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McCray's Tavern on the Square

Open since: Dec. 17

Location: The tavern is located in the heart of Lawrenceville's downtown square, in the historic Monfort Drugs building.

Owner: Scott McCray

Hours: The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday.

Atmosphere: The decor at this downtown watering hole is a nice blend of old and new. Walls of a rough, aged brick - the last remaining vestige of the building's pharmaceutical days - lend an authentic "tavern" feel to the mahogany surroundings. The throwback look is further accented by the old beer barrels that hang alongside retro ads for Corona and Guinness.

Under the high ceilings and dim lighting, there are more contemporary touches, as well. Six big flat screen TVs line the perimeter (ensuring the bar's status a bonafide hang-out for sports fans), and the glowing "McCray's" sign overlooking the bar is unmistakably modern.

The tavern's most unique feature hasn't even opened yet: a rooftop patio overlooking the square. Boasting a breathtaking view, it will seat about 75 diners and drinkers when the weather gets warmer. (I doubt you want to sit outside right now. Winter storm, anyone?)

The menu: Instantly popular with Lawrenceville lunch crowds, McCray's offers their own spin on standard bar fare, like burgers or fish and chips, as well as more formal entrees, like rigatoni bolognese, a meat sauce made up of ground beef, pork and veal, topped with carrots, onions, tomatoes and herbs.

While the Pittsburgh Hot Pastrami - one of McCray's most popular menu items - definitely falls on the casual side, it's a serious sandwich. It is a huge pile of thinly-sliced, salted-to-perfection pastrami topped with french fries, "tavern slaw" and melted provolone cheese, served on French bread.

Another no-brainer favorite is the Chicken Salad Panini. This hot sandwich is exactly what the name says, and is served under a layer of melted cheddar cheese.

Beverages: Even if the food was bad (it isn't), McCray's would still draw a big crowd. The chorus line of beer taps behind the bar is undoubtedly the main attraction. There's a whopping 39 of them, from domestic mainstays like Miller Lite and Budweiser, cult favorite microbrews like Sweetwater and Flying Dog, to seasonal brews like Sam Adams Winter Lager and imports like Bodingtons and Stella Artois.

Dessert: If there's still room after dinner, check out the Chocolate Lava Cake, which got its catchy moniker from the molten chocolate inside of it.

Things you might not know: While the tavern is open nightly until 2 a.m., the kitchen closes at midnight, so don't expect any late-night beer munchies. (Besides, you really shouldn't be eating at that time of night anyway, Mr. I'm-Still-Carrying-Some-Holiday-Weight).

SideBar: On The Menu

Fish and Chips: tried-and-true pub grub, just like the Brits do it ($10.95)

Pan-Seared Hangar Steak: served with grilled vegetables, roasted new potatoes and red wine mustard sauce ($16.95)

Pittsburgh Hot Pastrami: thinly-sliced pastrami paired with french fries, slaw and melted provolone cheese, and served on fresh French bread ($9.95)

Stella Artois: 20 oz. serving of a Belgian favorite ($6)