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Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub

On May 22, 2008

It was easier to spot Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub on the rural landscape of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania than it was to pick out Stonehenge from the highway on my first visit to England.

“Hmmm” is the first reaction one might have upon discovering the website for Shakespeare’s Restaurant and Pub; that “hmmm” turns to “what the..” when discovering it in all its stone encircled glory while driving down a country road in Pennsylvania.

Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub

I purposely cropped this picture to show the telephone lines and utility house which give some indication of the area in which the restaurant is located.  Further down the road a smaller stone gate with a gorilla statue on either side marks the entrance to the sister golf facility.

According to the locals at a bar in nearby Zelienople the enormous rocks which encompass the grounds were man made at a cost of between three and four million dollars.  The restaurant’s literature writes of the boulders being quarried from Medusa Aggregates without mentioning either their cost or how many of them are actual rocks; either way the rockworks were for me even more impressive than the castle they “protect”.

On the evening we visited Shakespeare’s two wedding parties were in the process of arriving for receptions upstairs.  I can imagine that the banquet facilities provided a lasting and festive memory for both the newly married couples and their guests.  Up close the castle itself is obviously a new building – no, I wasn’t expecting an authentic castle in the middle of Pennsylvania – but despite that fact the result of the owner’s efforts is no less fun for the visitor.

Shakespeare’s main entrance

The “let’s have a good time” feel of Shakespeare’s continues with its dark interior complete with suits of armour and cutesy names for the restrooms (Queen’s Throne Room and King’s Throne Room, I would suggest after those names a little more theatrical flair for the bathrooms themselves, actual – I’m not kidding – thrones for comode seats would have been a kick).  The enormous main bar behind the host’s station provides a breathtaking view of the grounds behind the restaurant.  Patrons can eat in the bar, although due to the light from the sunset the window shades were drawn shortly after our arrival which understandably but disappointingly eliminated most of the view.

Our reservation had been for seven but we arrived shortly after six and were immediately seated.  Within fifteen minutes after our arrival the waiting area was full and remained that way throughout our stay so an early evening meal on the weekends might be the best bet.  The service was prompt, efficient and pleasant; the food – particularly my companion’s steak – was very good in a 1970s Steak & Ale sort of way.  The menu was vast and varied – probably to accomodate the wide range of patrons from small child to senior adults – and most of the items were heavily sauced.  There was a substantial and mostly pleasing selection of wines and beer; on the whole a pleasant meal in interesting surroundings.

When we drove past Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub, when we entered Shakespeare’s Restaurant & Pub both my friend and I had the same question, “Why?”  And I must admit, the queston still lingers: did Richard Hvizdak – owner of the establishment – wake up one night with a start and a half remembered dream that called to him to build a castle in a field in western Pennsylvania? But that seems a rather arrogant and condescending question when one considers that Mr. Hvizdak risked quite a lot – many millions – to see his vision become a reality and he made that investment in a place and time when many people and industries were moving away. Judging by the overflow number of guests Shakespeare’s had the night of our visit, folks from miles around find the restaurant to be a great night out for the entire family. I know that it was worth our drive off the beaten path just to see the rocks and have a view of the castle from the road. If we’re in the area again, I wouldn’t mind spending a half an hour or so at the bar with a beer watching for some knights to arrive back from battle.

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