I f you're looking for authentic fare in honor of St. Patrick's Day, Sheehan's Irish Pub doesn't have it. But what it does have is lots of character -- from the impressive menu selections to the atmosphere -- and plenty of features to celebrate.
Sheehan's is tucked away in the Summerville area near Augusta State University. Surrounded by a few businesses but mostly residential areas, the pub is a friendly neighborhood spot where it seems lots of folks gather to eat, drink and be merry.
The centerpiece in this establishment is the bar. The rich blond and honeyed wooden expanse shines in the dimmer light of the main dining room. The enclosed patio dining space is just as alluring. Built around an enormous tree adorned with twinkling lights, the space is romantic, and on a warmer night, exudes an almost tropical feel.
But the roots of this place aren't lost; Irish flags drape the walls and each table's sweet peach roses with sprigs of greenery echo the colors of its namesake country. The golden glows both inside and out beckon patrons inside to sit down and spend a while.
On most nights, you can have your evening meal here, too. I feel a bit embarrassed, but I didn't know until recently that Sheehan's was also a restaurant. I had been there once before when I briefly lived in that area, but it must have been after the kitchen had closed.
On my first trip for dinner, it was clear that I'd been missing out. Clusters of people were gathered at the bar and at the tables inside and out just having a good time on a Thursday night. It also seemed like a lot of the folks were seasoned Sheehan's patrons, which is a sure sign that any place is special.
The type of food here is not your average pub fare, which is what I expected until I looked up the menu online. This is the knife-and-fork, cloth-napkin class of food. Elegant dining.
Honey-lacquered duck, shrimp creole, shrimp and grits and pork tenderloin are a handful of the entrees on the menu, which incorporates mainly Southern dishes. Collard greens and Stilton cheese grits are the more unique sides that are available to round out the main courses.
I tried the fried green tomato salad and the seafood pasta dish. The salad had all my favorite flavor and texture opposites -- warm fried green tomatoes with cold and sweet cherry tomatoes and crunchy onion with creamy blue cheese dressing served on a bed of mixed greens.
The seafood pasta was filled with crawfish, scallops, mussels and shrimp tossed with fresh parsley, ribboned basil and a warm, tomato and cream sauce over penne. The dish overall was exquisite -- hearty, rich, smooth and comforting. The seafood was plentiful, succulent and sweet for the most part.
However, there was a sour note. I came upon a bite of scallop that had an acrid and pungent taste. I pushed the remaining scallops to the side, not wanting to take any more chances, but I did finish the rest of the dish.
I mentioned this rogue scallop to my server, explaining that it didn't taste quite right to make sure the chefs were aware. But as she could see from my otherwise empty pasta bowl, I found the meal overall to be fantastic.
When she returned with the check, she told me she talked to the owner about this scallop, and he graciously waived the charge for the dish. I protested, but she said the boss insisted.
That gesture wasn't necessary, considering I ate the whole thing save for a few scallops, but it was a testament to the high standards at which they hold their food and customer satisfaction. I really appreciated that. Judging by how many patrons were there that night, it's easy to see others appreciate that kind of hospitality, too.
Sheehan's food might not be particularly Irish, but the hearty meals, flowing Guinness and friendly staff will make you feel like you've found that pot of gold in the heart of Summerville.