Rory's is a neighborhood bar in search of a neighborhood. Surrounded by the Orvis/Trader Joe's plaza, a nail salon, and an unfinished furniture/firearms emporium on the more commercial end of the Post Road in Darien close to the Norwalk border, Rory's somehow manages to have a "walk up and join the locals" feel. The tiny pub sits on a bit of raised land above Rt. 1 traffic like a little beach cottage above the tide line. Not too many people live within walking distance though, which is why you may find yourself parked next to a Rolls Royce or Ferrari. Maybe it's not your average local pub, after all.
I tried just about everything on the menu on a recent visit, with a large hungry party. The calamari we started with were the size of Super Bowl rings, and served with a pungent chipotle mayo. We kept with the fried, and got popcorn shrimp, which were lightly breaded and tender, and served with a sweet wasabi dipping sauce. I was trying to save room for future courses, and registered surprise when my hand kept popping these in my mouth. I had to put these on the other side of the table so I wouldn't eat the whole plate. If this were Facebook, I'd give these a Like. There was the standard game day staple of corn chips and queso dip, but I steered right for the tuna tartare. The deepest pink, these jewel like chunks of yellowfin with ginger lime marinade, avocado, wonton chips and wasabi stand out in my memory.
You think the rich New England clam chowder with a sprinkle of fresh dill is good all on its own until your server walks up with a small bottle of Bristol Cream and asks if you'd like some sherry with your chowder like she's asking if you want ketchup with your fries. Well, yes. Yes, I would.
A neighborhood bar, even if it's only the neighborhood of hedge fund offices and salons, is nothing without a decent burger. The mini cheeseburgers we were served were juicy, thick, well-cooked, etc. but oddly enough, the part that stood out for me was the toasted and possibly buttered rolls. In television, a "button" is a very quick joke writers squeeze in right before a break in order to top off a scene. These rolls were the button on the burgers.
The grilled smoked turkey sandwich is turkey, avocado, bacon, ranch and swiss on pumpernickel, and is a hot mess in that way messy food is the best food. The pastrami reuben is standard fare, and anybody without an aversion to smoked meat will like it, but you don't want to be friends with anyone who doesn't like smoked meat, anyway. The Meggin is reportedly the most popular sandwich on offer, and is basically Thanksgiving dinner between two slices of bread. You can imagine.
The pot pie at Rory's isn't served under a pie crust, puff pastry, rather, but it still warmed this Irish boy's heart. As did the sherry which found its way in. Hey - that bottle had the temerity to remain both partially full and within reach, and I wasn't raised to leave wounded soldiers.
The carrot cake in the slice I was served had an almost whole-grain texture without being bready, and the frosting was quite light and studded with nuts. It didn't feel like a groan-inducing indulgence after the meal, and neither did the marscapone cheese cake, which was fluffy and also much lighter than expected.
Rory's, once again, is small. Total capacity for the warm, wood paneled bar area is probably in the low teens, and total capacity with a full bar and dining area is probably not more than seventy or so, and that is a large portion of the atmosphere. It's almost like being in someone's home - many of the accoutrements which end up on your table are taken from a hutch against the back wall. One can't help but get familiar with the other patrons, and there will be a lot of them. Within ten minutes of arriving, I was having a discussion about the origins of the "Black and Tans" with a few guys who may have been in the same graduating class as Fred Flintstone, and THAT is what makes a neighborhood pub. Even more than a neighborhood.
Rory's 416 Boston Post Road Darien, Connecticut 203.655.9453