By Tara Mahadevan
By Ian Froeb
By Ian Froeb
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Gut Check
By Ian Froeb
By Ian Froeb
By Gut Check Guides
I ordered my first pint of Guinness in an Irish-themed pub in Windsor, Ontario. I must have said something about it being my first Guinness ever, because a guy seated nearby turned to me. He wanted to tell me three things.
1025 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63101
Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue
1025 Washington Avenue, 314-421-4300. Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun. Dinner: 5-11 p.m. daily. Brunch: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.- Sun.
Little Pots $5
Dub Pub Burger $7.50
Stout Braised Beef Ribs $14.50
Mixed Grill of Lamb $18
First, I should pay close attention to how the bartender poured my Guinness. He should stop with the glass only three-fourths full and then wait two minutes ideally, he should walk away and take someone else's order before he finishes pouring. This, my new friend told me, was how you got a perfect cap of silky foam atop your Guinness. If the bartender failed this step, I should refuse the Guinness.
Second, once I had the pint of Guinness in front of me, I should take a penny a penny, he insisted, sliding one across the bar to me and tap it against the bulge near the top of the glass (it went without saying that a Guinness must be served in the proper glassware, as distinctive as a Coca-Cola bottle) and then against a spot near the bottom. Only when the penny made the same tone when struck against both places was the Guinness ready.
As a matter of fact, I was headed abroad later that year, and on my first day in Dublin, I dutifully visited the brewery. After a lame tour of a mock-up of the brewing process and a cool exhibit of Guinness advertising through the years, I went into the Guinness "pub," handed over my two drink tickets and received a pint of Guinness from the bottom of the keg.
Fortunately, over the following days I enjoyed many delicious pints of Guinness in pubs in Dublin, and I can report that it does taste better there (if maybe not immeasurably so), and if you, too, love Guinness, I'd recommend a visit except that it might spoil you for the rest of your Guinness-drinking life. You'll wander from pub to pub to pub wherever you live and travel, searching in vain for a pint of Guinness that perfect.
Or you can visit an Irish-themed pub and let your imagination make up the difference. You'll need your imagination at The Dubliner, the new Irish gastropub in the Bee Hat Building on Washington Avenue. It's not that the Dubliner isn't authentic, exactly in fact, the décor manages to convey Irish pub without the quotation marks, and I will call no place that serves black pudding inauthentic.
Still, it's impossible to forget you're in a Washington Avenue loft building. It's a huge space, with high ceilings and exposed ductwork, an enclosed private dining room and a mezzanine level for games, music and theater. You might not notice the size that much when you're tucked into one of the high-backed booths, but you never get that sense of camaraderie and fun for all craic, as the Irish say that's inevitable and unavoidable in a cramped, smoky pub. Even the piped-in Irish music sounds no different from ordinary Muzak, distant and tinny.
You'll also need your imagination if you order the fish and chips. Of course, this dish is best eaten in a cone of newspaper, with a plastic fork, before you stumble home after a night in the pub. But you can ask only so much of a restaurant. The quality of the fish and chips is as good a test as any for a new gastropub the dish is listed on the Dubliner's menu in the section called "Pub Fare," after all. So I was a wee bit disappointed when my cod fillet arrived soggy on the bottom, its batter turned to paste. It was a mystery because the fish itself wasn't very greasy. If anything, I thought the fish a tad on the dry side. It flaked too easily, even for cod.
The chips were fine, though, and the fish was the only real misstep I encountered on the Dubliner's solid, if unspectacular, menu. "Pub Fare," available as long as the Dubliner's open, also includes the truly fantastic "Dub Pub Burger," eight ounces of naturally raised beef formed into a thick patty and served with no frills just bloody excellence beneath a perfect char. I also enjoyed the "Beef and Guinness Stew," as thick and heavily spiced as sauerbraten. The Guinness wasn't a pronounced flavor, but the stout did add a light, caramel note to the heady mix.
On the other hand, I couldn't taste the Guinness in the "Stout Braised Beef Ribs," from the dinner menu. The problem, I think, is that the flavor of Guinness isn't that different from the flavors meat develops as it braises. After "hours and hours" of braising, as the menu claims, the two flavors become indistinguishable. Still, as chefs everywhere have rediscovered in recent years, few meat preparations are as naturally flavorful as braised short ribs, and these were no different, tender and, if a little fatty, more luscious for it.
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