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Short Orders: Malarkey's Tavern

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Malarkey's Tavern
4460 Trinity Mills
 972-931-7300

I had only been in the place for about ten minutes before the inevitable happened. That's right, in a pub listing some 100 beers from all over the world a guy sits down and asks if they carry Bud Light on tap.

Why does this happen so often? He can't like the taste--unless maybe he also loves the complexities of plain rice cakes.

Probably should hang out in his backyard with the Grooler.

To Malarkey's credit, they don't waste tap space on barley water, serving Bud Light and other mass market Americans by the bottle only. Draft options are more along Smithwicks-Boulevard-Belhaven-Maredsous lines. And the menu ranges from favorites of Ireland and the U.K. to pub classics such as burgers, wings and fried pickles--as well as a couple adventurous fusion items.

Of course, since you rarely hear people say "hey, let's go for some Irish tonight," the list of sandwiches and new world fare takes up more space.

Their Irish stew offers up the meaty-starchy richness you'd expect. And where so many restaurants "upscale" the rustic dish by emphasizing chunks of good, browned meat, the texture here is more of an old-fashioned, slowly simmered cauldron dish. In other words, beef separates into individual strands, vegetables soften into porridge and--on the plus side--flavors blend together into a hearty constant.

Yet the setting seems to call for the fancier, modern version.

No matter--nothing wrong with throwback dishes. And this stew forms the thin, bottom layer of their shepherd's pie, which comes across as a mashed potato showcase. Only a cap of melted cheddar prevents an overdose of blandness. Of course, that's not entirely out of character for shepherd's pie. I've had boldly peppered, meaty stews with crust of potato, as well as tamer versions like this one.

It's a matter of preference, really. Love "gastro-pub" cooking, these might not become favorites. Adore simple fare, you may just hit it off with Malarkey's kitchen. At the very least, their shepherd's pie is an alcohol-absorbing dish.

Good thing--this is the kind of place you want to sit and drink. The owners completely gutted the drab, predictable interior left by Prego's, the previous occupant. So you find a comfortable, meandering bar, covered booths, lots of stone and warm woods--even a lounge corner complete with library shelves.

No wonder the place has been crowded since it opened just over a month ago. It's the kind of pub where strangers start to talk...although probably not about the food.

Well, can't say that for sure. I'll have to go back for the corned beef and cabbage, a burger and their "soon to be famous" (what it says on the menu) ribs to find out. Their fried pickles are thick cut and seasoned heartily, thus beating out many of the others I've tried around the city.

Maybe I'll order a Bud Light and try to fit in. On the other hand...

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