Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports pub is a relatively new establishment on the SouthSide of Bethlehem that took over the spot of the beleaguered Lehigh Pub that drove off clientele after calling the cops on them for not leaving at tip.
For months prior to the official switch-over I had heard that the Lehigh Pub had switched owners which was sorely needed after their PR debacle. On a Friday night visit before Molly’s took over there wasn’t anyone in the entire establishment with the exception of my friends and I. On a weekend evening.
Thankfully the spot seems to have found a bit of a resurgence thanks to a revamped menu and a sizeable craft beer selection. Upon entering the bar and dining areas look pretty familiar. The same high-backed wooden booths line the back wall and it’s retained much of the same feel from the previous Lehigh Pub and before that, Bridgeworks. What differs here is the drink and the food.
Molly’s mixes it up a bit, combining traditional Irish and Scottish fare with the usual bar favorites. The likes of corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and lamb stew pot pie grace the traditional eats while burgers, cheese steaks, and fries round out the pub part of the menu. I’ve been to Molly’s quite a few times and had various dishes there. The Shannon, encompasing ork, cheddar cheese, green apple, onions, and apple butter on multigrain was an interesting combo, similar to dishes I’ve had at Tika’s and The Brew Works in the past. It was different, yet very tasty. A bit of sour bite to round out the sweetness of the pork was just what the fusion needed.
On my most recent visit I opted for Shepherd’s Pie, an example of a traditional Irish meat pie. Served covered with thick, hearty gravy they sure didn’t skimp on the portion size. A giant serving, accompanied by a boring house salad and veggies, the pie itself was fantastic. Warm, just enough salt, and fluffy mashed potatoes made this a winner of a dish. Unfortunately the salad was completely unimaginative and the vegetables on the side were far too hard and critically overseasoned. The buns that were served with it were akin to eating a mouthful of sand: dry, crunchy, and not very tasty. The sides really ruined the meal.
The service is a mix between nice and subpar depending on what sort of establishment you view Molly’s as. In regards to craft beer, the service is absolutely horrendous. The bartenders don’t have a clue about the fine ales they serve and the glassware is even worse. I got served a great stout and was asked if I wanted a glass. In the world of craft beer, things like this are a sin. A server also neglected to read off the menu specials to me, which peeved me considering some of them I may have been interested in ordering. The servers in general, however, seem to be really nice. All of them were exceedingly prompt, however unintelligible regarding their beers. On several occasions I had great beers at Molly’s, such as Southern Tier Pumpking or Left Hand Brewery’s Fade to Black Volume 2. They really need to pare down the amount of crap beers they have though: Either they’re a craft beer bar or they’re not.
The atmosphere at Molly’s can range from moderate to lonesome to college frat house. If you’re looking for a solitary time to enjoy a craft beer and a good dish avoid nights/weekends. Trivia night and Eagles games are excessively obnoxious, as well as party nights like Halloween. Otherwise the crowd hasn’t been to obnoxious and certainly not the typical college crowd all the time that used to frequent the joint.
I think Molly’s needs to focus more and decide whether they want to be a craft beer bar or another iteration of the pubs that came before. I think they could survive as both, or survive as they are, both they could excel at one or the other with some focus and investment. Hopefully this bar won’t stay as it is and will grow into a true destination rather than a random drop-in.
Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub
East 4th Street & New Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015