The Paddock on Market isn't my parents' (or grandparents') bar.
As a kid, I can remember a group of kids and parents from our street going in there on a summer evening for their legendary onion rings. I recall plenty of smoke, not a lot of light and some questionable characters sitting at the bar. A few that looked like they had been there too long.
My mom still tells the story of how they "lost" my grandfather in the late '50s. Seemed he walked almost two miles from my parents' newly built home in 100 degree heat to grab a beer at the first place he found along Route 462. He came upon the Paddock, which opened in 1947.
Times have changed. The Paddock of my grandfather's era is no more. The well-known horseshoe-shaped sign is still there and ownership remains in the Spanos family, as it has been for the past 31 years. But step inside and you'll quickly see what I mean.
The Paddock underwent a huge, three-month, six-figure renovation in mid-2012 and emerged as something much different.
"She is a beauty," said owner Jon J. Spanos. "One of our regulars said it best. He said every woman looks fantastic in a dress, but they look particularly radiant in a new dress. The Paddock was no different. It was time for a new dress.
"But not only did she get the new dress, she got all the accessories to go with it. She is still going strong," he added.
There is more light, natural light at that. The walls are brightly painted. There's no smoking. The clientele has also changed. From my experiences, it tends to be middle-aged. I was last there on Black Friday, when I grabbed one of the last seats at the bar next to another local resident (some guy in a suit and a trio of folks in town for business). It has been pretty lively each time I've stopped by.
"We get people in blue jeans, in shorts or in suits," Spanos said. "Everybody sits next to each other. We are a comfortable, casual place."
The bar is at the front of the building and has about 20 chairs. At each end of the bar, there is a nice-sized, mounted flat screen TV. There is a jukebox a few steps from one end of the bar for after-dinner hours. A six-pack cooler is just inside the front door to the right.
The bartenders and wait staff there have always been quick and efficient on my visits. The 16 drafts on tap are reasonably priced and they have a standard selection of beers in bottle or draft. They also have a few types of Robert Mondavi wines.
"We also have a good selection of craft (beer)," Spanos said. "We also have Allegro wines (from Brogue) and soon will be running a new cider (Wyndridge Crafty Cider) made by Dr. Steven Groff. We will be exclusively running his stuff."
Hungry? The legendary onion rings are still around. For $5.95 you can score a medium-sized order, which was enough for two.
"The onion ring recipe is the same since 1947," Spanos said. "They are handmade, never frozen. We go through about 600 pounds a week of fresh onion rings."
The menu itself is pretty solid, with everything from burgers to seafood and steak platters to pasta dishes. Again, everything is reasonably priced. I had a grilled chicken sandwich on Black Friday for $8.95. It was topped with lettuce and tomato and came with a side of fries and a bit of cole slaw.
"We weren't going for a different clientele (after the renovation)," Spanos said. "We wanted to update the menu. We wanted to go into more fresh food. It is diversified. Back in the day, it was fried chicken and liver and onions. Now, it's big salads, fantastic appetizers and fresh seafood."
The best part of the renovation for me has been the addition of a patio on the east side of the building. I am a big fan of open-air seating in the good weather months and this is a cozy spot. There are approximately eight tables and the traffic on East Market Street has not been a distraction when I've visited in the early evening.
"Plans are in the works for a double deck by spring," Spanos said. "We've found the demand for outdoor seating far exceeds our supply. We hope to move everything on the current deck up one floor and we will make the current area a year-round area with sliding glass doors. We also plan to have a fire pit on the top level and a fireplace on the existing level."
The Paddock on Market has their menu online at www.thepaddockonmarket.com and the bar can also be found on Facebook.