Popular Irish bar in Manchester, Wild Rover undergoes a makeover
Enter Tom Puskarich, a 20-year veteran of the Manchester restaurant scene, known recently for his six-year stint as chef/owner of "Z" food and drink, located at 860 Elm St. until it closed last year. He had crossed paths with Boisvert and Batchelder over the years, and when he learned they were looking for a new manager, he struck a deal with the co-owners to become general manager in charge of food and beverage, with a mandate to re-invent the place while retaining its essential character.
The menu is about 80 percent the same, according to Puskarich. "Nothing's really gone," he said. "Things have been retooled and modernized."
In addition to new twists on classic Irish favorites like shepherd's pie and bangers and mash, the Rover expanded its bourbon, whiskey and beer selections. Fans of Puskarich's cooking will recognize his Asian nachos (made with crispy wontons and wasabi sour cream instead of corn chips and salsa); macadamia nut chicken fries and gouda-stuffed tater tots.
There are plans to offer live music on Fridays as well, starting in early November.
New flat screens are being added for the sports fans, many of whom turn to the Rover as the place to go to watch a good rugby or soccer match, as well as Boston's professional teams.
The Irish pub format has enduring appeal in Manchester, given the 23-year history of the Rover and the popularity of Shaskeen Irish pub, opened in 2005, or Murphy's Taproom, opened in 2007.
"The Irish pub crosses demographics and economics," said Puskarich in explaining the phenomenon. "Laborers just off the job or bankers coming in from the high-rise can feel comfortable in the same space. It's a mixture of suits and baseball caps, construction boots and wing-tips."
Even though he formally stepped down on Sept. 22, Batchelder will continue his relationship with the Rover as co-owner and as a "presence" in the business he helped build.
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