A mural stretching across one of the walls in Meiklejohn’s Family Restaurant and Pub might give the impression that the viewer is peering through stone castle walls to a serene vista of countryside.
Although the scene seems to depict some far away land, perhaps Scotland or Ireland, the image sets the tone of Eldersburg’s largest pub restaurant, an ambitious eatery that Josh Gursky, 30, and his brother, Grant, 33, opened in January of this year.
“Our menu is unique. We offer Irish fare and Celtic cuisine,” said Josh Gursky. Taking “Meiklejohn” from Josh’s mother’s maiden name, the establishment serves food that satisfies Scottish, English, and American taste buds as well as Irish.
“For this area we thought we needed a low key pub that’s good for the whole family,” Josh said. “We brought in a whole new concept.”
Grant agreed. “Our focus is on the family,” he said. “Everything from our menu prices to the design.”
Before Meiklejohn’s was created, a restaurant called The Chop House filled its place, which was then sold to the brothers.
“A very good opportunity popped up and we took it and ran with it,” said Grant, who said that they got the idea to open a Celtic style restaurant after a family member said they should use their Scottish heritage to their advantage.
After they bought the Chop House, Grant and Josh decided that they needed to “make it pubby,” said Grant, who traveled with Josh to various pubs in the surrounding areas to find consistent themes.
The old pub look carries down Meikeljohn’s long hallway, past another dining room, straight into the bar section. A popcorn popper rests midst a small forest of beer taps and liquor bottles, surrounded by solid brickwork. Flat screen, high definition televisions are mounted on the walls featuring sports scores and football games.
The black and orange “Orioles Dr,” purple “Ravens Blvd.”, and the red “Terps Way,” signs add color to the brick walls and cherry colored bar stools.
“We wanted to give it a rustic look,” said Josh. “Make it look like the building’s been here for a while.”
Not only does the design of the restaurant lend it a Celtic feel, but soft, Irish music also floats throughout the dining rooms, adding to the atmosphere.
Customer Tristan Gilbert, 23, of Sykesville, said that the music was one of the first elements of Meiklejohn’s that he noticed, along with the designs and menu choices.
“The Gurskys took a very generic restaurant and turned it into something with more flavor,” said Tristan. “I keep going back because the food is consistently good, and the help there is very friendly.”
“Josh and Grant are great people to work with,” said server Karen Courtney, 50. “It’s a very laid back atmosphere here, and it’s family friendly.”
Karen, who started at that location three years ago when it was still The Chop House, said that her favorite dishes are the fish and chips and the corned beef and cabbage.
The claddagh sandwich, the main ingredient of which is flank steak, is one of the biggest sellers on the menu. It was created on a whim one night by chef Patrick Jarboe, 24, of Eldersburg.
“I used to work at the Hotel Hershey, and they had something similar to that,” said Patrick.
“He made it for me for lunch one day,” said Grant, “and I knew it had to be on the menu.”
Pub patron Todd Bell, 24, enjoys the chicken pot pie dish, and appreciates the culinary direction that the pub has taken.
“I think Meiklejohn’s tried to assess the situation of the area,” said Todd, who was getting ready to take the stage at the bar’s open mike night on Thursdays. “They knew people didn’t want a ritzy place. They wanted a place to kick back and relax and have a good time.”
Bartender Jen Eckard, 42, has worked at the location for three and a half years, and was pleased with the transition in January to Meiklejohn’s “A lot of customers know the Gurskys,” she said. “There was a big change, and business picked up dramatically. The food changed, the atmosphere changed, I enjoy working with everyone here. It’s been a reason to come to work.”
First time customer, Jenifer Evans, 21, of the Hunt Valley area, relished the ambiance of the pub and the Nesse Burger sandwich she was eating.
“I will go so far as to say this is the best meal I’ve had in months,” she laughed between bites. “The general Irish, Celtic atmosphere struck me the most when I came in,” she said. “I’ve been to Ireland, and this is what an Irish pub looks like.”
Josh Gursky said that although living in the area for 14 years helped to grow the business, newspaper advertisements, their website, and word of mouth helped tremendously.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to own a restaurant,” said Josh, who has worked in the restaurant business for most of his life. He leaves much of the financial and business aspects of the restaurant to Grant.
“It’s a very tough business,” Josh said. “But I’ve reached my goal, and I’m happy with it.”
To visit Meiklejohn’s website, go to: www.mjpub.com