Review: Irish Pub Offers Pints & Rashers
At Mac McGee’s Irish pub in Decatur Square, which opened Jan. 5, neither the ambiance nor the wait staff is short on personality. The atmosphere feels like a chunk of Ireland, and some pubgoers definitely look accordingly. Beyond the restaurant’s fire-red exterior, owners Andy and Courtney Anglin, who are of Irish descent, offer a serious selection of beers and whiskey alongside traditional Irish pub fare.
A list of almost 100 whiskeys, including classics such as Jameson and Paddy’s Irish Whiskey, guarantees whiskey aficionados won’t leave McGee’s dissatisfied.
“Our collection is growing every day,” manager Casey Teague said.
Although McGee’s can never match nearby Brickstore’s beer selections, it offers a hearty selection. Guinness is readily available on tap, along with locally-brewed favorites such as Sweetwater, Terrapin and Red Brick. Seasonal offerings and craft beers from all over the world complete the menu. The non-Irish Wells Bombardier, recommended by our waitress, proved to be particularly smooth and drinkable.
Few go to bars with this kind of alcohol selection looking for dinner in the first place, so low-maintenance fried items or quick sandwiches tend to be popular at most bars and easy on the kitchen to handle. McGee’s menu, however, reflects higher aspirations.
Many of the pub’s menu items, including their pickles, Irish soda bread and ice cream, are made in-house, according to Teague.
“We want to give people good, hearty home-made food,” Teague said.
But as hard as McGee’s tries to offer a taste of Ireland through corned beef sandwiches and bangers and rashers (breakfast sausage and lean Irish bacon), food still comes as a second-rate attraction.
An appetizer of smoked salmon, mackerel and scallops next to gooseberry jam and blancmange needed to be thrown back into the Atlantic where even predatory fish may have taken a pass. The smoked salmon was by the book but tasty; the rest of the dish was far too fishy for the human palate.
An appetizer of bar-standard thick-cut fries with a curry dipping sauce proved to be a successful bet, and from the looks of nearby tables, other patrons agreed. The curry sauce did not pan out to be as exciting as it sounded but was mellow and interesting enough to eat.
Entrees also fell short of the owners’ intentions. A lamb leg turned French dip came across as dry and poorly seasoned. The steak-and-mushroom pie came topped with a beautiful puff pastry, but concealed underneath the golden-brown pastry pillow was meat both too tough and too fatty.
The best entrée of the night was the vegetable pasty, which was filled with broccoli, cheese and mushrooms. The pastry was light, with a well-balanced filling and a clean, non-cheesy aftertaste.
Desserts were partially successful. The apple crisp with vanilla ice cream is the kind of dessert that should be ordered at a place like Mac McGee’s. It was simple, comforting and easy to like.
On a more bitter note, the sticky toffee pudding with whiskey cream was much like a main character in a Greek tragedy: a beautiful exterior but a foul interior. This hockey-puck of a dessert was nearly inedible as it took four hands to hold down the bowl and another set to chisel away at its onyx-like crust with a knife and fork.
So while the food at Mac McGee’s is not as successful as Teague may have hoped, the bar scene is. Customers were having what looked like a much-needed cool-down on a Friday night, and nobody seemed to mind the cramped high-top tables, which might just contribute to the community joviality. Decorations mostly focused on Guinness paraphernalia, although in a definitively homey rather than fratty way.
As for prices, the menu matches most bars in the Decatur area. Beers cost around $5 to $6 while appetizers and entrees run around $10 to $15.
Mac McGee’s should provide a welcome destination in the Emory area’s bar selections. It’s a great companion to Decatur venues like Brickstore and Twain’s, but don’t wait until too late to visit, or you might find it difficult to grab even a small table as the popularity of Mac McGee’s spreads.