A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Just for the sake of full disclosure, we will go ahead and tell you that if our waistline and blood pressure would allow it, we would eat only pub grub and drink only beer. In this cholesterol-be-gone, no-carb, calorie-free fantasy world, Khalil's would be our neighborhood bar.
When you walk in the front door, you are presented with two options. Behind door number one is the bar — smoky, noisy and neon-lit with a real “Norm!”-like atmosphere. Behind door number two is what you might call the family-friendly side. It looks a lot like an old Denny's, and it's quiet like one, too. There's also a patio out back if you're into the whole open-air thing. We chose door number one. Inside the bar it's cozy.
The ceilings are low, the walls wood-paneled and brass rails complement the bar. There's even a fireplace, which should be nice once we settle into the cold winter months. A couple of big-screen TVs hang on the walls, but not obtrusively so. And the patrons all seemed happy to sip their beers and talk about whatever it is people talk about when they sip beers.
Speaking of that beautiful, barley-based concoction, there are plenty of labels to choose from at Khalil's. The beer list includes a selection of 16 drafts, from Belhaven Scottish Ale to Woodchuck Amber. If you're a picky drinker or a beer snob, surely you can settle on one of the 62 different types of bottled beer.
The menu is standard bar food with a few exceptions. It's got stuff like buffalo wings, nachos, cheese sticks and fried mushrooms ($6-$8). There are also a couple of originals, including home-made chicken tamales and bierocks, German meat turnovers stuffed with onions and cabbage.
Nearly immobilized by indecision, we finally chose the K-Dogg Sampler ($9.95), the potato skins ($5.45) and the Scottish eggs ($5.75). The sampler was a mix of the chicken tamales, Southwest egg rolls, chicken quesadillas and chips and salsa. The tamales were the big surprise. Moist, tender, semi-spicy and warm, they were the tastiest things on the plate.
The potato skins were pretty bland and kind of skimpy on the two main ingredients that really make the difference: cheese and bacon. You can never have enough of either.
But it was our third starter that stole the show. The Scottish eggs, which initially sounded fairly disgusting, turned out to be one of the highlights for everyone at the table. For the uninitiated, a Scottish egg is a hard-boiled egg covered in a mixture of bread crumbs and sausage and deep fried. Served up hot with a side of honey mustard, these little nuggets are a gift from the appetizer gods.
As you can probably imagine, after all those finger foods and a couple of rounds of dark beer, we didn't have much room for entrees. But we powered through. Just like the appetizer menu, there are plenty of dinner options. There are soups and salads, wraps and sandwiches and a few entrees to round out the menu.
We went a little out of our comfort zone and tried the fish tacos ($7.95). The tortillas were a little over-warmed, but the lightly breaded cod, shredded “tequila cabbage,” pico and baja sauce went together appealingly and made for a nice dinner, especially considering the price.
A friend ordered the bratwurst ($4.95), which is served on a hoagie with sauerkraut. When asked what he thought, he replied simply, “It's a brat.”
Another of our dining companions went with the fish and chips ($7.75). The cod was “lager-battered” and deep fried to a nice golden-brown hue. The batter was a little thick, but still crispy. Served with fries and slaw, this is a solid dinner choice.
To mix things up a bit, our companion's companion chose the chicken tender wrap ($6.95). This particular wrap comes with lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing. That's what she ordered. What ended up on the table was a wrap stuffed with grilled chicken, onions and peppers. We decided to just go with it. The chicken and the veggies were nicely grilled, not over-done and very flavorful. But alas, it wasn't what we ordered.
After all that, dessert was simply not an option. We left full, happy and, given the amount of food we ordered, with a pocketbook not much worse for the wear.
If you're looking for anything particularly original or approaching haute cuisine, then this probably isn't your place. If you're looking to meet up with some old friends for a pretty solid happy hour, then Khalil's will do just fine.
Khalil's Pub and Grill
110 S. Shackleford Road
There are too many quick bites to go around. If you're having trouble deciding on an appetizer, be sure to peruse the sampler section. Khalil's has three different options that mix and match some of your favorites with some of their specialties. The tamales are a good place to start.
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday.
Credit cards accepted. Full bar.