Sunday, December 28, 2008

BurgerFest-O-Rama #4 - Shamrock Irish Pub

The first review on Google Local declares "... The Irish pub is a nice spot to go to when I don't want to go to far from home. It's by my house and the people there are down to earth." Oh yeah, interviewer monique w.? Don't want to go far from home? That sounds like a challenge to me, Steve, and BurgerFest-O-Rama newcomer and good friend, Craig.

Shamrock Irish Pub is in downtown Utica (who knew Utica had a downtown?) on Auburn Road near Van Dyke. This part of the world is about 30 minutes from my home, and while you may feel that is a little bit excessive from a travel distance perspective for a burger, you are not on a mission greater than any mission since the moon landing, as I am. Don't blink or you'll find that you missed downtown Utica. Since it is break and reviewer monique w. put forth a specific challenge to my burger-eating crew, Friday afternoon was an optimal day to make the trip out to Utica. I thoroughly enjoyed BurgerFest #3 because it motivated me to go to a local restaurant that I have passed up time and time again. This trip is another major intrinsic benefit of these outings - I'm encouraged to dine at establishments far outside of my normal life radius. Off to the Shamrock Pub we go.

The Shamrock Pub is listed in The Free Press as a "Best Old-School Burger", which is weird because I never saw them eating burgers in Old School. The Freep calls out the burgers because "First, they're grilled over live flames; you can even see the grill marks. And second, owner Joe Mayernik gets his beef fresh daily from Eastern Market in a custom grind designed for cooking over fire." I like how cow meat can be made to sound fancy, like by referring to "a custom grind designed for cooking over fire." It's hamburger meat, lords and ladies.

The Shamrock Pub was not at all what I expected. I was thinking it would be a tiny, dirty, smoky, packed, but charm-filled location; more like a dive than anything else. It definitely did not have the feel of a dive. There were a few flat screens around the restaurant and some of the high tables even had those little speaker boxes where you can (for free) listen to the audio from any of the TVs. It was not huge, but spacious with high ceilings and exposed ventilation work. Even at 1:45 on a Friday, it was pretty busy, but we were lucky that we did not have to wait for a table. The only thing I would like to be changed, internally, about the bar is that the Michigan state legislature pass the FREAKING SMOKING BAN. Some guy was smoking like a wildfire right near the front door, blowing all of his smokiness into the rest of the restaurant. If you are unaware, smoking causes cancer, my readers. We were joined for the first time by our great friend Craig, who was also an active participant in our previous Tour De Nacho around Ann Arbor. He lives out Rochester way, so it was a convenient location for him. Let's all give Craig a rousing round of applause for his first attendance and take a look around inside the pub.

The menu itself is pretty minimal, though we didn't look too closely at it because of our laser-like burger focus. They had a reuben sandwich offering (I think this was the most Irish thing about the pub, though that's not a complaint by my book), burgers, fries, appetizers, and maybe some other things. The prices are phenomenal. A 7 oz burger starts at $3.95 with onion and pickles, for 30 cents more you get American, cheddar, or swiss cheese, and for 30 cents more you get lettuce, tomato, and mayo. That's a whopping grand total of $4.55. Fries are $2.50 and their seasoned fries are a tiny bit more than that, though I can't exactly remember how much more. We each got burgers with all the fixins (with varying degrees of mayo inclusion and ranging from medium to medium-well) and an order of regular and seasoned fries for the table.

Pros: As Craig stated and the table agreed, "This burger tastes like something that could come off the grill, but I could not make anything this good off the grill," meat cooked to perfect doneness all the way around, waitress indicated preemptively it would be easy for them to throw the meat back on the grill if we wanted to increase doneness, tomato uniformly perfectly ripe, burger could be picked up and put down and picked up again without problem, seasoned fries were a knockout, crazy inexpensive for almost half a pound of meat, friendly waitstaff, meat juicy but not annoyingly so, food just looked tempting

Cons: Bun a little bit soft - particularly on the bottom (squished down to very thin bun strip), Craig thought the fries were too-potatoey and I thought that the seasoned fries probably should have been the regular fries (regular fries were pretty under-seasoned), identification of need for refills a little bit slow, paper plates and plasticware seemed wasteful - maybe ask if we need before putting plastic utensils because we did not need them and probably had to be chucked, in Utica

For some reason, as soon as the food hit the table, we knew that we were in for a special experience, and we were not disappointed even a little bit. I don't know if they actually have some magical custom grind as is claimed or what, but we each found a little place of burger happiness at the Shamrock Irish Pub.

A new standard has been set, folks. For super extra brownie points for The Shamrock Irish Pub - my brother likes to be able to make it rain as quickly as possible, so he carries around his cash in a slipshod wad in his pocket. After we had left the building and were taking our outside photos, the waitress came rushing outside with a ten dollar bill and asked if any of us had left it behind. When Steve pulled out his mismanaged role for his part of the bill, a lonely ten slipped to the floor. He would not have known, and we would not have known if the waitress simply provided herself with a little extra sugar for having to deal with the three of us jerks. She did not, and we were impressed. The whole meal, with tip, set us back $25. That is not bad. 4 down, 36 to go.


Dan A. said...

Looking @ hittin' up at least two places this weekend. I can't give a similar review though 'cause I like my burgers well done w/ nothing but lettuce on 'em usually.

...and yes, get those smokers outta the restaurants (well, make them smoke outside I mean).

Ken said...

Hey Dan! I'm bummed because Steve and I will be unavailable this weekend and it would have been just great to have you along as part of the endeavor. Oh well - maybe next time. If you're up for the travel, I think you'd really like the Shamrock. Thanks so much for all you do. It keeps me going.

Nick said...

Good stuff, Ken! Thanks for the review, we tried out the Shamrock on our way out to Erma's Frozen Custard, which you need to check out.