35 Paoli Plaza
(Next to the Paoli Post Office)
Overview: Great neighborhood bar and restaurant in the heart of Paoli. Also offers takeout. TJ’s menu has recently (Spring ’07) undergone a major transformation and now focuses on cooking with beer and beer/food pairings.
Food: We’ve only had the “Belgian Blonde” burgers from the new menu, but they were a definite improvement over the old burgers (nice and charred on the outside, pink within). The fries, which used to be the standard, crunchy, bland bar type, are now thick, old fashioned steak fries that might be the best in the area. There is also a nice variety of toppings — the “TJ’s Burger” comes with fried onions, provolone and horseradish mayo, and the “Black & Blue” is cajun-spiced with bleu cheese. TJ’s also offers more complex food specials such as Chipotle-Framboise Chicken, Bass Ale Braised Salmon, and Guinness-Glazed Beef Tenderloin Tips, which all have suggested beer pairings. This is no typical bar food!
Beer: TJ’s competes only with the Flying Pig for the area’s Best Beer Bar title (pre-Teresa’s Next Door of course), with a 25 beer, seasonal draft list (includes Spaten Optimator, Warsteiner Dunkel, Leffe Brun and more) and close to 200 bottles (including a cellar-aged selection). This place is an absolute MUST for beer lovers.
Ambiance: There are two distinct sides to TJ’s — the bar side, which is fun and energetic, yet comfortable as a neighborhood bar should be, and the dining side, which is a bit more subdued but good for a family meal. The bar has a number of tables, a decent-sized bar area and even a plush couch and chairs. It can get crowded at happy hour (especially on Friday), where people come to check out the game on a big-screen plasma or play a few rounds of Golden Tee. The restaurant side is quiet but nicely designed, and also smoke free, another plus. There is a pool table on the restaurant side, but we find it a bit boring (despite our hatred of 2nd-hand smoke).
Service: Fine for what it is, although attentiveness typically wavers when the place is busy. One other note — avoid takeout on Friday nights, as fishing through the happy hour crowd to retrieve your order is nearly impossible!
Value: The specialty beers can run up the tab quickly, but otherwise this is reasonable pub grub. (A gripe: I asked for extra ketchup and was charged $0.30 — what’s up with that?)
times we’ve eaten there: 5+