Toad Holly Pub in Tillson, NY

A comfortable new spot in Ulster County with comfort food to match

I’d planned to blog about what to do with all those leftovers from Thanksgiving, but Mark Bittman somehow heard my idea and beat me to it with some terrific mini-recipes in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine. So I direct you there, and will turn my attention instead to something Bittman probably doesn’t know about yet: A new tavern in Tillson.

It’s probably to do with the economic doldrums and general gloom, but every other new restaurant these days seems to be billing itself as a pub or tavern — subtext: come in and be warmed, weary travelers! Some of these places are, in fact, tavern-like, and the wannabes are ramping up the comfort factor even if their resemblance to a tavern is questionable. The latest entry in my neck of the woods is Toad Holly Pub in Tillson, located in a new Tudor-esque building that does, in fact, look something like a classic British pub, although for that true Brit ring they should have called it the Toad and Holly. Never mind.

The building sits in the space once occupied by Cappy’s Happy Hour, a spot my husband and I were never tempted to visit. Toad Holly is far more inviting. The bar has its own entrance, and, judging from the rollicking mood in there one Saturday night, continues to provide happiness by the hour. The dining room is much quieter and done up in welcoming, appetite-enhancing yellows and reds, with Tiffany-style lamps dotted about. Light opera via Bocelli and Sarah Whatsername drifted through the room as we arrived. The late fall menu offers all the good, rib-sticking stuff you fancy when it’s turning nippy outside: braised lamb shanks, sauerbraten, barbecued ribs, a selection of steaks, and several pasta dishes. My lamb shank, served with couscous studded with apricots and dates, was very satisfying. (By the way, the chef is still tweaking the menu, so the one posted at their website isn’t up to date at the moment.) There are some fancier options (like an appetizer of tasty tuna carpaccio) along with burgers and a kid’s menu. Prices are comforting, too: the pastas hover around $16, and the most expensive entree is only $20. There will never be too many pubs for me.

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