One can feel simultaneously envious and sorry for the Irish-born who make their living pouring drinks behind the bar of an Irish pub in America.
Second- or third-generation Irish Americans are so desperate to relate, so smitten by the brogue, so deep inside wishing we were in fact straight from the motherland; well, these barmen and women can take on a celebrity-like status. They're deeply revered, yet unrelentingly harassed. Irish Americans love their native kinsmen, and all that they embody. And if a taste -- but just a wee taste -- of the Emerald Isle is what you're after, Emmett's Public House is for you.
An Irish pub is always a sight for sore eyes, whether in Minnesota, New York City, Madrid, or elsewhere. They maintain a reliable sameness, an almost cookie-cutter replicability that makes them dependable as McDonald's (though certainly more appealing). Enter here, and you know just what you're gonna get, not too many surprises.
A warm glow, a properly poured Guinness, a gut-warming bump, and some grub that defines the very phrase "stick to your ribs": an Irish Pub is the ticket.
But Grand Avenue's new Emmett's Public House has gone one further. Warm and intimate yet clean, sleek and safe, this is the Minnesotan's Irish pub. It's Irish Nice.
Tom, a capable young barman who uses "lovely" and "dodgy" much to the squealing delight of imbibers, is there, and he doesn't even cringe when his accent is mocked, (though it happens) or when well-meaning diners ask if he knows their cousin, because, you know, he's from Ireland too. Tom is patient and smiling, and goes on drawing those Harps with a pro's hand.
In keeping with the theme, all the whiskeys are here, all of them -- enough to keep all of St. Paul flush for all the coming winter. And the beers too, the Finnegan's, the Harp, the Smithwick's, the Guinness all on tap, all good and fortifying and reliable.
The menu is a sort of hybridized greatest-hits of not just Irish faves like fish and chips, scotch eggs, and corned beef, though those are here too, but also bar food that you've grown to know and love on our own side of the pond. Cheese curds, fries, burgers, and mac and cheese are all given a little Irish kiss for posterity. The curds get a little honey ale mustard condiment, the fries are made different with Guinness balsamic reduction, the burger is piled with everything and the kitchen sink: horseradish chive cheddar, leek cream cheese, balsamic tomato onion jam, lettuce, and onion rings on a salt-and-pepper sesame bun. Add whiskey bacon for two bucks.
A BLT wedge salad is no more Irish than than your great grandma Lileskov, but we can pretend it is if we set it next to a Jameson and some wicked slabs of pork belly glazed in 2 Gingers Whiskey. Though it's more at home in a steakhouse, a wedge salad artfully presented and made familiar with both blue cheese and house-made French is a difficult thing to argue with, no matter how many Powers you've pounded.
Similarly likable enough was an "Irish" mac and cheese, rich as a thousand dollar bill, made deep with malty beer, and offset with sautéed peppers and caramelized onions. Bacon fat breadcrumbs cap it like dropping the mic. It's probably a little too decadent, really, but just what a hungry Minnesota-born Irish who's put down a few too many on a cold night might want to curb the effects.
While the menu is amiable this way, it doesn't tread into the dreaded all-things-for-all-people territory. It's a mere 15 items long, and everything on it seems to be given good attention with just a little signature supplement to set it off. Prices range in the friendly, but not necessarily cheap, $8 to $18 range.
Emmet's shares a kitchen with Dixie's on Grand, and just as that establishment offers a sort of innocuous facsimile of Southern comfort food, emphasis on the comfort, so Emmett's can soothe your appetite for food, drink, and a little cultural repast, without stepping too far outside of our own civilization's pleasures.
And sometimes that can be nice.
Emmett's Public House Now Open
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