A British pub in Barboursville (with video)
BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. -- The first thing to know about The Jug and Kilt is that the kilts the servers wear, both men and women, are real and the bright red London phone booth in the middle of the room is not.
"Basically, all my servers, whatever kilts they've got, they actually should know what tartan they've got and they should be able to give you a bit of family history on it," said owner Chris Shields.
"When a good Scotsman comes in, he's gonna know his kilts and he's gonna ask and he's gonna be pretty pissed off if you don't come up with the right answer. So it's a thing of pride for 'em."
So, cut Shields some slack on the phone booth at his establishment at 5636 U.S. 60, a few doors down from the Kmart plaza. "The real ones are probably about a ton of iron and very hard to come by. So, that's a bit of a replica. It's as close as I could find," he said.
By the way, kilt-wise, show up wearing one and you'll get a discount on your bill.
The Jug and Kilt is Shields' attempt to create a genuine pub experience in the middle of West Virginia. It's a mash-up of pubs from across the British Isles by Shields, who was born in Northern Ireland but grew up in the Kent-Sussex area of England.
"I consider myself an Englishman, but to do an English pub you're sort of narrowing down what you could possibly do. Like, for instance the kilts. If I was going to be a traditional English pub, I wouldn't be able to do the kilts because kilts are a Scottish thing.
"So, I thought about it and I thought: 'You know, what if I do a British pub?' You can bring all those elements from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, England together, and you can do them authentically and still call yourself a British pub. So, that's what I've tried to do."
Which is why the various flags of all four countries decorate the walls (as well as a few long swords). It's why the menu ranges from Scotch Eggs (hard boiled eggs wrapped in pork sausage and breaded and fried), to Welsh rarebit and Guinness Stew, to Bangers and Mash and Spotted Dick.
"The biggest one, which gets a lot of laughs, is the Spotted Dick and that's a traditional dessert back home," Shields said. "Basically, it's a sponge with dried fruits and raisins and it comes in a sort of tubular form and the spots are the raisins. We take the custard and sort of make it like a creme brulee sort of thing, a bit of a notch up of what you're used to."
For those not up on their British pub fare lingo, he helpfully defines "banger," which comes served with smashed potato, grilled onion and gravy,
"A banger is basically a big sausage, a link sausage. It's like a bratwurst is what the equivalent would be. Our bangers, we actually import them from Ireland. I could've got bangers from anywhere. But what makes it stand out is those little things like that."
The menu does have concessions to American tastes with a classic Reuben sandwich, a classic Caesar's salad and grilled salmon. But Shields is willing to go only so far.
"A lot of people have asked me when are you going to put quesadillas on the menu? When are you going to put chicken wings on the menu? The answer is, no, we're not going to do that. Because that's not the British side of things."
Then, of course, there's the beer. This is a pub that features 30 beers on tap, after all.
"I believe we have the most beers on tap in West Virginia is what I've been told. I can't confirm that. And we bring in everything from all over the globe. We've the Irish beers, the English beers."
Plus, there's a load of West Virginia beers, "which are absolutely excellent," Shields added. "The whole sort of craft industry has really sort of taken off from around here."
Local beers underscore the spirit of a local pub, too.
"What you would get back home is you'd get a traditional ale from down the street. Well, we basically try to do that here. The closest breweries we can get we'll bring 'em in and feature their beers."
It has been a long strange trip for Shields who has worked a host of jobs from mailman back home in England to being an environmental biologist in Louisa, Ky., helping coal companies with environmental permits.
His wife is a Huntington native, which is what got him here. Opening a pub was just "something I've always wanted to do" and then the opportunity presented itself locally.
He is careful to underscore what a pub is and what it isn't, in the traditional sense. He is also quick to distinguish his place from the "Tilted Kilt" pub chain, a kind of Hooters-in-sexy-kilts chain with an outlet in Morgantown.
"It's very easy to say you're a British and Irish pub without that authenticity. You can put a flag outside, you can put a shamrock on the wall. But I mean, really, the whole pub experience is a very social place, it's a very community-based place. Families come here. It's not just a watering hole."
(Which is why there a kid's portion section of the menu -- Bangers and Mash! Guinness Stew! Cod bites! -- for the "Wee Sprogs.")
"So, basically, I wanted, as best I could, to pick up a pub from back home and put it here in the states and actually give everybody that sort of environment."
The Jug and Kilt is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday. Call 304-730-9858 or visit thejugandkilt.com.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-3017.