Thursday, June 16, 2011


Honestly, I don't think I have an Irish bone in my body; my ancestors came to this great country from parts of France and England just a couple of years after the Mayflower. But I had the good luck to marry a guy who's family came straight from the Old Sod; so when it serves my purpose, such as on St. Patrick's Day, I claim to be as Irish as they come.

Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, our tradition is to visit at least three local celebrations throughout the day and evening. In our younger years when the holiday fell on a weekend, we'd start before noon at someplace like Clancy's in Warren, usually ending up for what could be a late evening at the Old Main Ale & Chowder House in Niles -- the latter of which was torn down a few years back to make way for a replica of former President William McKinley's birth home (which, historic though it may be, isn't nearly as much fun to visit).

Now that we qualify for senior citizen status, though, we've mellowed out quite a bit and usually don't head out till mid-afternoon and make our return trip not long after the sun go
es down. And for the last couple of years, our celebration place of choice is Quinlan's Irish Pub & Grill on the U.S. Route 422 "Strip" in Niles.

For the record, the restaurant used to be O'Donold's Irish Pub & Grille, which still operates in Austintown. Before that it was a Pizza Hut, and I've long since forgotten what was there before that.

Although the annual St. Patrick's Day festivities are a good reason to visit -- there's a huge tent out back where musicians, food, beer and camaraderie make for a wonderful time -- the great food is the reason my husband Jack and I stop in at other times of the year. The interior is as you'd expect - heavily flavored with Irish, including colorful clan plaid textiles hanging from the ceiling. The dark wood and even a stone "wall" make for an atmosphere similar to what I'd expect to find in a traditional Irish pub.

Much of the food, too, has a distinctly Irish flavor; consider, for instance, the boxty -- a traditional Irish potato pancake that can be topped with corned beef and cabbage (my favorite), steak and swiss cheese or Finn McCool's fire-roasted veggies for $9.99 each. The portions are large enough that we always have enough left to take home.

Still another Irish tradition and a favorite of ours is the colcannon fritters appetizer; colcannon, for the record, consists of mashed potatoes, usually with kale or cabbage mashed in. At Quinlan's, it's the latter plus a bit of bacon mixed in. Then, they're deep fried and served with horseradish mayonnaise. At $5.99, they're a real treat.

In fact, we're quite fond of several of the appetizers; the Iris
h egg rolls ($6.99), are roll-ups like oriental egg rolls but stuffed with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Blasket Isle dressing, their take on Thousand Island. Our friend Barb is a fan of The Peat, which consists of assorted greens sauteed with bacon and hot peppers with toast points and Parmesan cheese ($6.99). Still another we often choose Sea Wings ($5.99), seven relatively large breaded and deep fried shrimp tossed in buffalo sauce with carrot and celery sticks on the side.

If these items sound good -- and I hope they do -- you should know that Happy Hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; most appetizers are half price and you can wash them down with domestic draft beer for $2 each.

Neither of us is a big fan of salads as a meal, and as salad selections go, Quinlan's offers only three meal-sized varieties, ranging in price from $6.99 (a basic Caesar
) to $9.99 (steak with tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, shredded cheddar cheese and croutons with field greens). And one of these days we've vowed to try the wings here -- regular or boneless -- if for no other reason than some of the sauce choices sound really intriguing with names like O'Danny Boy's, Banshee, Roscommon Ranch and Foggy Dew. They're priced at six for $5.29 and a dozen for $9.49; add $1 to either if you prefer yours boneless.

Sandwich choices are plentiful and delicious, at least the ones we've sampled. We both love the Reuben ($7.49), which comes with the traditional filling or Chicago style with turkey and coleslaw. The Guinness burger is great ($7.99), as is the fire roasted vegetable sandwich stuffed with a portobello mushroom, carrots, red onions, provolone cheese and chipotle mayo in a tomato wrap $7.49).

For dinner, we recommend visiting Quinlan's on Saturdays, when you can take advantage of the two entrees for $20 menu. In the interests of full discl
osure, most of the entrees here don't cost much more than $10 anyway, so the savings isn't all that great. Still, a penny saved is a penny earned!

At our most recent visit, Jack tried the pan-seared scallops with garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, tomato chutney and truffle oil topped with a crab bisque ($12.99). Ever the fish-lover, I picked the fire roasted salmon with potatoes, bacon, asparagus, red onion and tarragon cream ($10.99). When it arrived, the salmon looked to have been on the grill way too long, but the taste told me otherwise; it was delicious. Needless to say, we both enjoyed our meals immensely.

On another occasion we went for the two-fer deal, this time both choosing the 6-ounce filet with asparagus, garlic champ and black peppercorn sauce, regularly priced at $13.99 -- making the $20 price tag an even bigger bargain. Better still, both were cooked to perfection -- not an easy task given that one of us wants medium rare and the other well done. Jack raved about his bowl of clam chowder as usual, and the asparagus was cooked to just the right amount of crispness.

My baked potato was on the small side compared to what I'm used t
o getting elsewhere, but then the economy is forcing most restaurants to slim down portion size in an effort to cut costs. In fact, we ended up finishing up every bite on our plates with nothing left to take home -- another trend we're experiencing more often these days and still another sign that portions are being reduced.

Still other entrees we've enjoyed here are the traditional corned beef and cabbage and Mike's Famous Meatloaf (both $9.99). Oh, and I almost forgot: If you have a choice of potato, do try the Irish Pub Crisps that come with French onion dip; they're absolutely yummy freshly made thinly sliced potato chips.

Something that delighted me most, though, probably wouldn't mean much to anyone else: Our very friendly servers bring water with lemon without our having to beg for it. How refreshing!

If you go: Quinlan's Irish Pub & Grill
5154 Youngstown Road
Niles, Ohio 44446
(330) 349-4500

Open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sundays for special events only; closed Monday.