It's all about being green. Oprah gives tips on going green. TIME.com has a weekly green column. NBC has hosted a green week. Continental Airlines. Honda. Everyone...well, not everyone, but Bush still has some time in office.
Green was on the top of my mind for my latest dining mission: Plano's The Fillmore Pub. St. Patrick's Day may have come and gone, but with the green (a different green, but a green nonetheless) holiday comes "drinking season." Why not combine the greens? Be environmentally friendly and take in some Irish drink and pub fare at the same time. Hell, maybe greenery would be eaten, as well.
My first trip to the Fillmore was admittedly by car (I'll get to greener methods later), but luckily, the ol' Honda isn't a guzzler, and its digestion of fuel was vastly different from mine, thanks to the pub's menu.
We waited a bit for a table to clear; a second-Saturday street festival had packed the house. After ordering a Black Velvet (the Fillmore floats Guinness on Ace Pear), my companion and I dove headfirst into a near mountain of loaded cheese fries. While cheese fries don't normally conjure up old Ireland, the homage to that life-saving potato was done damn well. Piled in layers, cheese, bacon, jalapeños and chives clung as devotedly to the hand-cut spuds as they did to our arteries later. Despite their hue, the peppers and chives did little to make the dish healthy, but they did counter the tad bit of grease. Southerners and sorority sisters fret not: Ranch was served on the side.
Next came a deli Reuben and one of the Fillmore's "signature dishes," pub-style fish and chips. The Reuben was as packed with Boar's Head corned beef as the venue was with patrons. The grilled rye could barely contain the tall mass of tender meat, Swiss and sauerkraut (a bit of veg to cripple the guilt). It was a mouthful for sure, but excellent for soaking up drink.
The accompanying Irish beef stew didn't fare as well. The broth was too thin, possibly bottom-of-the-pot. The meat chunks were a bit gristly and were far outnumbered by mushy carrot hunks.
The fish and chips, however, handsomely prevailed. A crispy batter coated the Atlantic cod with a lightness that was unexpected given the deep-frying. Fish and chips always face a challenge of presentation, given the drab golden-on-golden hues, but a good, flaky cod can overcome. The Fillmore indeed has a line on good cod...and one of the best tartar sauces I've ever tasted.
Normally, I go for a chunky tartar, but this version could change my mind. The puree of mayo, dill and horseradish (and was that a twinge of garlic?) was creamy and divine. The puree kept the sauce from being too thick and reduced the possibilities of a "mayo only" bite. If I were a fried fish, I'd bathe in it.
The chips (larger cuts compared with the French fries) were crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle and rejoiced in the malt vinegar intended for the fish. There's a reason fish and chips is a signature dish here.
For the next trip up north, we fueled up on food and drink, but not gasoline. Approximately 25 minutes after hopping the DART rail to the downtown Plano stop, my dining crew and I walked all of two minutes to the Fillmore. Instead of wasting effort road raging, there was time to unwind from the day and get ready to shovel.
With no festival crowd, our party of four had our choice of tables—though the bar stools were filled with a wide array of pint-drinkers—and we tucked into black bean nachos (because this is Texas and a good pub aims to please, I suppose). The overall consensus was that the cheddared and jacked platter was more akin to nachos one would make at home at midnight, but "pretty good drinking food," as one diner put it. Good absorption factor, excessively large tomato chunks. The Fillmore earned points for quantity. And the salsa was more like a fire-roasted red bell pepper relish or chutney than a traditional Tex-Mex salsa or pico.
The chicken salad sandwich was served on a hearty sourdough and stood up to our server's impassioned testimony: It's her favorite right now; she eats it all the time. The salad was a relatively simple offering of tender, shredded chicken. The mayo was of a modest quantity, small bits of celery offered crunch and a touch of black pepper perked up the tongue. Lettuce and tomato, and after the server's suggestion, Guinness cheddar, rounded out the sandwich to blue-ribbon status. A Priest's Collar (another combo of cider and stout, but heavier on the stout) reversed whatever good the veggies did...as it should do.
The hot ham and Swiss proved solid, traditional pub cuisine. It was melty, guilt-inducing and a perfect, simple start to drinking season. The spicy mustard was applied generously and added zest to what could have been too heavy an offering. A Black and Blue (Guinness and Blue Moon), Half and Half (Guinness and Stella) or Snakebite (Stella and Ace Pear) would all make fine companions. No greens, but the sandwich sharers at our table didn't seem to mind.
What we did mind were two cups of the potato leek soup. We were expecting, well, potatoes and leeks, but what we got was more like cheesy baked potato glug. It was mealy and pasty, tasting oddly of paper—as though too much potato flake, powdered milk, cornstarch or some other thickener were used. The crisps of bacon on top, along with the cheese flavoring, only added to the baked-potato effect. The soup went against what the pub does well: They make good, simple food, and this soup made simple potato leek soup unsuccessfully complicated.
But leave it to Guinness. The Guinness cheddar cheeseburger brought the night back around. The half-pound patty was perfectly cooked, juicy and with a good sear. The Guinness cheddar (a hearty cheese marbled with the stout) oozed across the beef and, damn, it created one helluva guilty pleasure. We absolutely needed every bit of lettuce, tomato and onion it had to dress it just so we didn't feel like barbarians. The added greenery slowed down the instinct to eat it as fast as possible. Trust me: Be lame and go with a light beer if ever you order that burger—especially if you keep a calorie diary.
The Fillmore Pub's proximity to the DART rail doesn't really matter if you're heading back to Big D much after midnight, but there are other bonuses. One is the neighboring playground to the station—it provides some calorie-burning romp time crucial after the Guinness burger. Another is the factor that after ingesting several pounds of pub fare and brew, one doesn't have to attempt a drive home—good for a food coma and a decent half-hour sobering-up session. And of course, there's the green factor.
The entire process, like the majority of the Fillmore's food and atmosphere, is simple and relaxed. Green and green, with some greens on the side.
1004 E. 15th St., Plano, 972-423-2400. Open 4 p.m.–2 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m. Thursday–Sunday. $-$$