When I think of Irish pubs, I think of good beer, good whiskeys (some without the “e”), fried pub food and fistfights following a football argument. The Irish Rover nails the first two but also offers veggies and gluten intolerants that much more.
The IR has catered to veggies since it opened 26 years ago (coincidentally, the same number of years since I stopped eating things with a face). It started by serving grilled vegetables, cheese plate entrées and veggie sides… and has added to its veggie fare since then.
The IR decor has not changed over the years, though. The walls are filled with Irish art, signed jerseys and folk sayings (my favorite: “If you are drinking to forget, pay in advance”). The value of the food and price of the drinks also moves The IR to the head of our restaurant list. It offers some of the lowest wine prices in town, most entrées are between $9 and $13, the portions are large, and shots of whisky/ey above $11 can be ordered by the half shot if one favors an imbibing exploration.
The alcohol: Though my wife and I decided to explore the aforementioned inexpensive wine list, The IR has a proper spirits list that leans heavily on the Irish but with a solid bourbon and Scotch selection to make sure no liver goes unpunished. Our wine for the night was Chateau St Michelle Suav Blanc (reasonably priced at $21), a light crisp wine that offset my sweat stemming from the 100-plus heat index day.
For people eating gluten-free, I recommend looking at the website ahead of time. Our research gave us great ideas for both starters and meals. Note: Please do not order everything in a faux Irish accent. . . apparently, it doesn’t show one’s affinity for the Irish culture. . . like I thought it did.
To start our Irish odyssey, we began with the garlic mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic ($6) — the generous portion of mushrooms came out with full caps and stems and a wonderful fresh Marie Rose dipping sauce (a condiment often made from a blend of tomatoes, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and black pepper). The garlic is subtle, and the cream sauce lets the mushrooms do the heavy lifting on the flavor profile.
For a second starter, we chose the Farmers Plate which is actually an entrée ($9) — seasonal vegetables grilled and sauced with a tangy vinaigrette. The plate is visually dazzling with the color medley of the green zucchini, mustard-colored squash, the mocha-hued eggplant (skinned) and bright ruby red peppers on a giant portobello mushroom cap with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette buried below. The vegetables all had symmetrical grill marks adding to the presentation. We mixed bites of the garlic mushrooms and sauce to build unique forkfuls of flavor profiles: the winner was the zucchini and garlic mushroom with just a dab of the Marie Rose sauce.
Entrées: The Vegan Vindaloo ($9) can be made gluten free by asking to leave off the bread. For the 90% of readers who are not hardcore vindaloo fans, the chefs have removed some of the spicy heat. For those who are not familiar with the term (like potentially, the writer), it features seasonal vegetables, potatoes, chickpeas in a mild, yellow curry. Think Irish stew with subtle overtones of Indian spices.
Though Hope was tempted by the fresh salmon cake burger served with Irish chips ($9), she selected the summer menu’s Prawn and Cashew Salad ($13), a mix of tender baby lettuces and greens, topped with tomatoes, shrimp and cashews in a warm lemon vinaigrette. Hope used the remaining garlic mushrooms and the entirety of the Marie Rose sauce from the appetizer. Her look of “why are you talking to me while I am eating this tasty feast” answered my inquiry about whether she enjoyed her food.
Pub purists will enjoy the classic fish and chips with the malt vinegar waiting for you on the table, and for the carnivore preferring redder sustenance, our server recommended the lamb stuffed cabbage (an Irish delicacy), the cottage pie and the BBQ pork loin (cooked in a homemade BBQ sauce). •