A Canadian pub is coming to downtown, and it is bringing its cheese curds and gravy
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
A little bit of Canada is coming to downtown Lawrence. Actually, it sounds like a big Canadian is coming to the downtown scene. A Canadian-based pub called Moose McGuire’s has signed a deal to locate along Massachusetts Street, and the guy they call Moose is coming with it.
“It was a nickname I had growing up,” said Dan Butler. “I’m a bit of a bigger guy.” (Yeah, I don’t know the story behind the McGuire’s part of the name, but I’m smart enough not to argue with a big Canadian.)
The restaurant hopes to open in March in the space briefly occupied by 1856 Bar & Grill — before that it was the Italian restaurant Genovese — at 941 Massachusetts St.
“It is going to be your true neighborhood pub,” Butler said.
He currently operates three Moose McGuire’s locations in Canada. He fell in love with Lawrence’s downtown, he said, while frequently visiting to see his girlfriend, who lives in the area. He has now bought a house in Lawrence and splits time between the Ottawa, Canada, area and here.
Food will be a big part of the pub experience, he said.
“It is a scratch kitchen,” Butler said. “Everything is made fresh in house, down to the ketchup. At first glance, it is pub fare, but then you see the fare, and it is clearly homemade and hearty portions.”
Yes, the menu will have a strong American component to it. Butler expects the hamburgers and hand-cut fries to be some of the more popular items. But there also will be some Canadian favorites that he thinks will be popular down south.
Perhaps tops on that list is poutine. It is one of the more popular dishes in Canada, sometimes being served as a side, other times as a whole meal, and often being the focus at a party like the nacho bowl is in America. The dish involves french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.
“We’ll be serving real poutine,” he said. “It is everywhere up here.”
He also plans to serve a dish called tourtiere, which is a French-Canadian type of meat pie. According to my friend Mr. Google, it often has ground beef and pork, mashed potatoes and spices such as cloves, allspice and cinnamon in a traditional pie crust.
With the pub theme being an important one at Moose McGuire’s, also look for a Guinness stew — often beef, vegetables and a thick gravy enriched by the classic Irish stout.
On the beer front, Butler said he’s not sure that he’ll have Guinness on tap, but instead will feature Moosehead, among other offerings. Moosehead is touted as being Canada’s oldest independent brewer — it started as a one-woman brewery in 1867 — and is the only major brewery still owned by Canadians, according to its website. It looks like it has about 20 varieties, ranging from lagers to radlers to IPAs. Butler said he’s also hoping to have several stouts on tap, including a Scottish stout.
Sports also will be a big part of the pub. Butler said the space currently is undergoing several renovations, including installing 16 televisions. Yes, there may be some hockey on at least one or two of the TVs.
“We will have all sports on, whatever people want to watch,” Butler said. “I’m partial to hockey, but if somebody wants to watch bowling, I’ll turn that on too.” (Put enough poutine in front of me, and I’ll watch bowling also.)
Renovations of the building also include a small stage for live music. That is going in the upstairs dining area of the building. Butler said the venue wouldn’t focus on any one type of music but rather on area musicians.
“We always want to do local,” he said.
With Moose McGuire’s moving in, another restaurant that was in the 941 Massachusetts space has come to an end. 1856 Bar & Grill was operated by a longtime Lawrence restaurant group led by Subarna Bhattachan. At one point, the group was operating three restaurants in downtown Lawrence: Zen Zero, La Parrilla and Genovese/1856. The group now is focusing on Zen Zero and its La Parrilla food truck. The group, however, continues to own the building and will be the landlords for Moose McGuire’s.
“We just want to thank all of our customers who have become friends,” Bhattachan said. “It is sad to close a business, but it was a combination of business health, family and long-term business planning. We have been working in downtown 60 to 80 hours a week for the last 20 years. It was time to slow down a little bit. Working three restaurants can be a little tough.”