Haledon, NJ 07508
- Cost: $$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Private Lot
July 15, 2015
Winning the prize for most obscure literary reference in a Jersey bar name, The Shepherd & The Knucklehead in Haledon, NJ is a craft beer haven celebrating the “duality of man.”
The Shep, as it’s known by devoted Passaic County locals, deserves its accolades from the sudsy set, including Top Rated Craft Beer Bar in NJ (the Star-Ledger) and a World-Class score (Beer Advocate). The extensive beer list, updated daily, includes 90 taps featuring rotating microbrews from Jersey (Carton, Cricket Hill, Kane) and beyond (Breckenridge – CO, Great Lakes – OH, Firestone Walker – CA), just to name a few. The beer options alone make the Shep worth a visit.
We visited on a recent Saturday afternoon to sample the beer, and try some of the Shep’s food menu. The space is divided into two bar areas and dining rooms, the original pub and a more recent addition. Service is friendly, even when busy. The pub grub we tried – Buffalo wings, a large German soft pretzel, crab rangoon, overloaded nachos and Angus Sliders – are all decent bar fare, nicely matched with the beer. The menu includes more substantial dishes like paella, ribs and steaks. The items we tried are not at the same level as the fare at some other Jersey “gastropubs” like Byram’s Salt or the Rocky Hill Inn.
But those spots have no literary aspirations. A plaque on a wall of the Shep anoints Beat poet Jack Kerouac the patron saint of the pub. The bar’s name comes from a 2001 novel by owner Chris Schiavo:
“The responsible (Shepherd) and the irresponsible (Knucklehead) represent the mental tug of war going on inside each of our minds, bodies, and souls. The main character, Oliver Wendell Tweed (a compilation of Oliver Wendell Holmes and Boss Tweed—in other words, a mix of purity and greed) is on a search for the meaning of this duality in each of us. Along for the journey is his sock monkey and constant companion, Francis Bacon. Interestingly enough, Oliver owns a pub near a university and implores emerging philosopher-students to develop both sides of their brain so they can ensure balance in their lives.”
A sock monkey! Next visit, I must purchase a copy.
True to it’s philosophy, this pub does more than just serve its customers. The owner embraces community responsibility, donating profits to help clothe, feed, and house the poor, locally and globally. You’re a knucklehead if you can’t appreciate that, and if you don’t spend some time considering the meaning of duality here, over a perfect draft.