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Thursday, June 30, 2005 09:52 am

appetite 6-30-05

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Walking into the Dublin Pub, I had a strong sense of déjà vu. Of course I noticed the hints that something had changed: a new sign out front, a fresh coat of green paint on the walls, and some new menu items, such as pizza, gave it away. Plus, as a food writer, it’s my job to know about these things. But I don’t think most people would realize they weren’t walking into D’Arcy’s Pub, which previously occupied the space in the Town and Country Shopping Center.

In fact, the management of the new pub, which opened in May, has obviously decided not to reinvent the wheel — or the horseshoe, shepherd’s pie, or pot roast, in this case — and that’s a good thing. The things regular patrons of D’Arcy’s dearly loved, such as the hearty dishes and friendly atmosphere, are still in place. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dublin Pub quickly became a favorite neighborhood watering hole and eatery with the same standing-room-only crowds that D’Arcy’s enjoyed.

The interior has the feel of a real pub: green walls, Guinness posters, several televisions broadcasting sporting events, a noisy atmosphere. An antique oak bar dominates one wall. But even though the new establishment looks and feels a lot like the old one, several things, starting with the menu, set the Dublin apart.

Diners have a choice of 14 appetizers, including spinach-and-artichoke dip, seafood-stuffed mushrooms, chicken wings, homemade meatballs, and nachos. Soups and salads include a deluxe taco salad, chili and a soup of the day. A nice array of burgers and sandwiches — including a Reuben; the Dublin Dip (sliced roast beef on a grilled hoagie with jus); Italian sausage with grilled peppers, onions and cheese; and barbecue pork — is offered. One of the most interesting burgers is the Bourbon Street, a half-pound patty topped with peppers, onions, Cajun spices, and pepper-Jack cheese.

During a lunchtime visit, my husband and I tried the traditional club sandwich and Buffalo-chicken wrap. The triple-decker club was stacked so high with turkey, ham, bacon, and all the trimmings that it was difficult to eat. It was good, but the wrap was better: The chunks of chicken were dipped in spicy wing sauce and topped with sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, and ranch dressing, then topped with pepper-Jack cheese and wrapped in a tortilla. The dish was reminiscent of a fajita but boasted more flavor.

The restaurant claims to serve the “Original Leland Hotel Horseshoe,” using the cheese-sauce recipe from the Springfield landmark credited with inventing this local favorite. At the Dublin, ’shoes come with a choice of vegetables or meat — chiliburger, meatball, walleye, corned beef, turkey, chicken, or roast beef. On another occasion, I tried the Buffalo-chicken ponyshoe with white American-cheese sauce, and it was delicious. The spicy breaded chicken breast was covered with just enough hot sauce to wake up the mouth. The ’shoes come dressed with a choice of three homemade cheese sauces: classic, yellow, or white. For $5.25, this may be not only the best horseshoe in town but also the best deal — the ’shoe so large, two people can share it.

My husband tried the shepherd’s pie, a hearty mix of beef and vegetables topped with a thick, fluffy layer of mashed potatoes and then baked. Served piping hot, the pie was the ultimate in comfort food.

Other dinner entrées include pot roast, corned beef and cabbage, steak, roasted pork tenderloin, and bourbon salmon. Diners may also order Vic’s Pizza, which is located on the city’s North End. Both places are owned by Joe Rupnik, who also claims the Pasta House and Joe’s Chili Bowl as his own.

The Dublin also offers daily specials as meatloaf, pasta, chicken and noodles, and country-fried chicken or steak. Walleye and catfish are served every Friday.

The Dublin Pub is located at 2413 S. MacArthur Blvd.; 217-793-6876. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. The bar is open until 1 a.m. Mon.-Sat.

Chili marks the spot

Chili has replaced chocolate-raspberry cremes in the Town and Country Shopping Center. Joe’s Chili Bowl, located next door to the Dublin Pub, has opened in the space that once held the Fannie Mae candy store. The small eatery offers chili, chiliburgers, tamales, hot dogs, and chilidogs, plus salads, soups, and ice cream. Chili is available by the pint or quart. Carryout and sit-down dining are available. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.; 217-793-0613.

Westwoods special

Westwoods Lodge Pub & Grill, located at 2406 W. Jefferson St., has made a couple of changes. First, the restaurant’s signature ponyshoe has been added to the lunch menu as a special every Monday. Second, the restaurant now caters to both nonsmoking and smoking diners. The dining room has been designated a nonsmoking area, but smoking is permitted in the bar.

Red, White, and Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients
2 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons unpacked brown sugar
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine, melted
1/2 cup light whipped topping

Directions
Toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Toss strawberries with remaining tablespoon of granulated sugar in another small bowl; set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together oats, brown sugar, and margarine in a third small bowl; spread mixture on a sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Spread blueberries and strawberries in an 8-by-8-inch glass dish, alternating to create stripes. Sprinkle with oat topping, decorate with whipped topping, and serve. Yields eight servings. (Courtesy of Weight Watchers)

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