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Bar Thu Mar 12 2009
While I'm not too big on getting wasted under a giant green top hat on St. Patrick's day, if someone asks me to get a tasty Irish pub grub or two, I'm game. I confess that my flirtation with Irish pub food doesn't have a long history, and that I don't really know what "authentic" Irish food is supposed to be. (Hell, I haven't even been to Britain, let alone Ireland.) But in the recent few years, I've found some pretty good Irish food on this side of the Atlantic (and of Lake Michigan, for that matter). Here are two suggestions for the upcoming Green Weekend.
Fado, an Irish bar-cum-sports bar on the corner of Grand & Clark in downtown, has a great dish called Trinity Steak Boxty. It's sort of like garlicky, whisky-y beef stew made with plenty of onion and mushrooms, served over Irish potato pancakes (which is what a boxty is, I have learned). The galicky sauce has a rich, caramelized flavor, and clings beautifully to the boxty that's crispy on the outside, tender and starchy on the inside. As I said, I don't know if that's the way it's supposed to be. But it's a great pub food all the same.
We've been to Fado several times, and have never been disapointed. Everything we've tried have been consistently good--fresh and hearty. On St. Pat's parade day, Fado will have live music scattered throughout the day, as well as 6 Nations Rugby Tournament live on TV. (Ireland plays Scotland at noon, by the way.) If you like your pubs and bars quiet like we do, though, go there in the early afternoon, when there's no major sport event--or drunken college kids in shamrock tee shirts.
Mrs. Murphy & Son's Irish "Bistro" is another of my favorite Irish haunt. An upscale "bistro" that opened in 2005, Mrs. Murphy's is housed in an ex-funeral home dating back to the 1920s. (And you can see some of the original touches left intact.) It offers a nice range of contemporary Irish pub food, like Guiness and onion soup that's served with a giant courton draped with Irish cheddar cheese, beef stew, and my favorite, Mrs. Murphy's corned beef & cabbage. Again, I don't know what traditional corned beef & cabbage tastes like, but Mrs. Murphy's version goes like this: two different cuts of corned beef, one thinly sliced and the other in chunks (which makes a remarkable difference in not just mouth feel, but in flavor as well, it seemed); a thick, crispy-shelled boxty; sweet and tangy chopped red cabbage (a refreshing touch in this otherwise heavy dish); all this is accompanied by creamy horseradish sauce that's so heavenly you want to lick the plate off.
When we were there a few weeks ago, the service struck the perfect balance between attention and privacy, between friendly and reserved. The server guy made beer recommendations, was very graceful when my husband went for the $3 special, and even gave him a free pint when one of his later beer choices was unavailable. And even better yet, the free "replacement" he picked for my husband was right on. You wouldn't think that a pub/bistro would be the place to get the best service in your life, but so it has been, for me. Mrs. Murphy's has a great beer selection, too, with 30 or so beers on tap, including Irish staples and Americna microbrews. And that is on top of the 50 or more bottled kinds (Don't quote me on this; I lost count). On the parade day (Saturday), Mrs. Murphy's will have a special brunch buffer from 10 am to 4 pm for $16.95.
Fado Irish Pub
100 W. Grand Avenue
Mrs. Murphy & Son's Irish Bistro
3905 N. Lincoln Avenue