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Dining Out wth Dublin Square Irish Pub

Dining Out -
a taste of the green isle

My foodie senses perk up to talk of a new restaurant. They really get going when said restaurant will feature fare not typically found on local menus. So when word hit the street that Dublin Square Irish Pub & Eatery was opening, my excitement was a bit (and yes, I'm so tempted to write "wee" bit) over the top.

Although the culture of the Emerald Isle is represented annually through Irishfest LaCrosse, the cuisine itself has been somewhat foreign to the Coulee Region dining landscape. Owners Matt Birnbaum, Tim Larsen and Matt Boshcka, who are all from La Crosse and collectively have 15 years of restaurant industry experience, felt an absence of an authentic Irish pub in the community. "We found a niche and decided to capitalize on it," says Boshcka. Through extensive research of "upscale entities like those you see in bigger cities like Chicago and Minneapolis," he explains, they created a business plan and put it into action. "When we fi nally opened our doors in April of 2011 it was an emotional experience because we all put in so much hard work." Their efforts, he feels, paid off: "I wouldn't change a thing."

With its grand store front and al fresco accommodations, the downtown venue makes an instant impression. Inside you'll find the eatery with tables for dining and relaxing and the pub with an ample bar for imbibing and socializing. "During the day we are a familyfriendly pub and eatery and at night we are a pub and tavern," says Boshcka. From open to close, patrons are no doubt taken with the menu. It incorporates concepts from "even Dublin itself," the culinary style is "hearty, home-cooked comfort food," the dishes "are 90 percent crafted from scratch," and the ingredients "are all fresh," Boshcka says. The back of the house puts out 30 different dishes that include customary Irish fare like Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage plus burgers, sandwiches, salads and desserts, too.

Our server drew my eye to the Black and Tan Onion Rings appetizer, thick with crisp onion slices and beer-batter fried to an eye- and palate-pleasing black and tan crust. (Please note that Dublin Square was packed when I was there yet she was knowledgeable and as attentive as possible—characteristics that often take time to develop in new-restaurant wait staffers.) I loved that the rings didn't fall apart with the fi rst bite. The same adoration applied to the fi sh side of the fi sh and chips. Again, the crust was well- seasoned with a subtle kick, the ample white fi sh inside was tender and together the components held up to a crunch. Sometimes when I come down from a fried food high I feel terrible, but not this time. It was worth every bite.

As everyone knows, pub food goes down well with the proper drink. Dublin Square boasts the largest selection of Irish whisky in the area, and its beer menu is substantial as well. "We currently have 14 beers on tap, six varieties of which are traditional Irish beers, and we have an entire cooler dedicated to bottled Irish beer," says Boshcka. All told, Dublin Square stocks 60 different brands. My home-brewer husband makes ale that I'm dedicated to and has me hesitant to order from the usual assortment. When I asked our server to recommend a middle-of-the-road import she suggested Smithwick's Irish Ale. It was smooth and not too hoppy. I was quite happy with my choice.

Whether you visit Dublin Square to experience the eatery or pub (or both), Boshcka hopes you thoroughly enjoy the entire trip. "Plain and simple: We want you to have fun."

Source: July - August: Dining Out.