Before late night eats, an evening at the pub
Red Arrow owner opens J’s Tavern under Milford dinner
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
The Red Arrow Diner is a foodie institution in Manchester — and now also in Milford. The newest Arrow’s venture is located around the corner and underneath the Milford diner: J’s Tavern Under the Bridge. This small bar and restaurant has an atmosphere a little more upscale than the diner upstairs, and it serves killer cocktails.
The tavern and diner are co-owned by Carol Sheehan and her father, George Lawrence. The space is warm, cozy and intimate with a stone bar, seating for 40, flat-screen televisions and an entire wall of windows that overlook the river.
“Customers come in and sit at and enjoy the bar, but they all have to look out the windows at the beautiful setting before they leave,” Lawrence said.
The tavern’s name is in honor of Sheehan’s son, Jessie, who died in June 2009 at the age of 14 of Alagille syndrome. The disorder took away part of his hearing and most of his vision by the time he passed away in his sleep at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Even so, Jessie was a life force who faced each day with optimism and impacted everyone who came into contact with him. Every day Sheehan wears a clay heart-shaped necklace that he made, even with formal wear.
Both owners seem to enjoy having a business that differs from the diner world that Sheehan has been involved with since 1987. Lawrence once owned Belmont Hall in Manchester. He tried to retire, but was too bored for his liking. Then he considered opening a restaurant in Hooksett, but the Milford location came along instead and he found a new niche. It also gives him an outlet for his food imagination.
“The menu upstairs has to stay the same as the menu in Manchester, especially since we have plans to franchise the Red Arrow,” Sheehan explained while seated at a tall, wooden bar-style table in a corner of the tavern. “But the tavern allows him the creativity with the menu that he loves.”
There is some menu crossover from the diner to the tavern — primarily pub food such as burgers, chicken tenders, chili and soups. Some of the stand-out tavern dishes include beer-battered cheddar sticks, a bacon and blue cheese burger, and a grilled tenderloin dinner. Lawrence’s influence stands out in the panini that he loves, and in specials such as bison baby back ribs and kangaroo burgers.
Of course, it’s the beverages that make the tavern unique. There is a full bar with beer both on tap and by the bottle, as well as wine and any cocktail imaginable. The new drinks menu is hot off the presses and includes a page of Fenway Park-inspired drinks (Jesse was a rabid Red Sox fan) and a martini page with options like Pop’s Makers Mark and Mom’s lemon cosmo.
Though the tavern has only been open since the end of December, bartender Jess Stacey said they have already attracted a group of regulars every Wednesday evening. Tuesdays are karaoke nights with the singing bartender, Vanessa Marcum. And Thursday evenings feature Fred C. and his guitar. Additional special evenings are in the works.
One other difference from the diner is that the tavern isn’t open 24/7. It does open every day for dinner and Thursday through Sunday for lunch. “It’s a comfortable, inviting place,” Sheehan said. “I think it’s totally cool."