You might know Carrie Carella and Heather Kelly from NoRA Cupcake Company, where Carella and her team have been whipping up creative cupcakes and desserts for nearly a decade. But the business partners and longtime friends first met 14 years ago working at Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, and they’re now bringing their bar expertise to a new Middletown spot.
With the debut of their Harrie’s Jailhouse in late March, the historic 1850s Pameacha Jail building on Warwick Street is once again home to a restaurant. The previous eatery in the space, Bread & Water, suffered a kitchen fire in 2017 and ultimately closed in April 2019.
Harrie’s offers “housemade bar snacks, signature sandwiches, and classic cocktails in the coziest jail you’ll ever dine in,” its website notes. The menu provides all the comfort and familiarity of a favorite local sub shop, but with its own twists.
The two had a plan to open a bar long before Harrie’s, they say. About six years ago, Carella was originally looking to launch a bar in a space behind the cupcake shop’s flagship location on Main Street in Middletown’s North End. When she told Kelly about the idea, Kelly, then living in Austin, Texas, said she would move back home to help run the new business.
The original project didn’t pan out, and Kelly ended up working for Carella at NoRA. But they were still intent on opening a bar someday, with a focus on food: bar fare and snacks to go along with cocktails and beer. Once they looked at the Pameacha space in November 2019, it clicked. They’d specialize in sandwiches. “We kept going back and forth, like what do we feel is missing [locally] or what do people say they have a hard time finding?” Kelly says. “There really isn’t a place where you can go and just get a really good sandwich, but also sit down and hang out and have a drink.”
Harrie’s sets itself apart immediately, from the first item on the appetizer list. The bar makes its own Chex mix, with seasoned, buttered and roasted pretzels, Goldfish crackers, oyster crackers and potato sticks. Deviled eggs are deep fried and topped with bacon and jalapeños, and disco fries are smothered in housemade cheese sauce and gravy. The “BCP” appetizer wraps buffalo chicken and cheese in wontons, fried until crispy. Salads include a wedge with buttermilk ranch.
Sandwiches, built on bread brought in fresh daily from Berlin’s Sanremo Bakery, are the star of the show: the Jailbird crispy chicken cutlet on a 10-inch grinder roll with provolone and green goddess dressing, the Capone with fried mortadella on a poppyseed bun, a turkey club with black garlic mayo. The Sanguiche is loaded with crispy eggplant, mortadella, salami, ham and provolone, complemented by roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato, Italian dressing and fig jam.
A Southern BLT on thick grilled Texas toast features housemade pimento cheese, slab bacon and fried green tomato, along with tomato jam. Tuna sandwiches are available in a classic melt presentation, with Swiss and tomato on marbled rye, or Italian style with white bean spread, roasted red pepper, arugula and provolone. The “Pen” features pulled chicken, cheddar, coleslaw and jalapeños on a sesame seed bun.
For beef options, the Macandrew on marbled rye features house-roasted beef and herb cream cheese spread, and the steak Philly, with shaved ribeye from Middletown’s Meadow Meat, is a frequent sellout, Carella says. A “Big Butch” double-decker burger with two patties is served with fries. Other options for sides include onion strands, mac and cheese, pasta salad and housemade pickles.
Harrie’s offers desserts made by NoRA, but not cupcakes, Carella says. Her team is taking the opportunity to try out different sweets for the restaurant menu, with recent offerings like strawberry-rhubarb hand pies with ice cream and pretzel shortbread-crusted peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate ganache and candied bacon sprinkles.
The restaurant’s cozy bar is in the basement, with eight beers on draft, more in bottles and cans, wines by the glass and a lineup of specialty cocktails featuring gin, vodka, mezcal and rum. The Jailhouse Fashion features Larceny bourbon, bitters, citrus and Luxardo cherry, while the El Warden melds spicy Ghost tequila, grapefruit and hibiscus simple syrup. A Pameacha Punch with dark rum, orange curaçao, pineapple and lime is accented with ginger beer.
The cocktail list will change seasonally, Carella and Kelly say, and they have plans to build an outdoor patio alongside the building. They’re also looking forward to expanding and evolving the food options over time. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Carella says. “The notes we have of the menu, that we played around with in the beginning stages, are pages long. We have plenty of material to grow it and change it up.”
51 Warwick St., Middletown
Hours: Thu.–Sun. 3–11 p.m.