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Killabrew Saloon serving up Irish fare and award-winning wings for over 40 years

Cara Dolan Berry
Staff writer
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Posted 8/18/22

The parking lot was packed. It is often at Killabrew Saloon, where 5 and 12B make a point in New Hartford. It’s not a trendy spot, it’s been a local mainstay for over 40 years.

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Killabrew Saloon serving up Irish fare and award-winning wings for over 40 years

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NEW HARTFORD — The parking lot was packed. It is often at Killabrew Saloon, where 5 and 12B make a point in New Hartford. It’s not a trendy spot, it’s been a local mainstay for over 40 years. And where local mainstays boast of being the best bar around and topping the crowded upstate chicken wing charts, Killabrew gets the votes, dubbed best bar and best wings in 2021 and nominated - ballots in progress - for an Undisputed Excellence Award for 2022.

They are a sight to see, those wings, selling themselves whenever a platter piled high passes drinkers and diners by, dripping with Killabrew’s signature “everything” sauce. 

Owner Mike Volz began working at Killabrew as a dishwasher in 1995 and worked there until 2003, when he finished school, where he studied business and accounting. Volz was promoted to manager when he returned home from school and, in 2005, when original owner, Tom Riley, was ready to retire, he bought the place.

“I tell people that I started out here washing dishes and mopping floors,” said Volz. “Now I own the place and I still wash dishes and mop floors!”

“When I first started working here, we maybe moved six cases of wings a week,” said Volz, who expanded the menu from basic bar fare to what he promised regulars would say is ‘good food’ - house-made sauces, soups, and meats. “Now, we go through about 40 cases a week of wings.”

Volz calls wings the “thing we’re known for.”

“I’ve had wings for dinner here five nights in a row,” offered a solo sitting at the bar, in town from Hershey, Pennsylvania, working on a contract. When he asked for a recommendation upon arrival for a place nearby to grab a beer and a bite, Killabrew was the answer. He hasn’t been anywhere else. 

“This place has everything I was looking for.”

It’s not uncommon to encounter guests from upstate at Killabrew. You can’t visit the Mohawk Valley without sipping a Saranac brew and picking at a pile ‘o wings. It’s the rules. And the locals are likely to lure you to this bulwark saloon.

While the wings are a must-try, this pub bends Irish and boasts blarney fare including Irish Mac ‘n Cheese, topped with Irish sausage and sauteed onions, Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, Irish Beef Stew, Fish ‘n Chips and - of course - Corned Beef and Cabbage. And Killabrew’s confidently casts their hat in the ring for the best Reuben sandwich around. It’s so good that they take what’s tucked between two slices of rye and roll it up into Irish pierogis or smother those taters and call them Reuben tots. Of course, they slow-pour Guinness on tap.

The saloon serves up “Utica things,” including a selection of wing sauces, mushroom stew, mac salad, Friday fish fry, summer clams and cans, and Utica Club on tap. You’ll even catch salt potatoes done right as a side with a special.

Killabrew takes chili up a notch, switching out ground beef for chopped steak. They prepare potatoes every which way and offer a selection of flat bread pizzas perfect for sharing.

Nightly nosh includes Taco Tuesdays, Thursday night wings, a Friday fish fry menu, and dinner specials such as the Island Pork Sandwich - Teriyaki Pulled Pork, with a Coconut-Cucumber Slaw and topped with Chipotle Aioli - or Chimichurri Broiled Haddock.

This local watering hole “kills” the “brews,” pouring 23 beers on tap, anchored by local OG, Utica Club, standards such as Sam Adams and Blue Moon, and lites from Miller, Bud and Coors. See taps shift with the season and celebrate local or well-touted craft beers, with the current menu offering labels like Neon Giants IPA and Ridin’ Low in my 64 Pale Ale.

Volz is now exploring higher-end liquors … bourbons, tequilas, whiskeys.

“The bar business is ever evolving,” said Volz.

A silver lining from the pandemic at Killabrew is their seasonal outdoor seating, twinkle lights and all. This summer, the saloon celebrates the new normal by hosting live music al fresco every Wednesday night through August 31, dubbed Clams and Jams. And cans … consider Utica-brewed Right Coast Spirits Vodka Whips in light summer flavors.

Killabrew keeps it local, a come-as-you-are place where neighbors and new friends gather, where chat and laughter harmonize with the broadcast of a ballgame, the swish of ice swirling in a cocktail, and the sight and scents of local pub fare … and those wings? Those wings!

 

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