Going Gaelic at the Rugby House For St. Paddy's Day

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Well, it's officially March, which means the coming of spring, college hoop madness, and yes, St. Patrick's Day, which, in addition to attending the Observer's annual Greenville Avenue parade, many Dallasites celebrate by visiting the North Texas Irish Festival, an entire weekend devoted to Irish music and dancing, not to mention good food and drink (The whiskey tasting tent--always popular).

Those in our northern 'burbs, however, don't always want to make the long trek down Central or the Tollway to get their Irish fix. Happily, a spate of new pubs has opened in the suburbs, proving a recent finding that no restaurant concept makes money nearly as fast as an Irish pub, and when you throw truly great food into the bargain, a new owner may find that he or she has literally struck Blarney gold.

So, acting on a tip from an acquaintance who definitely knows her bangers and mash, my wife and I drove to the newly- opened Rugby House, just south of 121 on Preston in Plano.

Skies were rainy and dreary, but Rugby House's interior is cheery, with lots of wood, flat panel TV's and festive flags. Immediately seated, we began to peruse the extensive list of available ales. Fourteen selections on tap alone, not counting the rotator taps, plus plenty more bottled beer.

My wife stuck with her usual Black Velvet, but I took a tip from our own resident Hophead Jesse Hughey and selected the delightfully hoppy Dogfish Head 60 min. I.P.A, though brewed in Delaware. (Guess I could have gotten into the Irish spirit a little more)

Selecting our lunch fare proved more of a challenge, but my wife and I stuck with our old rule of selecting house specialties, and as before, they turned out to be excellent choices. Diners who judge pubs by the quality of their Fish & Chips should love Rugby House's version.

Beer-battered haddock filets were fresh and flaky and particularly tasty when dunked in the house-made tartar sauce. (If you're a malt vinegar fan, don't fret, as Rugby House keeps some on every table.) Cole slaw was

balanced and not too sweet. Fries had skins-on, sporting a true potato flavor and texture that led us to believe they were fresh rather than frozen. My wife's choices were less Irish, but every bit as good: mmmMac and Cheese (as it's called on the menu), was made with five cheeses and tasted rich and sumptuous, with an almost-crispy oven baked crust. (Suspect parmesan and brie were two of the cheeses, not sure about the others.)

By contrast, her House Salad was nicely light and fresh, a blend of spring greens, grape tomato, carrot, cucumber, and goat cheese, and a welcome partner to the rich pasta.

Service was attentive, our waiter thoughtfully providing paper towels rather than the requested extra napkins. ("They absorb better," he said.) Atmosphere is festive, with reggae and Beatles making up the bulk of the music mix. Be better if they'd add a few tunes by Irish artists. Best of all, live music is available on Thursdays and Fridays, and on St. Patrick's Day, Beatles tribute band and local favorites A Hard Nights Day will be performing.

We will no doubt be back for the beer specials and the food, which is good enough
whether you've got something to celebrate or not.

Rugby House
8604 Preston Rd, Ste 100, Plano

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