Second Supper -
Dublin Square Review
Irish culture runs deep in many of America’s cities. After the beginning of the Great (Potato) Famine in 1845, over 20 percent of the Emerald Isle’s population began a mass exodus, many of whom passed through the inspection lines at Ellis Island. Because work outside of the cities was scarce, most of the Irish immigrants settled in the major urban areas of the East Coast and in the heartland. It was in these cities that many established Irish restaurants and pubs, La Crosse being among them. Yet, for the most part, the Coulee Region is of a predominantly Scandinavian and Germanic heritage. Thus, for as long as I have lived in the area (on and off for 13 years), I cannot recall a true Irish restaurant or even a quality Irish-themed bar (no, I don’t count Bennett’s). Lucky for us, those days are numbered.
Located in the heart of the historic business district, on the corner of Third and Main streets, the brand new Dublin Square Pub has brought some much needed Celtic pride and cuisine to our city by the river. The first thing I noticed about Dublin Square, after the pleasant surprise of outdoor seating, was the design. Tables and chairs encircle the long bar of polished oak that looks out onto the street corner in a kind of squarish circle around the pub. There are enough bar stools at the taps for 10 or so people. Those amusing Guinness posters with the toucans and 1950s art design adorn the walls along with other Irish memorabilia including a rather large Harp Lager mirror that I kind of wanted to walk out with. There are also several high definition televisions tacked up around the pub for the ubiquitous sports bar experience. Though I went during the rush hour of lunch on a Tuesday, I really enjoyed the atmosphere created by the combination of heavy starches and heavy Guinness. Patrons were talking animatedly with one another and across the way to other tables. It was a great hybrid of mid-afternoon lazing and late night bar atmosphere.
Atmosphere and Irish flags does not a good pub make, however. At an establishment like Dublin Square, the Guinness and whiskey only go so far. It’s ultimately the food that makes or breaks a pub-style restaurant and based on what I tried, I think they will do very well. The menu had a large number of options to choose from, including American fare like burgers, wraps and sandwiches, but I couldn’t say no to some more traditional Irish cuisine. So between myself and my ever-present silent partner, I decided on the fish and chips and a bowl of the Irish beef stew. We also threw in an order of onion rings, which were quite good, but at the end of the day good onion rings are just, well, good onion rings.
Now, a lot of American restaurants have tried their hand at fish and chips and from my experience, most have failed. It seems like an easy dish to make, what with the key ingredients being battered cod and French fries, but I honestly haven’t found a great place for fish and chips in my travels. And at the risk of sounding like a douche, I don’t think anyone can say they’ve really had authentic fish and chips unless you’ve gotten the take-out variety in England or Ireland, wrapped in all its oil-soaked, newspaper glory with potato wedges. I have had that pleasure, but I also don’t think it’s fair to compare that with Dublin Square’s dish, which I genuinely enjoyed. What you’ll get there are three small pieces of cod in a lighter batter than what you might find overseas, with shoestring French fries. The batter wasn’t quite as crispy as I would have liked, but it was certainly better than what you might find at your local tavern’s Friday night fish fry where the PBR costs a dollar and the women let the muffin-tops fly. I enjoyed the “chips” as well, which were crispy and not too salty. As for the beef stew, I found it a bit underwhelming if only because the egg noodle to beef ratio was totally in favor of the noodle, and that just isn’t fair to the beef. It was definitely tasty and like the fish and chips, I would absolutely recommend it, but it was basically an unbalanced beef stroganoff. It did come with a delicious soda bread bun though.
As I’ve tried to mention in all of my past reviews, the dishes I’ve sampled for the articles are just a small portion of the entire menu and so any negatives I have to say about stews and fried fish shouldn’t reflect on the restaurant as a whole. Both dishes were tasty and worth a try and I’m personally excited to get back to the Dublin Square for some of the other Irish dishes and maybe a burger. Wanting to go back to a restaurant is honestly a bit rare in this city and I think the folks over at Dublin Square are onto something. Cheers!
Source: Second Supper.