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March 8, 2018
Annie Bailey’s: Part Irish Pub, Part American Cuisine. All Delicious.
“The hype around Lancaster keeps growing. With different food trends going on, we at Annie Bailey’s have upgraded in different areas, while also being true to what we’ve always done. That’s why I love what we do. It’s a balance.”
Chef Joe Finerty, from Annie Bailey’s, has added to the growth the pub has gone through over the years. But even with changes in flavor trends and new cuisine options rotating through the menu, he emphasized that Annie Bailey’s has always wanted to remain comfortable, approachable, and true to their brand.
“I really like the feel of the pub setting,” said Joe. “I love how it is comfort food with a twist.”
Joe is able to experiment with all sorts of trends and flavors, something that Annie Bailey’s owner Josh Funk encourages.
“I love to give Joe the autonomy regarding what dishes should be, and then marry that with a business perspective,” said Josh. “It’s great—it’s fun. Joe and the other guys are running the ship. I am setting the course, but they are sailing it–and Joe is really a key part of that success.”
We met Joe and Josh in a corner table near the back of Annie Bailey’s, right inside from their seasonal back courtyard. When you enter the restaurant you can feel the Irish pub vibe, with soccer games on the TVs right above the bar and cozy booths lining the wall. Other dining areas, and the beautiful outdoor courtyard, make the experience a comfortable, relaxed, and engaging atmosphere.
“We want to be approachable—from the setting to our food,” said Josh. “We find ways while still being true to our brand. We recognize trends and incorporate them in ways that make sense for us.”
Many of the food trends have been cultivated at the pub on King Street.
“We were one of the first to recognize the mac and cheese trend, and the chicken and waffles trend,” said Josh. “We are mindful of food trends while making it work for our space.”
Joe, the chef, began his career in the culinary arts in high school. In tenth grade, he pursued cooking as a career and eventually entered a culinary program in Mount Joy, PA.
“I’ve enjoyed getting experience from all different restaurants,” said Joe. “I’ve been working in different pubs and different spaces—it helps when looking at different ideas for the menu.”
Joe worked at Mozy’s in Leola—starting as a dishwasher before doing fry and pantry. From there, he went to Characters Pub in Lancaster City where he worked for ten years, further honing his skills.
“The people at Characters Pub were really the prominent restaurateurs in Lancaster in the early 1990s,” said Joe.
Joe cooked for the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square when they first opened, then eventually found his next career step at Annie Bailey’s.
“I like to stick to comfort food, but with a unique difference or twist to it,” said Joe. “And that’s Annie Bailey’s.”
Joe added that the menu of Annie Bailey’s has some rotating options, with a core group of favorites. One of those being the Shepherd’s Pie.
“I think I’ve cooked thousands of Shepherd’s Pie,” said Joe, laughing. “It’s definitely a popular one.”
“We always keep staple dishes that are favorites,” added Josh. “But when we do change things up, we look to see what’s working and what isn’t. We’ve gone from a novel for a menu, to a great short story menu! That has really helped consistency.”
Josh added that when they can, they source local—because that makes Lancaster even stronger.
“We try to embody the spirit of Lancaster county,” said Josh. “We love having the fresh food from local vendors. We are always looking for opportunities to incorporate local products—from flowers on our tables to the ingredients in our dishes. We, as much as we can, want to align ourselves with the local markets.”
"We try to embody the spirit of Lancaster county. We love having the fresh food from local vendors. We are always looking for opportunities to incorporate local products, from flowers on our tables to the ingredients in our dishes."
Though Annie Bailey’s is known for popular cuisine like their classic Shepherd’s Pie, crispy Waterford Fish & Chips, and Bangers & Mash, the menu has a variety of other incredible options that are lesser-known—including the Irish Curry.
The Irish Curry is a dish that can be made with chicken, vegetable, or a vegan chicken strip options. It’s topped with a mild Irish pub curry sauce, Vidalia onions, roasted sweet peppers, local mushrooms, juicy pineapple, and tucked on a nest of coconut basmati rice.
When Joe and Josh suggested we try this dish, we jumped at the chance. I love the classic cuisine of Annie Bailey’s—but this unique take on a curry experience sounded amazing. So we had to try it.
“This is a dish I like to make because not many people know we do it,” said Joe. “The curry is sweeter than most kinds—the pineapple and the coconut milk help smooth out the flavor and it really creates something sweet and special.”
“It’s great to have so many chefs bouncing ideas off of one another,” added Josh. “That’s what keeps our menu cohesive and fresh. They work as a unit, and it gives us more to pull from. It’s great—we are stronger as a team because of it.”
Joe’s main motivation for working hard is his kids.
“My kids keep me focused, and I always like to remember that they are the reason I do what I do,” said Joe.
He and the other chefs work hard to make an experience unlike many others you’ll find in Lancaster City. From classic Irish favorites, to a mix of comforting food trends, you can find something unique (and absolutely delicious) at this gastropub. The brunch is a local favorite, and the drink selection is perfect to match any cuisine—whether you want to stick with your favorite Guinness Beef & Mushroom Pie, or branch out and try one of their seasonal specials.
And of course, there is one major holiday when Annie Bailey’s is top-notch for celebrations.
“Saint Paddy’s Day is one of our biggest days of the entire year,” said Josh. “I sometimes want to pull my hair out, but it’s great.”
I, for one, love curry. I became obsessed with it a few years ago and can’t get enough. I was excited to try this Irish spin on the classic flavor!
Joe executed the finishing touches on the dish, adding the sweet coconut curry sauce (with a splash of pineapple juice) on top.
Deborah Brandt, Creative Owner of Fig Industries, and I were ready for the experience!
The Irish Curry dish did not disappoint. The chicken was crispy, and the curry sauce was unlike any curry I’ve ever had. It was sweet and delicious—the pineapple kick was a welcome surprise, all while still blending with the typical curry taste. Needless to say it was gone in a few minutes!
“We combine dishes, and we like to be inventive,” said Josh. “We don’t want to do something without being intentional.”
“It’s fun to see all of the different people enjoying the food here,” added Joe. “You have tourists, and then you have the local community. And they can all find something here to enjoy.”
“We like to offer food that resonates with a lot of different people,” said Josh. “We always want to make our menus even better so we step back, do more, switch it up, and offer the best cuisine.”
Discover all that Annie Bailey’s has to offer on their website. Explore the menus and plan your visit—we promise you’ll find delicious, rich comfort food with a unique twist!