Having visited Ireland last spring, my expectations for Castle’s Kettle and Irish Pub were pretty high, but the long-awaited arrival of the new bar in town did not disappoint.
The “Coming Fall 2011” sign started taunting the Blacksburg community nearly a year ago. This past weekend, on Friday, April 13, the Gaelic business venture finally opened its doors to the public. While Friday the 13th may seem an unlucky time for the superstitious, Castle’s opted to embrace the luck of the Irish and will surely remember Friday as the date its success officially began.
When I first approached the entrance to the pub, which is located around back and not street side, I was surprised to see a queue of people outside. Apparently I was not the only one who was eager to check out the new establishment.
I put my name in and was informed of a 20-minute wait. Part of the reason for the wait was because Castle’s is not yet equipped for outdoor seating. There is a quaint back deck area currently devoid of chairs and tables, though I was assured it would be ready soon.
As I waited to be seated, I hunkered down at the bar, which boasts an impressive lineup of both American and Irish beers on tap — it even has Strongbow for cider lovers. I decided on a pint of Castle’s Irish Red, a brew crafted specifically for the pub. Neither too light nor too dark, the unique blend made for the perfect appetizer.
Before getting seated, I was asked to close my tab at the bar. While the task itself was not surprising, the process for doing so certainly was. Instead of handing me a receipt, the bartender handed me an iPad. After reviewing my total, the bartender used the device to slide my credit card. From there, I was able to select the tip amount and sign electronically. The process was efficient and eco-friendly, though I have to wonder if transactions will go just as smoothly late at night. After all, booze and electronics do not mix too well.
Once seated, the main event began. The menu isn’t huge, but it is large enough to make it difficult to choose what to eat. There were many choices that caught my eye, but I knew I had to select the quintessentially Irish grub: Sheppard’s pie.
The attentive waitress scurried off with my order, leaving me time to soak in the atmosphere. Beautiful dark wood adorns the walls and floor, and the tables and chairs. Irish music piped through the sound system and created an aura that felt authentic, or at the very least, Dublin-esque.
My food arrived incredibly quickly — probably within 10 minutes — which is an impressive feat for any restaurant, especially for a brand new one. While the dish was steaming-hot, I couldn’t help but dive in right away. Sorry, taste buds.
The mild discomfort from the heat was well worth it. Castle’s shepherd’s pie is an exquisite blend of beef, potatoes, peas and carrots, just as one would expect. The meal is served with Irish soda bread, which I don’t care for, but could still appreciate.
My only critique of the food is that I wanted more of it. The dish was absolutely delicious and I just wanted to keep eating it. Portion size aside, I still left satiated and eagerly await returning to Castle’s to try out some of the other Irish delicacies on their menu.
My return is likely as well, considering its food is not too pricy. I wouldn’t classify it as cheap, but it certainly won’t break the bank for college students.
Throughout the dining experience, the server kept reappearing periodically to make sure everything was still going well. There’s nothing more annoying than an absent server or an overly pushy one, but my server didn’t fall victim to either of those pratfalls.
When it came time to pay, I was presented with an iPhone and the process worked pretty much the same as it did at the bar. The use of iPads at Au Bon Pain may have failed miserably, but the Apple store uses the technology so efficiently that surely it can be used successfully in a business setting.
So far the Apple payment seems to be working for Castle’s, though the process does seem reminiscent of signing — or rather, scribbling — for a UPS package, which isn’t exactly a plus. There is something to be said for being able to take the time to look at a physical receipt without the server hovering overhead subconsciously saying, “don’t forget my tip!”
Payment methods aside though, Castle’s is clearly off to a fantastic start, and things are going remarkably smoothly for such a new business. Leprechauns ought to be running scared, as it looks like Castle’s will soon be the place with the pot of gold.