MacKenzie's Pub provides both quality and quantity
When the words tavern, bar, pub or inn are associated with a business, the emphasis is usually on the alcohol. But at MacKenzie's Pub in New Kensington, it's all about the food. Although MacKenzie's has a beautiful antique wood full-service bar, the patrons flock to the eatery for the delicious hand-prepared delicacies.
Lynn and Matt Kazan purchased the old Fireside bar at the same location in 2002. They previously operated a pizza shop, Pizza Express, next door for three years. Matt's grandparents, Jack and Lil Black, owned the bar building for more than 60 years. After remodeling the pizza shop into a living quarters, they began a total renovation of the Fireside. They chose their son's middle name as the name for the new business.
“This is our home also, so we wanted a family-friendly atmosphere in a residential area,” Lynn Kazan says. “With the great support of the local residents and customers far and wide, the business is really a labor of love.”
The barn-wood interior features a cathedral ceiling and multiple TVs placed strategically around the dining area, usually with sports channels playing, but with low volume. Industrial vent pipes cross the interior, accented with clean hardwood floors and large tables with comfortable padded chairs. It almost has the cozy feeling of a country-club grill room. The antique Tiger-oak wooden bar takes up one wall of the restaurant, and gives the impression of an Irish pub.
But make no mistake, MacKenzie's is geared toward family dining. On our visit, a 2-year old gobbled French fries with her parents, an 8-year old savored pizza her whole family, and a group of teens dined with their mother engaged in laughing conversation.
We began with three appetizers: Hot Pepper Cheese Balls ($3.50), Breaded Mushrooms (3.50), and Provolone Cheese Sticks ($3.99). All three were served piping hot and crispy, with generous portions, and were a great start to any meal.
MacKenzie's claim to fame are the Chicken Wings ($17.99 per dozen). Internet comments rave about the wings, and locals flock to the pub for them. And our sampling showed us why. The fresh whole wings were perfectly fried, seasoned with a five-spice blend, and packed with moist meat. Our wing connoisseur said, “Usually, I can eat eight to 10 whole wings, but here, I was full after five wings. They are unbelievably big and meaty.”
Next, we ate the Sicilian Pizza ($12.99 for 12 cuts) and loved the flaky, chewy crust. The pizza had just the right blend of sweeter tomato sauce and cheese, and the toppings we ordered were plentiful over the fresh-rolled dough made from a family recipe. The pub also offers a traditional, white and pierogie pizza.
The Grilled Chicken Salad ($9.49) was a huge offering of iceberg lettuce, loaded with moist, seasoned grilled chicken, garden-fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions and French fries. Our diner took half of it home for the next day because of the massive offering.
With 11 hoagie offerings, MacKenzie's has a sandwich for everybody. Served on toasted 12-inch Mancini Bakery buns, along with a bag of chips, they are almost always an eat-half, take-half home entree because of the large size.
Our first sampling was the Ranch Cheese Steak ($8.49). Loaded with fresh chipped steak and topped with American cheese, seasoned fries and ranch dressing, this hoagie provided a unique blend of tastes that was especially pleasing to our diner.
The Beer-Battered Fish Hoagie ($7.49) is a real bargain for the size and quantity of moist, breaded cod filets. The toasted bun and flaky deep-fried fish, covered in lettuce and tomato, was a real hit.
The Baked Italian Hoagie ($7.49) is one of the top sellers. Loaded with ham, salami, capicola and melted provolone cheese, we added Italian dressing, lettuce and tomato for a taste-bud delight. This is truly an outstanding sandwich.
Our final food choice was a gyro ($6.75). Truthfully, we were not expecting much, but were we ever wrong. The thick, shaved slices of very tender lamb on soft pita bread were wrapped with lettuce, tomato, onion and topped with cucumber sauce was an excellent choice. Just a “melt-in-your-mouth blend of eating pleasure” was the diner's description.
MacKenzie's Pub is not a “eat the hash and dash” fast-food kind of place. The handmade food takes a little extra time to prepare, but it is worth it. Families who were dining actually had time for conversation in a pleasant atmosphere while waiting for their entrees. Our server was well-versed on the menu and extremely efficient on serving the many tables under her care.
Quality and quantity are always a winning combination, and that's what MacKenzie's provides.
Eric Felack is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.