A Pint of the Black Stuff

Or a mug of coffee, whichever

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Urban Renewal

Irish Times Pub and Restaurant ⢠11348 Parkside Drive ⢠675-8800

by Gay Lyons

I haven't been to Irish Times Pub and Restaurant on a Friday night, but based on the background sounds when I called, it's attracting a lively crowd. The following morning when four of us showed up to check out the Irish breakfast I'd seen advertised, the place had the hushed air of a recently ended party. It wasn't hard picturing the crowd I'd heard.

Irish Times is a pub, but, as the name indicates, it's also a restaurant. In addition to lunch (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.) and dinner (4-10 p.m.), there's a late night supper (10 p.m.-1 a.m.). There's also a four-item children's menu.

It's a decorating challenge to create an authentic-looking pub in a new building in the giant grid of Turkey Creek, but the owners have done pretty well. It's too large to be described as cozy, but the dark wooden floors and furniture give warmth to the space. The pub has a massive wooden bar at its center, as well as a side bar with stools that runs the length of the room. The restaurant, accessed by a doorway just inside the pub, is divided into four rooms with tables and chairs in the same dark wood.

We came for breakfast, but when we learned that only one breakfastâ"the Irish breakfastâ"is served, we decided the rest of us, for the sake of some variety, would have pub food for breakfast. The menu includes corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd's pie, fisherman's pie and Irish stew. Among the traditional pub offerings, the Greek salad, baked brie, chicken Waldorf salad, chicken Bombay and Elvis's prime roast beef seemed like cultural intruders.

We noted the available draft beersâ"three from Ireland, three from England and one Dutch beerâ"all priced at $3 a glass and $5 a pint, as well as the usual assortment of domestic and imported beers along with Irish whiskey, but we optedâ"sensibly I'm sureâ"for the usual array of caffeine-infused morning beverages. The coffee, which is served with a little cream pitcher, was particularly good.

The Irish breakfastâ"eggs over easy, fried tomato, Irish bacon, sausage links, black and white sausage and rye toastâ"is a hearty protein-rich plate of food. The eggs were not how I'd define over easy. If you like your yolks runny, you may want to mention this when you order. The black sausage was a round pool of soft, moist dark meat. The white sausage was firmer in texture. The link sausages had more flavor, or at least more of a traditional sausage flavor, than the black and white sausages. The large piece of Irish bacon was like country ham minus the salty taste. When I think of fried tomatoes, naturally I envision green tomatoes tossed in cornmeal and fried. The Irish version is red, unbreaded and more sautéed than fried. Bites of tomato made a great palate cleanser between forkfuls of eggs, bacon and sausage. The toasted rye bread was excellent with just the right texture and pungency.

The corned beef, cabbage and potato soup included plenty of each ingredient, but the reddish slivers of corned beef stood out in the creamy, but not overly thick, broth. It was mild but not to the point of blandness. The corned beef and cabbage give it a zing not always found in potato soup.

The corned beef and Swiss sandwich was made with the same tasty rye bread that came with the breakfast. Several layers of tender, thinly sliced corned beef and Swiss cheese created a substantial sandwich, so much that we carried half of it home. The extremely creamy red potato salad that accompanied it was studded with bits of soft potato skin.

The mahi mahi on the blackened fish sandwich was tender and spicy. The roll was nothing specialâ"just something to hold the fish, lettuce, tomato and onion together. If you're watching your carbs, you might want to skip the bread and take a fork to the fish. Either way, the tartar sauce, which has lots of tiny bits of pickle, is a treat. The slaw we ordered to go with the sandwich was our least favorite item. It was rather bland and way too runny. It needed draining and seasoning.

What's a visit to a pub without a basket of fish and chips? The fish at Irish Times didn't disappoint. The large piece of fish, nestled in fries, was crisp outside, moist inside and not the least bit greasy. The fries were similarly well-prepared: crunchy outside, soft inside and grease-free. The fish needed no flavor boosters, but it comes with both malt vinegar and tartar sauce, the same zesty pickle-flavored tartar sauce that came with the fish sandwich.   

I thought it'd be interesting to discover exactly what constitutes an Irish breakfast, and it was. I enjoyed it. But my next visit to Irish Times will be in the evening, preferably around the time the live music starts. You can bet my next order of fish and chips at Irish Times will be served with a pint of Guinness instead of a pot of coffee.

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