Food Three stars
Service Three stars
Ambience Three stars
Address: 512 Main St., Longmont
Contact: 303-772-0252, mikeoshays.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Noise Level: Moderate, and while it's a lively spot, not surprising given its public house pedigree, it was still relatively easy to carry on a conversation.
Centrally located on Longmont's Main Street, Mike O'Shay's, self-described as a restaurant and ale house, is a textbook example of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of place. With an inviting moniker, patrons would anticipate finding a degree of comfortable casualness, hospitable service and a menu heavy on classic pub grub. For the most part, this longtime eatery delivers on this promise in a relaxing setting heavy on wood decor and soft lighting.
While service on a dinner visit was friendly and our server obviously cared about our experience, there was a long wait for our first courses as well as our entrees. Granted, the place was packed, no mean feat on a weeknight. Additionally, I could overhear customers at the door being told that there was a half hour wait for tables.
The menu leans heavy on public house tradition, but not so much that it seems dull or out of date. Classic starters count chicken wings, potato skins, nachos and fries among their ranks. Less common selections range from risotto cheese balls to tempura green beans. There are expected pub entree stalwarts like fish and chips, bangers and mash, which always sounds like some sort of off-color colloquialism, and an Irish pork stew. More geographically far-reaching main courses include fries and mussels in the Belgian style, chicken-fried steak, and Cabo-style tacos. Many dishes here are, by default, and perhaps design, gluten-free.
Earning bonus points by dint of its sheer uniqueness, the $12 Irish egg roll starter might also be described a Reuben by way of Asia. Stuffed with cabbage, corned beef and Swiss cheese, this dish is a more successful mashup than one would initially imagine. The hot and crisp fried exterior worked well with the fillings, although the cabbage made for a more drippy experience than usual. A creamy horseradish dipping sauce, resembling the dressing one might find in a Reuben, made for a vibrant accompaniment.
A $6 bowl of New England-style seafood chowder spotlighted both reasonably large and tender chunks of clam, along with less-commonly encountered shrimp morsels. The flavor was about as good as one could expect, being that we're nearly a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. However, one small flaw is that the consistency of this cream-based soup was a touch too floury, but fortunately it didn't overtake the delicate seafood flavor.
Entrees were generally pleasing, although a few details could use improvement. My dining companion and I generally enjoyed the gravy in her $14 shepherd's pie, but it could have used some thickening and a touch more seasoning. A mix of ground lamb and beef helped punch up the heartiness of the rustic standby, aided and abetted by tender peas and carrots. A topping of mashed potatoes was appropriately buttery and silky in consistency, adding to this dish's satisfaction quotient.
Another nice touch is that this course came with two thick slices of French bread and a simple, fresh green salad. A cucumber and wasabi dressing was both innovative in concept and successful in execution, with the cooling vegetable and lively Japanese condiment striking a fine balance of flavor.
My main course was the $19 bone-in tomahawk pork chop, a most satisfying choice. Thick, moist and tender, and successfully boosted by a subtly sweet Irish whiskey glaze and a whisper of smoke, this chop only needed a slightly warmer serving temperature. Sweet maple-glazed carrots struck a winning balance between a fine-dining presentation and a substantial, yet humble, side dish that went well with the pork chop.
Our shared dessert of a was a darn-near perfect fall comforter, a $6.99 homemade apple crisp a la mode, topped with a choice of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Not too sweet and loaded with a respectable ration of fruit, this was a winning dessert, with genuine homespun flavor, appearance, and crumbly texture. A proper warm serving temperature also enhanced this dessert's delights.
There's a certain comfort in dining at a place like Mike O'Shay's. Once you enter, you have a good idea of what you're getting yourself into, and this spot delivers on its promise of straightforward, hearty food without a hint of pretense. Much like a well-worn pair of jeans, this easygoing pub makes for a familiar, but satisfying dining experience.