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One Small Step for Hagerstown, One Giant Leap From Pub Fare
by Olivia Sielaff
Maloo’s Pub & Grill has graduated to a new location with a deliciously developed menu of drink and dining options.
As Maloo’s Pub & Grill opens for the day, there’s a good bit of preparation to get the bar and restaurant ready for the usual crowd. One waitress is busy cleaning and preparing the tables. Another waitress, Debbie, is behind the bar making the Jack Daniels Honey BBQ wing sauce. Co-owner MaryLou Humphrey jokingly says to her, “Drinking already?” During our interview, Geoff Humphrey, co-owner and head chef, has to go to the kitchen to get the stove fired up. At another point, MaryLou heads to the back to make sure everything is in order.
Geoff puts it simply: “We provide good, honest food to people.” That’s the main driving force behind Maloo’s. When he, MaryLou, and Mike Hauver established the pub and grill in 2004, they had previously worked together at the Broad Axe in Hagerstown. “‘Let’s open a restaurant, it’ll be fun,’ they said,” Geoff jokes with a smile. “And here we are.”
On that snowy Friday morning, they’re gearing up for a busy day. But the busyness is something that the owners embrace, especially now at their new location on Virginia Avenue. Ever since the Hagerstown staple moved last July, the business remains steady, their restaurant keeps growing, and the food just gets better.
While Maloo’s old location on Robinwood Drive worked well for a small pub and grill, it was somewhat out of the way. The new location is in a more prominent area, next to City Park and just a few blocks over from South Potomac Street. “Here we can be more involved in the community and revitalization (of Hagerstown),” MaryLou says.
The building first housed Park Circle Grill, which had been in business for decades. A café and an Italian wine bar were also there briefly before Maloo’s moved in. Because of the nature of the previous businesses, there wasn’t a big need for major renovations — mainly a coat of deep maroon paint — and Maloo’s was able to make the move within 10 days.
In addition to a more central location, the owners wanted to branch off from the bar and make room for a proper restaurant. “We wanted a better place to showcase our food,” MaryLou says. With the new kitchen quadrupling the size of the old one, Geoff now has more space to be creative with and expand the menu. The larger space also gives them more dining options and the ability to be open for holidays when diners are looking to treat their sweetheart or family to a good meal.
Fine Dining Goes Casual
The new restaurant is the perfect combination of casual and fine dining. The interior is separated by the entryway, creating two relaxing and welcoming spaces, one for dining and one for the bar.
The bar invites guests to belly up for a draft beer or homemade sangria while watching sports on the TV. On the opposite side of the room, a garland of white lights highlights a chalkboard with the Happy Hour specials, while the high-top tables complete the pub feel.
The dining area is tastefully decorated and separate from the bar, making it an inviting space for families and more intimate gatherings. “People feel very comfortable here,” Geoff says. And guests can reserve the private dining room for up to 25 people.
The new digs also provide ample space for live entertainment at the bar — something they typically take advantage of on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, every Wednesday from 5–9 p.m., guests can sing karaoke between fistfuls of finger-licking 50 cent wings. “Basically we throw a party every day,” Geoff says. “That’s the satisfaction I get out of it...to see people having a good time.”
Something For Everyone
Just like the ambience, Maloo’s menu is a blend of casual and fine. “We don’t want to be pretentious or make people think they have to spend a lot of money,” MaryLou says. So if you want a fresh burger with no-charge toppings or a hand cut New York strip steak, the menu presents a broad array of appetizers and entrées.
For starters, try the crab fries — seasoned waffle fries topped with crabmeat. The entrée menu features delicious fare, like the champagne chicken, or the popular lump meat crab cake with a vegetable medley seasoned with wine. You’ll also find a Maryland staple, Old Bay seasoning, on many of their selections.
Geoff includes some unique dishes to the entrée menu, as well, such as crab stuffed shrimp imperial with a champagne cream sauce.
A hard-to-find plate is the traditional English bangers and mash that Geoff makes with hearty brats drenched in Yuengling beer, piled on top of smooth mashed potatoes with onion straws and bordelaise sauce.
Wash it all down with their increasing selection of draft beers and wine, or try a French martini made with Chambord that’s sweet to start and leaves a satisfying aftertaste. Plus, their rail drinks, import and domestic bottles, and drafts are $3 or less during their happy hours, Monday–Friday from 4–7 p.m. and Saturday from noon–4 p.m.
Making The Transition
Overall, the owners say the move has been a good transition and fairly easy. But even after 12 years in business, this transition has been a learning process. The new location, the building, and adding on to their menu have provided challenges.
MaryLou explains that owning a restaurant is a tough business —“a wanting-to-please business” — and a delicate balance. She says that restaurants are always evolving and it’s a challenge every day to find what customers want. Taking care of her customers and employees is important to MaryLou, too. “I kind of feel like a mom to everyone,” she says with a laugh. “We’re trying to get our feet wet in this area. ... But the positive outweighs the negative.”
As our interview was wrapping up, MaryLou excuses herself to finish preparing for the day. Soon after she turns on the music at 11 a.m., a group of ladies are seated in the dining room, and when the guest of honor arrives they warmly exclaim, “Happy birthday!” Other customers begin trickling in to the bar area for an early lunch. And just like that, Maloo’s is bustling with hungry and happy guests.