The sports pub at Ruby’s Wood Grill in York has plenty of TVs and a nice selection of beer. Staff photo by Bob Keyes

YORK — At a time when restaurants seem to come and go, with trendy new hot spots replacing old stalwarts, it’s nice to be able to return to an old reliable.

Ruby’s Wood Grill in York has been a popular destination for locals for many years, with its casual dining and sports bar appeal. I had never been, but it came highly recommended by my wife, who has met coworkers there on occasion. When a friend from New Hampshire suggested we meet for lunch, Ruby’s seemed like the place to go.

Its cabin-red exterior and business flags help Ruby’s stand out along a busy stretch of Route 1 among car dealers and supermarkets, and there was plenty of parking when I pulled in close to 12:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. I noticed at least two utility trucks and construction crews in the parking lot, with the workers eating their lunches to go in the vehicles. I took that as a good sign, and assumed they were eating in their vehicles because they had ordered ahead so they could fit a hearty lunch into a short break.

My friend and I both liked the atmosphere immediately. The floors were worn and weathered, and it felt comfortable and welcoming. We were offered a table in the dining room, a spot at the pub or the option to go out back to the sports bar part of the establishment, which is detached from the main restaurant and connected by a deck. In the summer, there’s also seating on the deck.

The haddock sandwich with fries at Ruby’s in York. Staff photo by Bob Keyes

We opted for the sports bar out back, which was another comfortable space with big tables, lots of TVs and a well-stocked bar with plenty of local taps. We weren’t there for drinks, but we will be soon.

Ruby’s has a large menu. We were both surprised at the range of options, and turned the menu over two or three times, waffling among burgers, a plate of pasta or maybe a pizza. We even asked our server for more time, which almost never happens.

I ended up with a fried haddock sandwich ($13), which is a go-to option when I can’t decide. My buddy ordered steak tacos with sriracha aioli from a selection of specials.

My sandwich was exceptional. I told my friend in the moment it was among the better fillets of fish I’d had in some time. It was thick and tender and large, spilling over the sides of a brioche bun. A homemade tartar sauce offered a tangy complement. My biggest complaint about fish sandwiches is that they usually fall apart. The fish is so flaky or watery, it doesn’t hold up in a sandwich.

That was not the case with the sandwich at Ruby’s. With its beer-batter coating, the fillet was substantial, like a piece of chicken, though tender and still moist. And the bun was delightfully chewy.

Steak tacos, with a creamy vegetable slaw and sriracha. Staff photo by Bob Keyes

The steak tacos ($13) were equally successful, and beautifully presented with a colorful creamy vegetable slaw and a dazzle of aioli. My friend appreciated the flour tortilla shell instead of corn, so it wouldn’t crumble. Both dishes came with fries, which were perfectly crisp.

My wife, who happened to be home sick, asked for an order of beer-battered “fowl fingers” to go, which arrived at our table long before we were finished with our meals. I didn’t want them to get too cold, so I felt a little rushed. That was our only complaint. The service was friendly, but not necessarily efficient. The server was working alone in the sports bar over lunch, placing orders, serving drinks, clearing tables and going back and forth to the main part of the restaurant across the deck. My friend and I both commented how treacherous that must be in bad weather.

But clearly, the folks at Ruby’s have been at this for some time, and they know what they’re doing.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: