When Bob and Mark Russell were looking to name the Irish pub they were planning to build inside the garage that once housed the fleet for their Monahan Drabble Sherman Funeral Home, they only had to think back to a visit to Ballyjamesduff, a small town in Ireland, where they’d spent time in McBride’s Pub.
Behind the pub in Ireland was McBride’s Funeral Home. The two establishments were owned by a pair of brothers much like themselves. The parallel connection to what the Russell brothers were planning — along with Mark’s wife, Janet, and their daughters Jennifer and Stephanie — seemed like fate. And so McBride’s Pub came to be on Wayland Avenue near Waterman Street.
A photo of the namesake McBride’s in Ireland hangs on the wall of the Providence pub, a beautifully appointed place that has the warm, cozy feel of a room where you’d want to spend some time and have a pint and maybe a shepherd’s pie, though if the weather is warm you can sit on the outside patio.
The pub has a black and tan motif — the wainscoting running more than halfway up the walls has black squares and rectangles separated by tan wood panels. Skylights brighten a vaulted ceiling over the long bar. Two stained glass window panels behind the bar have an “M” crest and were designed in the 1930s by the Russell family’s great-grandfather, Thomas Monahan, who installed them in the funeral home’s basement smoking room. Now repurposed behind the bar, the “M” serves as McBride’s logo.
Although there’s Corned Beef & Cabbage, Bangers & Mash and Galway Shepherd’s Pie on the menu, there’s also a Gorgonzola filet mignon, six kinds of pizza, calamari done three ways or nachos done two — American or Irish. The McBride’s Irish Nachos has house-made chips topped with shepherd’s pie filling, grated cheddar, sour cream and spring onion.
This being an Irish pub, and with unobtrusive lilting Irish music on the soundtrack, I was moved to order a pint of sturdy Smithwick’s Irish ale on draught ($6). There also was a cocktail concoction called, in deference to the funeral home next door, 6 Feet Under ($10) and it was clear after one sip that this powerful drink was aptly named.
You can order Chicken Flappers ($8.90), basically an order of chicken wings, one of four ways — Buffalo, teriyaki, sweet chili or, as we had them, with Jameson’s Golden BBQ sauce, a highly recommended choice. The four meaty wings and four drumsticks had been slathered in the wonderfully sticky sweet sauce, suddenly my favorite barbecue sauce of all time. Drippingly messy, they left me begging for more … and for some wet naps.
Two plump Irish Spring Rolls ($9.70) were an unusual but successful bid for Asian-Irish fusion. Wrapped inside the crisp phyllo dough shells was a generous serving of corned beef, cabbage and mashed potatoes — an appetizer that could be a meal in itself for one.
Among the pizzas is “The Famine” — in reference to the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-52 that drove so many to America — with thin-sliced potatoes, bacon and mozzarella over a ranch sauce. But we opted for the Veggie Pie ($9.20), an eight-slice 12-inch pie with a crunchy-crisp crust topped with fresh mushrooms, onions, slices of red pepper, broccoli florets, black olives, marinara sauce and mozzarella. With a fresh-from-the-garden taste, it was perfect.
A creamy Cheddar ale sauce topped the extraordinarily lean house-brined meat in the Corned Beef & Cabbage ($13.40). The corned beef fell apart at the touch of a fork into little nuggets that were a good match for the tender shredded cabbage. On the side were wonderfully tasty mashed potatoes.
My Blackened Gaelic Steak ($15.90), a 10-ounce sirloin, was not all that blackened (thank you). I thought perhaps of asking for a steak knife, but the ordinary knife on the table worked just fine for slicing the tender meat. There was no excess fat on the steak, moist with savory Jameson’s whiskey butter. Buttery, too, was the veggie mix on the side — thin slices of zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and broccoli florets. For $1 extra I switched from the French fries the dish came with to sweet potato fries, crisp and seasoned just right.
Desserts are homemade. A special, Peach/Blueberry Crumble ($6.90), didn’t have a whole lot of crumble in it, but the baking had released the tangy, rich flavors of the fruit.
I couldn’t resist a slice of Agnes McBride’s Apple Pie ($7.50), served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, as the menu promised it was “her award-winning recipe.” In a later phone call, Mark Russell said the daughter of the late Agnes McBride of the East Side (whose name is coincidental to the pub name) was delighted when he asked for her mother’s apple pie recipe, which had won a baking contest. Served warm, the apple filling under a thin crust was sweetly satisfying.
We left about 45 minutes shy of the nightly 10 p.m. Last Call, when glasses are raised to one person who has “Gone to the Promised Land,” and the name of the deceased is logged in the pub’s Last Call leather bound book. That’s one for next time.