This past weekend, the urchins and I took my better half out for a bit of a pre-birthday celebration to Tir Na Nog, the latest Irish Pub to open in Cherry Hill. Its location has been a death knell to most of the occupants as this is now the fourth restaurant to take over this site in the last 15 years. Tir Na Nog takes over from Dubh Linn Square, a passable Irish restaurant that seemed to go downhill (in terms of patronage) very quickly. Apart from a modest redesign of the entrance (what happened to the seats by the front door???), the bar and restaurant looks exactly the same. The menu on the other hand has been completely rebooted. While I always enjoyed the prior establishment’s menu, the urchins were left with limited options (a grilled cheese, nachos, or the cheese steak egg rolls), while my VERY particular Italian wife was left with even fewer options and would usually just have the brown bread with honey and pecan butter as her entrée.
Thanks to the menu reboot, we ordered the Beefsteak Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad (I guess an Irish pub can’t use the words Caprese salad) and the Rhode Island Fried Calamari as an appetizer. The Caprese salad had respectable tomatoes, but instead of slivers of buffalo mozzarella, they instead opted to use little mozzarella balls. As a consequence (and possibly influenced by our recent return from a trip to Italy), the salad was only okay. The calamari, on the other hand, was a completely different story. We order this appetizer just about everywhere we go, and this time, thanks to the breaded pepper rings and chipotle remoulade, it was fantastic. Let’s move on to our entrees…
With a somewhat limited menu for the younger patrons, the urchins ordered some chicken fingers (decent but not very remarkable) and fries (very good). My better half ordered the Penne Pasta a la Vodka (this is why you should never bring an Italian to an Irish restaurant!). Much to my surprise, the pasta was very good. I ordered Boneless Beef Short Ribs which were cooked to perfection and covered in a Guinness and red wine gravy (great for dipping the fries that I wrestled away from my urchins). The Short Ribs came with two sides: wasabi mashed potatoes and mixed root vegetables. I’m a big fan of root vegetables (especially if you can dunk them in Guinness gravy) and I thought they were very good. Unfortunately, the mashed potatoes were overloaded with wasabi and not to my liking. I’m not sure what they were thinking in the kitchen, but a forkful of mashed potatoes should not clear one’s sinuses. If I ever order this entree again (highly likely given how much I enjoyed it), I will instead opt for the fries.
Over the years, I have grown acustomed to receiving truly atrocious service whenever I go out to eat. I am so used to this that I don’t even notice the poor service anymore (a bit of Stockholm syndrome perhaps?), and my wife always questions why we even bother to go out. Given all that, I am happy to report that the service at Tir Na Nog was quick, professional, and very courteous. I am also happy to report that the bar has a great tap list (I opted for an Innis & Gunn Scotch Ale and then the obligatory Blacksmith) and a respectable whiskey list complete with a full complement of Jameson expressions. My only gripes are with the prices and the sound system. The food and drink are a little pricey, but I have come to expect that over the years and will gladly pay a little more if the quality is there (and I thought it was). With regards to the the sound system, I’m not sure what the difficulty was, but you either had no music, or the music was so loud that your ears were bleeding. Somewhere in between would be nice. Other than those two minor quibbles, I would say that our first trip to Tir Na Nog was a good one. I think there will be others.