. While I can attest to the quality of the burger, I can also vouch for many other items.

For appetizers, the mini crab balls ($9) are deep fried goodness. They are seasoned well, don't taste super fishy and are a perfect late night snack. The panko-crusted tomatoes with herb goat cheese and balsamic reduction ($9) are even better than they sound -- crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Each bite of this appetizer is a perfect blend of tart, rich and creamy, crunchy and juicy. The mozzarella sticks ($8) served with a homemade marinara sauce are a good rendition of everyone's favorite bar app. The hummus ($6.95) served with warm pita bread is also good. It's creamy, cold and a great healthy alternative to the deep-fried options.

The salads are enormous. The Cobb salad with romaine, watercress, egg, tomato, bacon, cucumber, avocado and bleu cheese crumbles ($11) with chicken (add $3) is large enough to be a meal for two. The bacon is well cooked, the avocado fresh and the hardboiled eggs well cooked (no dark grey edge around the yolk, which usually indicates eggs not peeled quickly enough). I like to switch it up and get thousand island or Russian dressing, though. The Caprese salad with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil oil in a balsamic reduction ($9) is also quite good. It's a wonderful salad to have in warmer weather, and the mozz is a great source of protein. 

There are 10 variations of burgers and chicken breast sandwiches. The McCloskey with cheese ($8) comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and french fries. When you ask for it medium rare, it arrives medium rare. The fries are crisp and the vegetables fresh and well proportioned. During the recent spike in tomato and lettuce prices, I had gone to restaurants and was asked specifically if I wanted these added. Of course, I said yes, but the tomato slices seemed to have been cut with a laser they were so thin.

There is nothing more satisfying than killing yourself for an hour in a brutal yoga class (my instructor calls the especially hard classes, "bleeders") and then sinking your teeth into a juicy burger. McCloskey's delivers every time! Other burger variations include mushrooms, various cheeses, onions rings, different breads, marinara sauce, and spinach and garlic. There is also a veggie burger ($8).

As expected, there is traditional Irish fare. The fish and chips ($13) were decent, with the cod in three smaller pieces and the cole slaw providing a much needed acidic break from the fried bounty. The meatloaf was a bit salty for my taste. It came with a side of green beans and my friend subbed french fries for the mashed.

The menu is rounded out by numerous pasta dishes and Italian entrees (chicken parm, veal marsala, etc.). What's on tap changes often, which is great. There are local beers (Yuengling) , specialty brews (seasonal IPAs and ales) and some harder to find beverages (Ommegang Three Philosophers, Allagash White, Founder's Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale). Guinness, too, of course. For one visit, there was a barley wine on offer (watch out -- super high alcohol content). It's always a surprise to see what's new and that's part of the fun of going here. 

The service here is outstanding, efficient and oh so friendly. Everyone who works here is knowledgeable, sweet and quick. We tend to go later at night when it's not as crowded, so I can't vouch for what it's like when the dining room is packed. The decor is decidedly Irish tavern: Lots of wood, brick, and very little plant life despite the color green everywhere. And very clean.

Head here for lunch, dinner or a late night snack. In Sanskrit, "asana" means "pose." I will never forget heading to McCloskey's one Saint Patrick's Day after yoga class for "pint-asana" and a burger. Priceless.

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