I wasn’t thrilled to be assigned pub food this month. First of all, I’m trying to get back to “first date weight” for my upcoming nuptials and I knew that a night of beer, nachos, wings, burgers and fries was the last thing I needed. Secondly, pub menus can be predictable. Shepherd’s Pie? Check. Guinness Stew? Check. Fish and Chips? Check. Finally, as I’ve found from previous experiences, let’s just say it’s usually better to drink at an eating establishment then eat at a drinking establishment.
McBlarney’s County Tap, though, is a refreshing take on a pub. Located on Metacom Avenue in Warren, you may remember the place as Fat Belly’s, Tuscan Tavern or Pub Dennis. The first thing you’ll notice is that the space is big. A large, round bar greets your arrival and various pockets of seating fill the periphery – high tops in the main room, tables and lounge-y areas in adjacent rooms. The second thing you might notice is that the place oozes fun. There are big-screen TVs at every turn, leather club chairs at the fireplace and pool tables and video games in the cavernous game room. During NFL season, it’s the kind of place in which you might lose a whole Sunday.
As you’d expect, the beer list is extensive. There are almost three dozen selections in bottles and cans, with another two dozen-plus on tap. It’s a great mix of the “familiar,” the “hard to find” and the “never heard of.” If beer’s not your thing, there’s an ample variety of dessert-like martinis (Cherry Cheese Cake, anyone?), crazy cocktails (Mexican Car Crash or Angry Balls will grab
your attention) and sangrias.
Our group of five surveyed the menu and figured the optimal appetizer-to-entrée calculations that would prevent wasted food and bursting waistlines. We settled on three appetizers. The favorite was easily the Providence Style Calamari ($9.99) – tender calamari lightly fried with pepper and lime pepper aioli. While the aioli and pepper combo was a bit spicy for some, all agreed the calamari was crisp and nicely done. This was followed by Garlic Gooey Cheesy Sticks ($5.99), served with homemade marinara sauce. Essentially a big, cheesy loaf of garlic bread, it was simple yet hearty. Finally, we tried Tater Tots off the specials menu ($7.99). Important note – the regular menu has Irish Tater Tots, but they are not tater tots as you know them. The Irish Tater Tots are fried mashed potato balls with cheese, bacon, scallions and a dipping sauce. The Tater Tots from the specials menu were the more common version of tater tots, also accompanied by cheese, bacon and scallions. Again, a relatively simple dish, but a fun, serendipitous find on a pub food appetizer menu.
Our entrée orders were unintentionally diverse, which speaks to the menu’s good variety. After much internal debate and our waitress’s unequivocal recommendation, I went with the Tuscan Sandwich ($12.99) – a grilled sirloin topped with provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, roasted red pepper and pesto mayo served on toasted garlic ciabatta bread. Flavor-wise, the sandwich was a home run, with the pesto mayo packing a delicious punch. With the steak a tad tough and the bread packed to the gills, the sandwich quickly devolved to a knife-and-fork situation. Similar comments followed the Fish Tacos ($11.99), another item from that night’s specials menu. Chunks of moist fish topped with fresh, tangy mango salsa made for a tasty dish, but the over-filled taco shells made eating with your hands impossible. Obviously, portion sizes are not a problem.
The Pirates Clam Fry ($15.99) was also a hit – a heaping plate of fried clams served with fries, cole slaw and tartar sauce. There was a good, quality mix of bellies and necks that was cooked nicely – not too greasy and with a batter that wasn’t too thick. A Buffalo Chicken Wrap ($10.99) with lettuce, tomato, red onion and creamy blue cheese got a thumbs up, and the side serving of Lobster Bisque was tasty and spiced just right. Last but not least, a Classic Cheese Pizza ($9.99) for the vegetarian of the group. Overall, we were pleased with the atmosphere and menu variety. McBlarney’s is a great place for groups, and although we left as that night’s band was entering, I’m sure the fun and shenanigans extend well into the evenings. I’ll certainly be back for a Patriots game, and with fall in the air, I may even be in the mood for Shepherd’s Pie.
McBlarney’s County Tap | 632 Metacom Avenue Warren | 401-289-0887