Shelia and Sean Ryan lean into generational experiences
BY ELLIOT ACOSTA | PHOTOS BY MASH PHOTOGRAPHY
Downtown Cary epitomizes the rapid growth occurring across the Triangle. The town’s once quaint downtown is now full of bustle, with businesses popping up around its core to service residents and visitors alike. At Cary’s center, you’ll find Crosstown Pub & Grill. Located at 154 E. Chatham Street, just down the street from The Cary Theater, this quintessential town hub is where everyone is welcome to grab a drink, watch the game or enjoy an honest meal.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
Mother-and-son duo Sheila and Sean Ryan opened Crosstown Pub in 2015. They had moved to the area from New England in 1994, thanks to a professional opportunity for the family’s patriarch. Their successful creation of Crosstown Pub is the result of knowledge they accumulated through generations of experience running bars and restaurants.
Sean, who serves as Crosstown Pub’s general manager, cites family members who owned and ran pubs as if their businesses were part of the family tree: “Great Uncle Joe” owned Horseneck Tavern in Connecticut; “Uncle Dennis” owns Mac’s Tavern in Cary; his parents, cousin and uncle were part owners of the beloved downtown Raleigh Irish pub Tir na nOg; and Shelia owned and operated Cary’s Mahoney’s Pub before opening Crosstown Pub.
Sean says he and his siblings were indoctrinated into the family’s restaurant business as children. “I got started like most kids who grow up in this industry—at the bottom. My siblings and I would help bus tables and do dishes when we were kids. I slowly worked up the ladder as I got older, and through just about every position there is.”
MOLDED FOR CARY
Sheila and Sean leaned into these generational experiences to create the restaurant Caryites love. “Crosstown Pub’s concept is a crazy combination of our favorite parts of all of our family’s previous businesses, along with sprinkles of outside inspiration we have picked up along the way,” Sean says.
He acknowledges the role downtown Cary played in its creation, since the Ryans molded the pub into what they thought the area needed. When Crosstown Pub opened in 2015, downtown Cary’s predicted growth was more of a promise than an actualization. Downtown residents themselves, Sheila and Ryan held fast to their plan to open Crosstown Pub in the town’s center. They knew there was a growing need for walkable food and drink destinations downtown, and could see Cary’s growth on the horizon. Sean admits they never anticipated just how rapid that growth would occur.
Straightforward and hearty, Crosstown Pub’s guests enjoy what can only be phrased as “pub food classics.” From shareable apps like the spinach artichoke dip, to entrees such as the bestselling fish and chips, Crosstown Pub’s menu is designed to fill bellies and go great with a cold drink. Weekly “off-menu” specials keep the menu fresh, with options like sloppy Joes and cheesy chicken pasta.
The dish that has earned Crosstown Pub acclaim is their version of the Southern classic, pimento cheese. Prior to the pandemic, the Town of Cary hosted a pimento cheese festival and invited local restaurants to enter a pimento cheese recipe competition. Crosstown Pub’s team claimed the pimento cheese crown—and that same recipe can be found inside the pub’s fried green tomato sandwich and fried pimento cheese balls.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Sean is not only excited about Cary’s growth, but also for what the town can offer his growing family. “I have a 2-year-old daughter, and downtown Cary is a really special place to raise her. The people are amazing, and the family-focused amenities have vastly improved—specifically the new library, countless family-friendly events and the new Downtown Park.”
He also realizes this growth and development means the area will attract new residents and visitors. “In the 8 years since we opened our doors, there have been dozens of breweries, bars, restaurants and shops that have popped up—with even more on the way,” he says. “All of these additions only help bring more people to downtown Cary, and spotlight the Town of Cary for its current and future development of our downtown community.”
Crosstown Pub has opened another door for the Ryans, who are teasing a new concept just a few doors down at the pub’s former location on 140 E. Chatham Street. Stay tuned for more on that later … and check out the menu at crosstowndowntown.com.
Check out more stories around Western Wake by visiting 5 West online.
CROSSTOWN PUB & GRILL’S SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP
- 4 ounces of cream cheese
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 10 ounces of chopped artichoke hearts
- 2 cups of chopped spinach
- 3/4 cups of Parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
• Combine the ingredients and blend them together until the mixture is smooth. Store the dip in the refrigerator, and heat it up before you serve it. Top it with a 40/60 honey sriracha blend.