Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mick O'Shea's

I have been meaning to get over to Downtown for a while, since there are so many good places I haven't eaten at in a while. It's just so difficult to find parking that I never even bother. But this evening I parked by the Basilica of the Assumption, around 7:30, and took a turn toward the Harbor on Charles Street. there are a few good places to eat here. My original intention was to stop at Lumbini, a Nepalese/Indian place the City Paper just raved about. On the way I passed by Mick O'Shea's, the Irish pub that folks have spoken highly of before (that also includes the City Paper). I frittered back and forth and finally decided to save Lumbini for a buffet some other time. I'm a-goin' Irish tonight!

The walls at O'Shea's are plastered in Irish memorabilia - county flags, road signs, Gaelic football jerseys, photographs, and the requisite "No Irish Need Apply" sign (yes, I have one hanging in my own flat, er, apartment). Unlike most Irish pubs I've entered, soccer was not playing on every television. One guy, however, was very loudly enjoying the hockey game he was watching on the TV by the front window.*

I think racing might've been on, too, but I wasn't paying attention. I was trying to figure out where to sit. Even though it wasn't empty, it wasn't wanting for free tables either. I guess it's a seat yourself situation because nobody said anything to me when I did look for a table. There are two rooms for eating, one with the bar up front (much brighter I might add), and a larger one in the back (with a stage and easier access to the loo, um, bathroom). Someone was readying for a performance that probably started after I left, and one large family in the center of the room was showing off their young daughter's Spanish skills (Hey, I could count to ten in Spanish at her age, too! Sesame Street, folks!).

The wait I had in getting seated evaporated once I had a table. Almost the second after I sat down a waitress came by with a menu (Damn!). I quickly ordered a Guinness (Hmmm, I wonder if they serve that here?) and perused the menu. My original plan at Lumbini was to forgo the entrée and just buy appetizers, but since all the appetizers at O'Shea's were relatively pricey (around $6 to $10 each), just buying more than one would cost more than half of the sandwiches or "Celtic entrées", I just got a cheap entrée instead. Not that there aren't expensive ones on the menu. Believe me - there are! Their New York strip steak and St. Louis ribs are the priciest items on the menu, in the $20 range. A typical entrée will set you back maybe $12 to $15. Sandwiches are in the $7 to $10 range, and soups about $5 to $8. And I just found out on the internet (while writing this post) that O'Shea's is "famous" for its Monday $6 burger night, which includes fries and Guinness (that that, City Café half-price burger Mondays. Which is still good but their lamb burger is, alas, not part of that deal).

I finally settled on the convenient half portion of fish and chips ($9). It came out relatively quickly, too. I think I even remarked on that to the waitress that "That was fast!"

Okay, you try taking a picture with a camera phone in a dimly-lit dining room and see how it turns out!

The fish - and I admit I don't know what type of fish it was, maybe cod? - looked like a big crispy ball of fried batter (it's a Guinness-based beer batter). The batter was very good, crispy and delicious and surprisingly not all that greasy. The fish inside took me by surprise. I bit into it and my very first reaction was "Is it cooked all the way through?" Yes it was - I certainly didn't get sick. But I thought that because, even though the pieces flaked off just fine, it was still very soft, not like any fried fish I have seen before, in Maryland, in any place up or down the Eastern seaboard, even in the British Isles. Maybe it was undercooked, I don't know. But not enough to be a bad thing. It was very moist fish.

At first glance, the sides on the plate look pretty standard, but after trying them you realize they're not. I'd be surprised if the cole slaw had not been made there because it did taste like it, crunchy and fresh. Even the tartar sauce, with a nice sprinkle of... paprika, maybe? ...on top, was nice and creamy. As usual the fries were the most forgettable part of the meal, but even they were good enough to finish almost all of them. And I never finish my fries. They were so hot that I had to blow on several of them before I ate them. The waitress brought out a bottle of malt vinegar before my food came. I know, I know, people love putting this stuff on their fries before eating them. I am not a vinegar fries kind of guy. But for the sake of the experience I tried it here, and it wasn't bad. I probably won't do it very often but it did work here. Same too with sprinkling it on the fish.

The grand total for the fish and chips ($9 for half-portion) and one Guinness (about $4) was around $14.50. Including a 20% tip (again, good service in my book) that came to $17.50. I left, heading for the Hippo, who also have Guinness on tap, just for, y'know, comparison's sake. (For the record, the best poured glass of Guinness I've had in Baltimore is at Little Havana's, followed by Mick O'Shea's. But the folks at the Hippo usually do a pretty decent pour, and they carve a little shamrock into the foam.)

* Soccer, hockey - it's a sport with a goal, that's the important thing. And they rhyme if you say them fast enough (and, well, drunk enough). Thank God I didn't get that far!

Mick O'Shea's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon


Kathy aka the Minx said...

If you want to eat at Lumbini, you should probably go fairly soon - that seems to be a jinxed location for restaurants. The lunch buffet got a rave on Chowhound recently, so hopefully Lumbini will stick around for a while.

Not that we need yet another Indian restaurant on Charles Street....

Alex said...

I debated a Guinness at Little Havana this past Saturday but resigned to "how good could it be here" after seeing the rapid-fire mojito preparation. Bummer, now I know.

John said...

Minx: Maybe I'll stop by Lumbini this week or next...

Alex: Shame you didn't know about the Guinness but don't pass on the mojitos, bro. No I haven't had them at Little Havana but hell - it's a mojito! It'll probably be good.

The Baltimore Babe said...

I love Mick O'Sheas! I like their wings which have a peppery kick. It wouldn't be my first choice for food. Back in the day I used to go up there with friend to watch some traditional Irish music on the weekends. Nowadays I think its more rock-y. If you find otherwise, let me know! Sean Bolan's has great food. (Bel Air)

John said...

I've also heard lots of great stuff about Patrick's of Locust Point. I'll look for Bolan's.

Pigtown-Design said...

J. Patricks. Home of the small boneless chicken.

John said...

Meg: That was so weird. I published one comment and yours immediately popped up. Talk about fast turn around!

I just saw your America to Wales and Back blog. How nice! Of course, now they can see the baseball stadium where dem O's, as I predicted, officially started sucking as of May. >>SIGH<< How do you say "My baseball team sucks" in Welsh?