The Golden Pony was uncharacteristically empty when I entered it on Sunday evening. To be fair, it was after 10 p.m., and no live music was being played in the basement on this particularly dreary night. I smiled as the server came across the room to greet me and the friend who accompanied me to dinner to mark the end of a busy weekend.
We were instructed to sit anywhere we liked, so we selected a booth along the left wall where I had sat on another visit just two months prior. This was my third trip to The Pony. On the second trip, I had had the opportunity to enjoy outdoor seating on the back deck, surrounded by trees and string lights.
But this Sunday evening, our booth was the perfect escape from the cold outside. I could already feel my skin warming as we entered: The Golden Pony is aptly named not only for its 1960’s literary reference to “The Outsiders,” but also for the warm, golden feeling you get the moment you step in its doors. A sunflower-colored window decal encourages you to “Stay Gold” in curling cursive letters. Plants line the front window’s bar, and retro arcade games sit in the corner of the entryway. It is a little haven on the edge of downtown Harrisonburg. How could you not stop in?
A classic American pub, the walls of The Golden Pony are partially exposed brick, and the square columns that support the ceiling are painted to appear old and worn, with scuffed, floral wallpaper peeking out from underneath. The distressed decor and warm lighting is contrasted by the huge and vibrantly colored murals that cover the entirety of the restaurant’s right wall. The speakers played angst-driven 90’s music at a comically appropriate volume for the genre.
Upon sitting, we were given a menu for drinks and informed that from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., our dining options would be limited to the “Late Night Eats,” an abridged version of theregular appetizer menu. Luckily, neither of us were interested in a large meal at such an hour. After receiving our drinks, we ordered a plate of nachos to share.
While we waited for our food, we chatted with our server, who informed us that the Golden Pony hosts an event in the basement nearly every night of the week. Sundays normally host live music, Monday is Karaoke Night, followed AMANDA’S LATE NIGHT EATS: THE GOLDEN PONY by Townie Tuesday, College Night on Thursdays, and a D.J. every Friday and Saturday evening.
Our nachos arrived, a perfect portion for sharing. The tortilla chips were fried in-house, giving them a dark, terra-cotta color. They were topped with cheddar cheese, diced onion and tomato, black beans, salsa, crumbly cotija cheese, and jalapeños. They were overall lacking in seasoning, namely salt, probably because the chips were house-made rather than store-bought. Still, they were delightfully crunchy, and even the soggy parts were pleasantly flavored by the numerous toppings. I resorted to picking up toppings with my fingers and dropping them into my mouth along with the chips, as there would be no scooping possible in the mass of cheesiness.
As we finished up the nachos, a plate of buffalo wings arrived with ranch dressing, also made inhouse. I regretted wearing a white blouse the moment I saw them, knowing I would clean the bones.
I attempted to eat an entire wing without trying the dipping sauce, but my craving took over, and I ate the rest of my share with sauce on every bite. The ranch was the perfect cooling complement to the heat of the buffalo wings. It was a match made in heaven. I thanked my stars that my friend had not requested bleu cheese.
I spent a total of just under $22 that evening, which is quite a steal for such quality appetizers shared between friends.
With spacious outdoor seating, a bar, and a stage downstairs, The Golden Pony is the perfect spot for any day of the week, whether you’re looking to listen to live music, study on the back deck, or just grab dinner with friends.
You can find the Golden Pony at 181 N. Main St., just around the corner from Kline’s.
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