Shamrock talk

Taste the luck, skill of the Irish at Dublin Pub in the Oregon District

Cracker Bread (above) and Shepherd’s Pie (left) at Dublin Pub in the Oregon District; photo: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

A shanachie is an Irish storyteller. To learn the story of how Dublin Pub came to be, I enlisted the man who had a hand in making it into the most bona fide Irish pub this side of the Atlantic. My guide was a raconteur of the highest order. His name is Mark Shannon, which is not a coincidence. The name Shannon comes from the word “shanachie.”

What makes a place special is not just the food. What makes a place memorable is also a well thought out design and the uniqueness of the space. Dublin Pub does a first rate job at both. Dining pal Jurgen Durstler (who had just returned from the Emerald Isle) and I met up with Mark Shannon to sample Irish-inspired cuisine and discover the highlights of what gives this place such an authentic and convivial charm. Over his hilarious stories told with an Irish accent, we ate and learned about the building’s history and renovation.

Dublin Pub has staked its place as a Dayton favorite since opening in 1998 on the site of a former Shell gas station. With the 2014 expansion, it’s become even more popular, featuring live music, trivia, and special events—oh, and there’s that big party on March 17th. Folks like Quentin Tarrantino and Sheryl Crow drop in when they’re in town. In 2014, Dublin Pub was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Irish Establishments in the U.S.” by TomHoran.com.

Pigs Do Have Wings

As we chatted, we ordered up some appetizers, Cracker Bread ($8.99) and Pork Wings ($10.99). The Cracker Bread was flatbread topped with mashed potatoes, white wine sauce, bacon, and mixed cheeses. It’s available Reuben-style for an additional $2, and both Jurgen and I felt like this option would be the way to go to benefit from some additional flavor and texture.

The Pork Wings hit on all cylinders for us. So what’s a pork wing? Braised and crisp-  fried pork shanks (think: pork lollipop) with seasoned onion straws and Guinness barbecue dipping sauce. There were three generously sized “wings” to an order, but if you are like me and don’t want to be sad because you had to share with others, order your own. I fully intend to next time.

Mark told us about becoming involved with the project. As he met with the owners and listened to ideas, he asked if anybody had been to Ireland. They hadn’t, so he said, “I mean, you can’t just put a shamrock under a Miller Lite sign and call that Irish.” As he explored Eire, he sent back artifacts and architectural pieces and discovered the feeling of hospitality (the Irish call it craic) that he wanted to recreate. An example: the bar area. It’s not spacious—there’s an economy of space that encourages intimacy and conversation.

“Everybody has to go to the restroom at some point, right? I wanted you to have to pass by on the way and then chat with someone who’s caught your eye on the way back. A pub is all about meeting people,” he declared.

Boxty, Bangers, and Beer

This pub is all about eating, as well. Irish specialties abound on Dublin Pub’s menu: Fish and Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Bangers and Champ, to name a few. But the classic Shepherd’s Pie ($13.99) and Guinness Beef Boxty ($13.99) had us at dia dhuit (that’s Gaelic for hello).

My favorite was the Boxty, a large crisp potato pancake covered in cheese, which crowns a savory plate of roasted steak chunks and vegetables with a Guinness gravy that was rich, deep, and well developed. The Shepherd’s Pie wasn’t quite as savory, but still good, brimming with lots of vegetables and mashed potatoes. (Dublin Pub makes it with a mix of ground lamb and beef, but my preference would be lamb alone for the most flavor.) Both of these dishes are hearty, well priced, and worthy of a try. I plan to return and make my way through the rest of the Dublin Pub’s Irish specialty repertoire. And more of those pork wings of course.

After we finished mopping up every drop of tasty Guinness-kissed goodness, I strolled around looking at some more of Mark Shannon’s handiwork. “Let me show you the snug,” he said. Snug? It’s a little private curtained room designed for intimacy. There’s a light outside to indicate one’s desire to be interrupted. Or not. Then there’s the confessional. A real one he brought back. (Forgive me, Father, for I have overindulged?) There’s an etching of a headstone, and quotes from the Book of Kells painted on old, salvaged beams in beautiful calligraphic script. And then there’s the bird’s eye-view patio space, which, while not distinctly Irish pub, rocks.

During an opening party for the expanded space, Shannon overheard someone remark in a lilting brogue about his handiwork, “He’s been across the water, has he not?” Indeed, he has, and at Dublin Pub, we can feel like we have, too.

Dublin Pub is located at 300 Wayne Ave. in the Oregon District. For more information, please call 937.224.7822 or visit DubPub.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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