Thursday, March 10, 2005

Erin Go Boom

You find yourself in downtown Indianapolis on a cold evening in early March and you want to eat dinner. No car is available, since you took an airport limo into town. So you head out down Meridian on foot to check out a diner sort of place the desk clerk mentioned.

Before long, a ragged, muttering black man starts to follow you, even crossing the street when you do. Almost no one else is within sight on the street, and only a few cars pass by. Mere panhandler, or something else? The diner is still a couple of blocks away, but he’s getting closer.

That’s how I ended up eating dinner on Tuesday night at the Claddagh Irish Pub, “Authentic Irish Food & Spirits,” in Indy. My shadow actually entered the foyer of Claddagh after I did, but at the same time as him two women were also entering, and he muttered to them, “I’ll hold the door for you ladies.” That was the last I saw of him. Probably he just wanted a voluntary donation to his drink fund, but I wasn’t sure. It isn’t good to be paranoid about street crime, but I don’t want to ignore the possibility, either.

Once inside the restaurant, I looked around and thought, might as well eat here. The theme was Irish alright, with a bar dominating the room, and plenty of ads for Guinness and Bailey’s. Though well lit, the place seemed dim because everything was brown—the tables, the stools, the pattern wallpaper, the floor. Note: stools. There were no chairs, only stools. I ordered a pint of Kinsale, an imperial pint of 20 oz., the menu said. Ah, excellent. The buttinskis of Brussels have no sway here in the USA, and cannot pester us into trashing traditional weights and measures. I’ll raise a pint to that anytime.

The waitress told me that the fish and chips were the house specialty, and I saw a few plates of it go by, monster fish fried brown, hunks of brown fried potatoes. Looked great. But I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I ordered something a little less familiar, bangers and mashed. I got an artfully prepared plate of tender sausages arrayed on a pillow of garlic mashed potatoes. How authentic is this? I don’t care. The sausages were as good as sausages get.

The menu also told me that the design of the restaurant was meant to evoke the pubs of old Ireland, old as in 1916. I thought that was an odd date to choose, but I guess the owners sympathize with Irish nationalism. It’s just the place, then, to have some pints and get ready for your part in the Easter Rebellion.

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