It’s remarkable what new ownership can do to transform a restaurant. Aside from the possible facelift or change of menu, it can infuse an entirely new spirit into the place. Take Old Saybrook’s Penny Lane Pub for instance: The well known, highly regarded small town tavern has always enjoyed an impeccable reputation – excellent food, great service, wonderful entertainment and an ideal Main Street location. So what could possibly be improved upon? According to new owners Alex Foulkes and Wilson Castaneda, plenty.
“We didn’t want to change too much too quickly,” Foulkes says, acknowledging that PLP was already a well-run and thriving establishment. “Nothing was really broken, but we had a lot of what we thought were really strong ideas for how to improve the restaurant and add some interesting color here and there. And we were becoming very eager to try out these ideas.”
And they got the chance to do so once they bought the place a year and half ago. Foulkes describes the transition as easy. It ought to have been since he had a bird’s-eye view of how the place was run from his previous position of general manager. But now as one of PLP’s owners, the stockpile of ideas the pair accumulated can now come to fruition. This includes generously expanding the craft beer menu, which focuses on local brews from Connecticut but includes beers from Kentucky, Delaware, MA, NY, CA, and Old Saybrook’s own 30 Mile Brewery Co. Another recent fixture has become the beer/wine dinners where PLP match up a local brewery with a winery, pair four courses of food, each with one wine and one beer, and vote on the winner. As for PLP’s menu, it boasts more variety than ever; this means seasonal items, organic and gluten-free fare, humanely-raised meats, and fresh and local seafood dishes. Some delicious staples include the Jerk Shrimp & Black Bean Salad, Hickory Smoked Ribs, and a hearty selection of burgers that range from bison to salmon to black bean.
“We definitely go far beyond your run-of-the-mill pub menu,” Foulkes says, prideful of his and Wilson’s creative culinary spins. “Penny Lane Pub serves a lot of comfort food, but prepared in a unique fashion. Our daily creative lunch and dinner specials keep the menu interesting. Our menus are always evolving, always getting better.”
Aside from the wonderful food and drink served at PLP, there’s also live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings, mostly in the form of solo and duo acoustic performers playing classic covers or their own original material. In addition to the music, live comedy can be seen at the pub during their seasonal comedy shows. Adding to the entertainment is corn hole tournaments in the upstairs dining room.
“The vibe here is wonderful, it’s energetic,” Foulkes says. “It’s possible to come and enjoy a quiet meal, or have a family get-together, or drink some beers and listen to some great live music. We’ve become sort of a jack of all trades.”
And they seem to excel at each of their trades. Foulkes knows he could have acquired PLP and kept the place intact without changing a thing. But that would have flown in the face of his and Castaneda’s vision for a new and improved Penny Lane Pub. And besides, there wouldn’t be any corn hole tournaments!