Food Feature: Irish eyes?
Flanigan's pub boasts the usual bar food, with a few surprises thrown in
There is something about the term "Irish pub" that captivates the imagination. Peat bogs, fishermen's sweaters, massive oak beams, Guinness beer and all that.
I have a friend who travels the world for the sole purpose of discovering Irish pubs in odd places. But I don't believe even he thought to look for such an establishment on Lawrenceville Highway in the vicinity of beautiful downtown Tucker. And in fact, I did not encounter an Irish pub on a recent visit to Flanigan's Irish Pub & Grill, despite the perky name and shamrock on the sign. (The sign is above the slogan, "There Goes the Neighborhood.")
Flanigan's bears no resemblance to anything its name might inspire you to imagine, no matter what you might be imagining. The initial impression starts out well enough, with the spacious paved parking lot and the jaunty kelly green awning over the entry foyer. Inside that foyer, however, Flanigan's is just another bar. And not a terribly tidy bar at that.
But don't let that put you off. Not too much, anyway. After all, how many places have Guinness, Harp and Bass on tap?
Even so, it is not easy to see why Flanigan's bills itself as an Irish pub. As for the grill part of the name, well, there are plenty of steaks on the menu, from the unce filet priced at $15.95 to the 16-ounce porterhouse at $16.95. You might think those prices are low enough but no, Tuesdays are half-price-steak days. (If you are truly craving a good steak, however, you know the drill: Go to a bona fide steak house, not a bar. Use your head.)
The remainder of the large menu rounds up the usual suspects. All of them. There are a couple of fajitas, the BLT is a sub, there are pastas, a fried oyster po' boy, and shrimp all over. And wings, of course. (What did everyone nosh on at bars before chickens had wings?)
At lunch, service at Flanigan's is exceedingly slow, apparently because the skeleton daylight staff doesn't actually expect patrons until later in the day.
Flanigan's opens at noon every day, which means it is scarcely ever closed. Every night except Sunday (which is really Monday, when you think about it), the bar shutters itself at 4 a.m. — 3 a.m. on the aforementioned Sunday-Monday. That doesn't leave much time for vacuuming the carpet or burgundy fabric booth seating, or polishing the weathered, deep brown wood-paneled walls, or dusting off the dark but cozy green plaid wallpaper, or repairing the wooden ice cream-parlor style chairs. And either there also isn't time to turn on all of the television sets, or no one ever sits in the no-smoking section.
The TV matters only because it might be nice to have something to look at while waiting — and waiting — for your food.
Despite the dearth of Irishness at Flanigan's, there are two dishes that are not only not run-of-the-mill fare, but that also are worth your while. I speak of the Flanigan's famous fish & chips and the Irish corned beef over white rice.
Please note that in spite of the fact that the dish is fish & chips, the chips — French fries, that is — do not auto- matically come with the fish. It comes with a side, so order fries if you want the benefit of the traditional fried duo. And I suggest that you do because the firm, creamy white North Atlantic cod is spectacularly fried in Guinness batter. (Although what would the Irish say about using cod?) Crunchy and sweet, that fish really hits the spot.
Another indulgence is that corned beef, sautéed in slices so that it resembles country bacon. Only the translucent fat barely seems to be fat at all. And then, it is such a tasty counterpoint to the rice, which has been cooked exactly right — so that each kernel is separate, not all gummed up together.
I note with appreciation the care of someone somewhere in the kitchen. That would be the person who thoughtfully sends the salad dressing out in a white stoneware ramekin and the person who prepares the vegetables. Who would think that a bar kitchen would steam broccoli so beautifully crisp-tender? And who would think to grill those uniformly sized mixed vegetables — the standard canned or frozen variety — so that they taste fresh and new?
That's an amazing accomplishment for any bar, Irish or not.
__Flanigan's Irish Pub & Grill, 4092 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker, 770-270-0001. Opens at noon every day. Closes at 4 a.m. except for Sundays (really, Monday, when you think about it), when it closes at 3 a.m. Inexpensive. Credit cards. Dress: casual. Ambiance: not Irish, that's for sure. No-smoking section. Wheelchair accessible (but not the no-smoking section).