Someone with a greater tolerance than I have for corned beef, boiled potatoes and cabbage (all of which I like in small quantities) should do a roundup for you of local Irish pubs in honor of St. Patrick's Day next Friday.
I decided that one Irish pub would do quite well, and that one should be -- what else? -- the Irish Pub. I had forgotten until I got to the 200 block of West Chase Street that the venerable tavern had moved up the street a year or so ago, and in the process become Dougherty's.
Same owner (Bill Dougherty). Same concept (pub food, neighborhood bar, pool tables). But the new -- relatively speaking -- space is more open, and the dining area is also a gallery. Right now, the oils and mixed media of local artist J. Kelly Lane are on display, all featuring dogs to some degree or other.
The fine oak bar is the focus of the room. The rest of the space has a stripped-down look that was a little off-putting on a Sunday evening when we were the only customers not sitting at the bar. Having the dining area so empty did mean, though, that the service was unusually good.
Most of the menu is sandwiches and burgers. Corned beef will be on the specials list next Friday for St. Patrick's Day, our waitress said. Usually, though, what little ethnic food there is runs to nachos and chili or a kosher hot dog or a Hawaiian burger, not Irish stew and soda bread.
Dougherty's has a fine white chili, which is a white bean and chicken soup seasoned with chili powder. It has munchies, such as fried zucchini, where the vegetable isn't overwhelmed by the seasoned bread-crumb coating or the ranch dressing dip. (Of course, depending on how you feel about zucchini, that might not be a positive thing.)
Dougherty's french fries are fabulous -- crisp, almost crunchy on the outside, soft and hot within -- and irregular enough that you know they are hand-cut as promised. The coleslaw is fresh-tasting and not too sweet. The mashed potatoes are flavorful, with just a few lumps, so you know they're real. (All the rest of the vegetables are frozen, our waitress told us.)
Dougherty's hamburgers start with lean ground chuck and lots of it. I'd stay away from some of the additions -- the fried ham of the pub burger and the pineapple of the Hawaiian. But all in all, if the kitchen would just heat the stone-cold kaiser roll, it would be an excellent burger.
You can get an acceptable crab cake at a decent price -- a rarity these days, given the cost of crab meat. Good fried chicken is sometimes on special.
Dougherty's has homemade desserts. The night we were there, they included several pies with amazingly bad crusts -- amazing because you can open a package of pie crust mix and end up with a decent one. But the rice pudding is a keeper.
As for next Friday, the pub doesn't have an entertainment license, so there won't be live music; but expect lots of taped Irish melodies, ethnic foods and a bit of beer being drunk.
Where: 223 W. Chase St.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.; 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V
Features: bar food
Non-smoking section? No
Call: (410) 752-4059