5601 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: The Irishman Pub & Eatery
Rating: [learn more]
Interesting Irish bar and restaurant with nice appetizers, sandwiches, and soups, certain good entrees, and plenty of alcohol choices. Good service.
Some menu items inspired mixed feelings for their relatively high prices; limited menu by contrast with other Irish restaurants.
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Drinks Irish Williamsville
"We've preferred the appetizers and sandwiches to the full entrees both on flavor and on pricing, but those with larger budgets will find plenty to like on any part of the menu."
Last month, we came very close to trying Williamsville's Irish restaurant The Irishman; the Taste of Williamsville gave us an opportunity to try its Irish Apple Tart, which didn't blow us away. But something about the place stuck in our heads, and after two recent, mixed verdict visits from family and friends, we dropped by to formulate our own opinion. What did we think? This is a genuinely good restaurant, and though the prices are a little high, it's worth visiting if you think you might like Irish food.
The Story: Once operating as the Bia Irish Deli, a sandwich shop, The Irishman now offers a brief but interesting two-page menu of appetizers and entrees that range from traditional Irish cuisine to locally inspired bar fare. "Uh, seriously?" dishes such as Irish Nachos ($7.45) and Guinness beer-flavored barbecue chicken wings are offset by lamb, steak, and sausage items that could easily be found in Ireland. Dark woods, a prominent bar, and charming servers were all noteworthy elements during our visits; live music is offered on certain nights, and daily specials add a few extra culinary choices.
Highs: We ordered a number of items in order to get a good sense of the menu, and frankly enjoyed virtually all of them. Our first item of the evening, the Irish Onion Soup, was a unique take on the classic French Onion Soup ($6), using the same crock pot, broiled white cheese topping, sizable crusty bread croutons and onions, yet possessing a sweeter beef broth that only betrayed its difference to the tongue, not the eye. As much as we like the salty, strong flavor of the original, the softer, sugary Irish version was a nice change.
So too were the Guinness Wings ($9), a plate of ten large chicken wings that were grilled in a Guinness beer-flavored barbecue sauce, then served alongside some rough cut, slightly seasoned french fries, plus fresh carrots and celery. We weren't expecting much from these wings, which we ordered mostly out of curiosity, but found them to be surprisingly very good - actually, some of the best barbecue chicken wings we've had locally, with a grilled flavor that benefitted from the beer and wasn't overpoweringly smoky. The sauce was so good that we wound up enjoying every drop of it, including what had rubbed off on the included fries.
Lobster Cakes ($12), served as an appetizer-sized portion, paired two modestly-sized lobster meat patties with a drizzle of brown chili remoulade sauce and a field green salad. As much as we enjoyed the lobster cakes, which offered a sweeter, softer alternative to both traditional crab cakes and the hybrid crab and lobster ones we've previously enjoyed, we found ourselves really liking the salad, which was lightly accented by a mild champagne vinaigrette that made the whole plate come together very nicely.
On a previous visit, we also enjoyed a Corned Beef Reuben sandwich ($8.45), a Spinach and Apple Salad ($9), and a Pub Steak Sandwich, the latter served with onions, peppers, and spinach. While none of these items were remarkable, they were all good. We found the service to be very good on each of our visits, and the restaurant's ambience both pleasant and interesting - not overwhelmingly loud during normal dining hours, and yet distinctively Irish pub-like.
Lows: The only lows on our visits were the Lamb Lolly Chops (aka Lamb Lollipops), an $11.45 appetizer plate of three lamb chops arched atop a pile of mashed potatoes and a potato boxty - a fried cake made from potatoes, sour cream, onions, and egg. We found the boxty to be interesting but not delicious, and the lamb to be utterly plain and nearly soggy in texture; the menu had described it as marinated, but it seemed substantially lacking in flavor to our palate. Lollipop lamb we've ordered elsewhere has been stronger and more memorable.
Mixed feelings also accompanied the Bangers and Mac ($16), an entree-sized combination of sausages, macaroni and cheese, and a cole slaw. While the sausages were tasty, sliced in halves and apparently pan-fried, they seemed less like the chewy Irish sausages we've enjoyed in past Bangers and Mash dishes than like cut Italian sausages. The macaroni and cole slaw were okay, but not great; there was a strong Guinness beer flavor in the macaroni, and though the slaw was unusually edible, it's not one of our favorites. On the flip side, there was a lot of food on the plate - actually too much for us to finish.
The only other low, of sorts, was the pricing. Standard entrees started at $19 and went up to $26, while a list of "traditional Irish favorites" ran from $14 to $20; a 10-ounce sirloin goes here for $22, with a couple of cider-coated sausages and mashed potatoes selling for $15. Appetizers start with the $6 cheese-covered "Loaded Fries," and work upwards in price to the $12 Pan-Seared Scallops and Lobster Cakes. Our only consolation is that the dishes are generally very good, and that you can make a meal out of appetizers or sandwiches and $3 simple potato side items, such as fries, boxty, au gratin or mashed potatoes.
The Verdict: While it's not for everyone - one group of family and friends liked it, another strongly didn't - our feelings about The Irishman are generally positive. During our visits, we've preferred the appetizers and sandwiches to the full entrees both on flavor and on pricing, but those with larger budgets will find plenty to like on any part of the menu, as there are enough Irish and non-Irish options to satisfy virtually any type of patron. That said, by contrast with Brennan's Bowery Bar, which has a comparatively huge menu and typically very good food but mixed service, The Irishman's more limited menu, smaller venue, and stronger service will likely appeal to a different sort of patron - one who wants more authentic Irish fare and more personal attention. If you're looking for a real Irish meal, start here first, but if Irish Pub is slang in your book for beer and bar fare, we'd recommend Brennan's as a better choice.