One Potato, Two Potato
Decent fare and plenty of good drink make two Celtic newcomers cause for a toast.
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45 E. Main St., Newark
Poutine appetizer, chicken wings, Irish breakfast sandwich
There is no sign of a potato famine at Kildare’s Pub in Newark. All sandwiches come with hand-cut fries. There is an appetizer of cheese curds and brown gravy over fries. Boxty (a potato pancake with filling) comes with seasoned julienned Yukon gold potatoes. And what is an Irish pub without fish and chips?
The prominence of spuds is understandable. The potato played a large part in Ireland’s history, and Kildare’s promises an authentic Irish experience.
This Kildare’s, seventh in a regional chain, is the first in Delaware. The concept is the brainchild of Dave Magrogan, a chiropractor-turned-restaurateur who, two weeks before opening Kildare’s in Newark, cut the ribbon on Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House in the Colonnade at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
Doc’s also gives the spud its due. Consider Old Bay-dusted fries smothered with seafood fondue, as well as entrées accompanied by garlic-mashed potatoes or oven-fried potatoes.
The similarities, however, go beyond vegetables. Both chains are built on a theme that begs for replication. Kildare’s is all about Ireland. In fact, an Irish company, which designed the flagship restaurant in West Chester, shipped more than six 40-foot containers of paraphernalia to lend authenticity.
Magrogan followed the same approach for subsequent restaurants. The Newark Kildare’s features tin ceilings, hardwood floors, a fireplace flanked by full bookcases, and mismatched tables, chairs and upholstery. Though it could have easily become Disney-esque, the decor stops short of stereotyping Irish culture. The result is a comfortable space with character.
Doc’s, meanwhile, is dressed like a turn-of-the-century oyster house. Victorian-styled potted palms dot the floor and heavy dark furniture predominates. The mood is clearly Old World.
Both restaurants’ bars have all the makings of friendly neighborhood hangouts. The feeling stems partly from the great beer selection. On my visit, Kildare’s offered more than 30 bottled beers and more than 20 on draft. Boddington’s Pub Ale from Manchester, England, and Guinness Stout from Dublin both came in glasses bearing the appropriate logo.
Doc’s offers many of the same selections, but fewer of them. The menu instead features specialty martinis and a longer wine list, though that’s not saying much. Both wine lists are brief.
In a seafood restaurant, I was surprised to find just one Sauvignon Blanc (Kenwood) available by the glass. The only other Sauvignon Blanc, Cakebread, was $60 a bottle. Sparkling wine jumped from $10 for a split of Korbel to $100 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. All but six of the featured wines were available by the glass for $6 to $7. There are a few selections in the $18 to $20 range.
If you hold Kildare’s and Doc Magrogan’s menus side by side, you’d see the same minds at work. Kildare’s offers a three-cheese mac-n’-cheese. Doc’s has a smoked salmon mac-n’-cheese. Kildare’s serves a triple-cheese fondue. Doc’s goes with a seafood fondue. Kildare’s prepares Buffalo shrimp in a whiskey glaze. Doc’s does a Guinness-battered coconut shrimp with a honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Kildare’s mines the gastro-pub territory, and it does it well. The poutine appetizer was an interesting offering for an Irish pub. (It’s actually French Canadian in origin.) A heaping mound of golden fries, covered in rich brown gravy, blanketed a dinner plate. Cheese curds, curled on top, looked like tendrils of fresh mozzarella. The secret to success—I was told by a dining partner who’d lived in Wisconsin—is the curds’ freshness. Plan to share. This is one heavy appetizer.
Another thumbs up for the wings, which are baked, fried, then grilled. Slathered in a Jameson Irish Whiskey sauce, the morsels of chicken were meaty, crispy and tangy. Grilling added a nice smoky flavor, which was enhanced by an earthy wing sauce.
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