McCarthy's Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar brings the Celtic experience from the UK to downtown Bethlehem. (photo courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley)

Imagine it’s midday; time for lunch. Now imagine it’s time for lunch on Queen Street, just off George Square, in Glasgow, Scotland. Do yourself a favor—stop in to Drouthy’s and relax. We did, during a recent trip to Scotland, and it was magical. Their website describes the restaurant as a “cracking wee pub,” and that it is. From the wood-paneled walls to the antlers hanging about, to the delicious fare on the menu and—not least—the warm welcome that accompanied the enormous assortment of Scotch whiskey—“Wha’ would ya like, darlin’?”—you won’t find a cozier spot in town.

Patrons of MCarthy’s Red Stag Pub enjoy a cozy Celtic pub experience in downtown Bethlehem. (photo, George Wacker ’03)

But good news! For Greyhounds who find themselves in downtown Bethlehem or for those planning to visit, you’ll find more than a touch of Drouthy’s around the corner of Main Street on West Walnut Street downtown. McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub, owned by Linda Shay Gardner ’74 and her husband, Neville Gardner, brings the UK pub experience to you—no passport or TSA lines required—complete with classic dishes like a Ploughman’s Lunch, Cottage Pie, Lamb Stew, and Bangers and Mash. 

Initially opened as Granny McCarthy’s Tea Room and Bakery in 1997, the establishment expanded into McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whisky Bar in 2013. As noted on their website, “the evolution is a unique blend of pub and restaurant with the desserts, breads, and teas of a traditional Irish Tea Room in the space of a great destination—complemented by an amazing collection of whiskey, beer, and cocktails.”

Ales and stouts on tap complement a full bar. (photo courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley)

When we visited McCarthy’s for dinner, we found ourselves transported back to Glasgow, at least for a few hours. The Celtic background music—present but not intrusive—invited us into the culture that infuses every corner of the restaurant. The stag antlers, the paneling, the enclosed private booths, and the generous bar created a cozy, rustic, authentic atmosphere for our dinner.

The dinner menu led us further on our Celtic journey and offered us quite an education on the cuisine of Ireland and Scotland. The choices were not easy with classic dishes like Lamb Stew, and Bangers and Mash along with Guinness Mac and Cheese! We selected the Dubliner fondue (shared by our group), Scotch Eggs, and Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread as our starters. Entrées included a few orders of Cottage Pie, plus Fish and Chips, Chicken Leitrim Boxty, Beef on a Weck, and an Irish Cuban. (Are you hungry yet?) All delicious. All full of flavor and unique combinations. All very reasonably priced, especially since using fresh, local ingredients plays an integral part in McCarthy’s kitchen.

McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar offers an extensive menu of Irish and Scottish whiskeys.

Jill Oman, executive chef and general manager sums up her approach this way: “I have found that this principle holds true—give people something that tastes great, and they will keep coming back! Add great service, a beautiful presentation, and some cold alcoholic beverages, and who can say no?”

And speaking of beverages, the whiskey flights, complete with the “Angel’s Share” water dropper to help release some of the flavors of the whiskey and dark chocolate to cleanse the palate between each one, were widely shared and enjoyed. Ardbeg, MacCallen, Jura, Bruich and Penderyn were all represented, and dozens more options crowd the shelves behind the bar. A  number of ales, wines, and specialty cocktails round out the drinks menu. 

On a gorgeous winter evening, we felt like the family at McCarthy’s invited us in for a meal that served up the best of their traditions. We felt right at home and came away full, relaxed, and feeling the warmth of the Celtic culture. How best to describe it? Another “cracking wee pub,” indeed.—Renée James ’80