The first time I saw a sign for a Gastropub was a couple of years ago and I must say it didn’t sound very appealing. I mean, when I think of the word gastro it conjures up visions of gastrointestinal issues. However, the word Pub is always appealing so…
Let me start out with a definition of a Gastropub. According to Google, it is a trendy bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer, wine, cocktails and food. It is originally an English term and was first coined by a couple of guys in London who took over The Eagle Pub in 1991. Shortly after, gastropubs started showing up in the U.S. Greg and Joy Booth own E.J. Wills Gastropub in Plano on the NE corner of Preston and Frankford Roads. I must say, after visiting a couple of times, the whole “gastro” thing doesn’t phase me a bit anymore. The scratch kitchen and well stocked bar are all top notch.
When I asked Greg why he chose to make E. J. Wills a gastropub, he said he wanted to have an intimate neighborhood pub feel but have his scratch kitchen menu of fresh ingredients and gourmet dishes as the focal point rather than the alcohol. On his menu you will find such mouth watering delights as peach & jalapeno glazed pork chops, honey glazed salmon and the Garbage burger (pictured above and yes, that’s mac & cheese!). If traditional pub food is your thing; they have plenty of favorites like wings, burgers and fries. However, I would encourage you to be adventurous and try one of their signature dishes. BTW, come hungry or bring a friend because the portions are huge!
In keeping with the neighborhood feel, Greg and his wife Joy, have decorated the interior with items that they have picked up along the way. There is no cookie cutter feel here; it is very homey and inviting. The bar is also stocked with liquor that has been requested by their regulars and the draft beer is all local as well. If you’re not a big beer connoisseur but enjoy trying new ones, they now offer a flight of four, 5 ounce beers of your choice. Of course, because this is a gastro (food first) pub, you can enjoy the great food and atmosphere with a refreshing ice tea or soft drink as well.
In addition to their standing food and drink menu, they also offer daily specials that can be found on their website. For example, on Tuesdays they offer $2 Bud Light bottles and $2 off all Texas liquors to be enjoyed during Trivia Night. If you’ve never gone to a trivia night, you have to try it, it’s a blast, especially when you bring a few friends along. Thursdays caught my eye with 1/2 price wines (glass AND bottle) as well as half priced salads. They also have live music on most Friday and Saturday nights. And when the weather cooperates, they move the music out to their comfortable, shaded patio. Oh and don’t miss their Sunday brunch with toad in a hole style eggs and chicken and waffles with bourbon tangerine syrup.
As always, I try to spotlight businesses that not only offer an excellent product but also have a heart for giving back. E. J. Wills partners with local schools as well as Bella House and Emily’s Place two local ministries that help women and children in crisis. The pub has helped out by giving 10% of its profits from designated evenings back to these organizations and/or sponsoring drives for needed items.
I wanted to save the best fun fact for last. As you may have noticed the name E. J. Wills has nothing to do with the owner’s names. It does, however, have everything to do with their two girls whose names begin with E and J and both have very strong “wills” . How can you not love a couple with a sense of parental humor?!?
Check out this great pub for lunch or dinner soon. If you live further north, they are opening a second location this fall in McKinney on the SE corner of 380 and Stonebridge. Finally, the next time you see a gastropub just know that instead of getting your typical burgers, wings and nachos, you will instead be treated to a fresh, homemade meal from a scratch kitchen. What better way to compliment your favorite brew.