This month, we thought we’d go green – no, not organic; green for St. Patrick’s Day! In the spirit of shamrocks, we picked pub dining and chose a classic, The Dublin House in Red Bank. This place is over 175 years old. It has survived several moves, and despite rumors of it being haunted, The Dublin House draws a steady stream of customers year-round.
Now, let’s start off by saying that if you’re looking for fine dining, this is not the place for you. But if you want a warm, filling meal and a real pub experience, The Dublin delivers. When you open the door, you are greeted by the hostess and an impressive set of stairs (reminding you that this was a home). They lead to the second floor dining room. To your right is a busy bar that runs the entire length of the building; to your left is the small, cozy CJ McMahon dining room, with a fireplace, wooden tables and booths, and TVs to watch soccer and rugby matches on Dub TV.
The appetizers are standard fare, although all are crowd favorites like chili and chicken fingers. We started off the meal with French onion soup that came with a thick layer of provolone, Swiss, and mozzarella cheeses. It was well done and a great start on a cold night. Since we were there early in the week, we took advantage of the Taste of Ireland Menu. We really hope this winter special continues all year. All day every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, The Dublin House offers a select menu with plenty of entrees for just $15, and each meal includes a complimentary 20-ounce Imperial pint of Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp, house red or white wine, or soda. We chose four entrees from the list. The first: classic Dublin fish and chips. It’s straightforward – four nice sized, beer-battered flaky cod fillets on a big bed of fries. The fish was fried perfectly and quite hot. The treat was the tartar sauce that had a real zing. We used every bit.
Our second entrée was the traditional Shepard’s Pie and this was nicely done and very traditional. The ground beef base did not drift too far to the sweet, as it sometimes does in this dish. It had a very homey quality; a good try for sure.
Our third choice was the Gaelic Chicken, which was a big, juicy boneless chicken breast simmered in a tasty Irish whiskey cream sauce, topped with mushrooms and diced fresh tomatoes. It was served with French green beans, asparagus spears, and small whole carrots. It’s a pretty mix of vegetables that are well cooked…not too al dente, but tender enough to release their sweetness. It was flavorful, satisfying, and a good choice for those who like a mild but tasty meal.
Our fourth choice was the 14-ounce NY Shell Steak. It was a nice surprise, both on the special menu and on the plate. The steak was well cooked and remarkably tender. It really cut easily and it comes smothered with Irish whiskey mushroom sauce and served with a twice baked potato topped with Irish cheddar, and the same green beans, asparagus spears, carrots as in the other dish.
Skip the desserts and have an Irish coffee instead.
All the choices, served with an ice cold stout or ale, filled the bill for the pub experience. The conversation in the room was lively, and the service was very fast but not hurried.
While there may not be Irish haute cuisine magic coming out of the kitchen, what does come out is all nicely done. The chef seems very familiar with the menu and everything was juicy, hot, and fresh.
One criticism was the take-out. We asked for doggie bags and food was packed in the cheapest food truck Styrofoam containers and convenience store plastic bags. The gravy leaked out of the barely closed boxes that could not sit flat in the plastic bags. It’s a shame, because the food would be good for lunch the next day, but it was such a mess, it never made it. Get some better containers and there may be lots more take-out orders.
Now for the ghost hunters who are wondering if we met a spirit: no ghosts, though there were plenty of ghost stories. We did meet the spirit of Irish warmth, however, and that was just what we were looking for.
The cost: Low to moderate
What we liked: The authentic atmosphere, the fast service, big beer menu, and friendly feeling
What could be better: Those take-out containers, c’mon. And we would like to have seen a ghost, too.
We give it 4 J’s.
The Dublin House is located 30 Monmouth Street in Red Bank. Call (732) 747- 6699.