Walking around the farmer's market Saturday and noticed a new place across the street. Went there for dinner Saturday night.
Disclaimer: I prefer places like the old 602 club, the Pub and Jennas when it was on University - not your trendy kind of guy. Yeah, I know none of those places served food other then a bag of chips. The first thing you notice is that they put a lot of effort into the building. Normally I would consider too much money in decorating a space to be a turn off and an indication of food that tries too hard and fails. However, in this case my cynicism was trumped and I believe the interior spaces are the result of honesty, not yuppie bait. While a "real" Irish pub seats about seven, this place has two floors (bar only upstairs) and lots of nooks and crannies. Nooks and crannies are inefficient uses of space, maybe this is what won me over.
The server said they had only been open 13 days and this was their second weekend with 4-5 hours of 45 minute+ waits. For those of you not familiar with the calendar, they opened over two Wisconsin football home games and Dairy Expo. Madison doesn't get any more crowded then this. The server said they weren't expecting the crowds, but on a home game weekend over both weekends of Dairy Expo they should have been expecting it. When we were seated just before 8 they were already out of the Guiness Irish Stew, Shepards Pie and an appetizer.
Our party of three had the Bangers and Mash and (2) Roast Chicken. We also had a green salad and a cup of the potato leek soup. Expecting the small green salad to be extra, the server offered to substitute it in place of the mashed potatoes. As the person ordering wasn't a huge mash fan, she accepted. This option wasn't on the menu, so I don't know if this is policy or not. The potato and leek soup was okay, good but not great. The salad that was substituted for the mash came without dressing - that was corrected and the dressing was quite good. The roast chicken is served with a sausage and corn stuffing. On my plate the stuffing wasn't cold, but it also wasn't warm. I'm the first to rant about too large portions, but I would have expected more mash with the Bangers and Mash. It is probably sized correctly, but in a dish consisting of only two items, one of which is mashed potatoes, you expect them to err on the side of too much mash.
Now that the negatives are out there, it is time for the gushing review. The person who ordered the Bangers and Mash said they were some of the best Bangers he ever had. And this from a person who knows his sausages. The half Roast Chicken is definitely the best I have ever had. Even the breast meat was good. The stuffing, while it should have been hotter, was tasty. I liked the mashed potatoes a lot, and I am not a big fan of them. The person who ordered the Bangers and Mash didn't say anything about them. I will note, he loves my grandmother's mashed potatoes which is one reason I didn't touch the things for 24 years. And the salad was a nice green salad with a dijon and orange (more the zest then the juice) dressing which was very nice. The chicken was $12.95 and the Bangers and Mash $10.95 or $11.95 with 3 bangers. The prices are very reasonable, especially for the best Roast Chicken I've ever had including what I make myself.
As for the pub part, it is very comfortable (a bit trendy, but give it some time for wear and tear to make it lived in) and the pints are $4.50 (at least for what we ordered). I consider that to be a great price on a Harp or a Guiness. They have 8 taps and 2 Guiness taps. The taps are Smithwicks, Harp, Bass, Amstel Light, Pilsner Urquell, Hacker Pschorr, New Glarus Spotted Cow, and one of the Capitol brews. Kevin, the bartender upstairs, is someone I'd trust to make me any cocktail.
Having been to many an Irish Pub, I was very pessimistic and had low expectations going there Saturday night. But it was new and I'm always game to be the first person somewhere. I consider it fate they were out of the stew and shepards pie (which I would have ordered) and I got to try their heavenly roast chicken. With two away games coming up and Dairy Expo over, they should be able to get their feet under them and have the kinks worked out. The server said they were going to wait at least a month before starting daily specials. The menu is not large, but it is reasonably priced and their food on a rough night impressed. I'd say the menu is 90% traditional Irish (none of the new Irish cuisine winning those rave reviews for Dublin) and 10% where'd that come from like the Meze appetizer platter. I have high hopes this place will become an institution, not an L'Etoile, but a place for a pint and a nice, reasonable meal. Especially on a crisp day like Saturday was.