When Sean and I had a night out recently with friends Becca and “Ryan Gosling,” Irish was not at the top of my list.
But it was a Friday night in downtown Augusta, and it seemed every restaurant we wanted to try was slammed. Before I could pout too much, O’Donovan’s Irish Pub, in the former Eros Bistro location at the corner of 10th and Broad, beckoned us in. And for four hungry folks, the best thing about the new restaurant – there was no wait!
From the white lace curtains in its front windows to a long and shining wood bar, the restaurant looks very different from its Eros days – although it still has that great exposed brick wall. It’s darker and more intimate, with charming groupings of mismatched but comfortable seating. But forget about the interior design: As soon as we sat at our high-top table, the boys were happy once they could order their tall glasses of Guinness and Terrapin – while Becca and I went with lighter Blue Moons. Along with a good beer selection, the pub also offers ongoing drink specials – check its Facebook page.
Irish food typically combines two of my favorite things, meat and starch, and this menu didn’t disappoint. Although the menu isn’t long, a good variety of food is offered: appetizers such as wings and curry fries; a potato leek soup and a couple of meaty salads; four sandwiches, an Angus beef burger, reuben, chicken sandwich and cod sandwich; and several entrees, including Irish lamb stew, a pork chop, and bangers and mash. A variety of sides are available, along with an apple blackberry crumble for dessert, and all the typical beverages, plus Irish tea.
We wanted to try it all, so our order started with the Scotch egg and Donegal boxty appetizers. Scotch eggs just make me smile – who would have ever though to wrap a hard-boiled egg in sausage? When done well, they’re great, and this one was great. The firm egg and the crusty, spicy sausage were perfect together and went well with both the sauces served with it: A tart and fruity lingonberry sauce and a sweet and savory mustard mayo (reminiscent of honey mustard).
I also just like saying Donegal boxty, and I discovered I also really like eating it. The potato pancakes were nice and crisp on the outside, but soft and tender on the inside, with lots of oniony flavor and a hint of cheddar cheese.
This was a pretty awesome start to our meal, and we followed it up with four different entrees so we could all taste and sample. They were out of lamb stew that night, so Sean went with the ribeye steak; Becca ordered the corned beef and cabbage; “Ryan” chose the cottage pie; and I got the fish and chips.
I’ve never been to Ireland and my only exposure to Irish food has been here in the South, so I can’t attest to how authentic the food was. But the servings were hearty and, I thought, pretty decent renditions of Irish fare.
Sean’s steak was a bit chewy but loaded with delicious savory mushrooms and brown gravy, which went well with the roasted and slightly oily fingerling potatoes.
My white cod was firm and moist with a thick coating of batter and dark fries (a little too dark) – a very heavy meal that was lightened just a little by the cup of mushy peas, which was my favorite part of the dish. They were warm, creamy and tasted like spring.
I’m always really hard on cottage pie (which I was pleased to see used the correct nomenclature; shepherd’s pie uses lamb, while cottage pie is beef) because I make it at home. I thought that this one was a little flat, just plain ground beef with peas and carrots topped with a pretty swirl of mashed potatoes (or champ, as the Irish call their version of potatoes mashed with butter and onion).
Becca’s corned beef and cabbage was probably the lightest dish of all; like my peas, her meal had a fresh, spring taste, but still the vegetables and meat were assertively buttery.
Overall, the entrees didn’t quite live up to the complex flavors of the appetizers, but it was still a great evening. As the night progressed, the restaurant became louder and livelier – just a fun casual place to visit with friends.
After a couple of hours, we rolled out of there, but even with the heavy meal, found room to head over to Boll Weevil for a few slices of their tall cakes to end the evening.
Although our trip to Ireland at the corner of 10th and Broad was unexpected, it ended up being a pleasant surprise.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: O’Donovan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 1002 Broad St.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday
ENTREE COST: $10 to $19
SECOND HELPING: (706) 524-7321 or find them on Facebook