In Louisville, it seems we need little reason to eat, drink and be merry. What with bars open until 4 a.m. on any given day of the week, our knack for having a good ol’ time comes naturally and is sure to be on full display this St. Patrick’s Day. With many an Irish-inspired pub to choose from, today is sure to be filled with green beer and ample revelry. As this day is the traditional religious feast day of St. Patrick, make sure you indulge in some classic Irish fare, as well. We know where we will be getting our fix …
Nowhere in Louisville is the culture of a neighborhood pub on better display than at The Irish Rover, which has been a city staple and a mainstay in the Clifton/Crescent Hill corridors for more than 20 years. I ventured to The Irish Rover on a sunny Monday afternoon, glancing wistfully at the beautiful, streetside patio as I approached the front doors. I was dreaming of the soon-to-arrive days when the sun brings warmth rather than just clear skies, and I could settle in for an order of fish and chips and a perfectly poured beer while taking in the sights and sounds of Frankfort Avenue.
Michael Reidy, who owns and operates The Irish Rover along with his wife, Siobhan, hails directly from County Clare, Ireland. While the menu is varied and features dishes with international touches, such as the Jamaican pork sandwich and the vegan vindaloo, the authenticity of Michael’s homeland shines through in the array of traditional Irish pub offerings. If you haven’t had The Irish Rover’s fish and chips, please put it at the top of your Louisville must-eats list — their beer-battered cod is everything a fulfilling fish and chips experience should be and more. I was determined to sample a new entrée during this visit, however, one that was still decidedly Irish but new to me.
I didn’t have the self-resolve to abstain from ordering a Scotch Egg, however. While the Scotch Egg’s heritage is claimed by London’s Fortnum and Mason, it fits right in with the Irish pub fare at The Irish Rover. A craggy crust encases savory ground sausage, which serves as a protective casing for a hard-boiled egg and the treat is fried until crisp and crunchy. Given its rich nature, you really don’t need more than one, and at a mere $3.95, the Scotch Egg is the perfect way to kick off any meal at The Irish Rover.
Keeping to the bar bites section of the menu to kick off our meal, my lunch date and I ordered the Irish Smoked Salmon along with the Bubble and Squeak, the former a perfectly simple offering of one of my most favorite of foods — smoked fish — accompanied by lemon, butter, onion and traditional brown soda bread. Named for the sounds created when cooking the dish, Bubble and Squeak is a homey snack consisting of mashed potato patties dotted with leftover veggies from the roast dinner served the night before. The Bubble and Squeak was browned until just crisp on the top and bottom, the center retaining the smooth texture of mashed potatoes and tiny pops of flavor found in the veggies studding the interior. At $2.95 for an order of two potato patties, this appetizer may be one of the best values in the city.
Well on our way to full, my lunch date elected to order one of The Irish Rover’s six salads, selecting the chicken, apple and walnut combination for her lunch. While she requested the chicken be left off her plate, she didn’t seem to miss this element at all, the bright and crisp cubes of apple mixing deliciously with the crunch from the walnuts and the fresh Bibb leaves.
While her fresh salad did look tempting, I was determined to stick to the more traditional offerings from the menu and, after our server’s recommendation, selected the Bangers and Mash for my lunch. Small Irish sausages are the star of this entrée, and they are always paired with the creamiest of potato purées, a pan gravy serving as the sauce and bridge between the two key elements of the dish. The Irish Rover adds caramelized onions to their variation, the entire meal practically begging for a Guinness to wash everything down. Alas, it was only lunchtime, and I knew that the addition of a Guinness to my Irish Rover experience, as delicious as it would be, would lead me to napping away the rest of my day.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about The Irish Rover is the laid-back nature that exudes from nearly every part of your experience. Many a ‘pub’ tries to emulate this vibe, some more successfully than others. At The Irish Rover, there is no effort; it is simply there, the sense of pulling up a chair and sticking around for a while a given. We know the bar will be packed to the brim today, St. Patrick’s Day, and there really isn’t anywhere else we’d rather be!
The Irish Rover is located at 2319 Frankfort Ave., Louisville. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; closed Sunday. Learn more at (502) 899-3544.
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