Diner: Review: Sully's Saloon

Action-packed downtown newcomer needs to focus on food

May 2, 2007 at 2:06 pm

If you check out the Web site, you'll see why Sully's Saloon, a new downtown restaurant, is a popular destination. The "wildest Irish pub on Earth" appears to have non-stop action. There's TGIF drink specials, guest bartenders, Kentucky Derby parties, bachelorette and birthday party packages and, of course, the mysterious Jameson Room — an enclosed space that can be booked for private parties, but you can also park your butt there if no one else has dibs. It looked nice in there the night I went to dinner with my parents. Exclusive. Clean. Quiet.

After walking through the bar with its 10 sports-tuned TVs, we were seated in a dining room with only two TVs, black leather booths and tables with black linens and napkins. It looked more upscale than the bar —an area better suited for a beer with the guys than dinner with the folks.

After a long wait between our drink order and the appearance of glassware, an apologetic server brought our beverages, obviously pissed that the bar had been left unstaffed and we had to wait so long.

It was her first week on the job. I hope the restaurant has the sense to keep her there as long as possible — it was one of those nights that if not for the server all might have been lost.

I'll just be honest and admit our food experience generally tilted toward the negative side. But it didn't start out that way.

For appetizers we tried the Irish Blue Cheese Chips ($7.95), which consisted of thick cut chips, a warm bleu cheese sauce, crumbled blue cheese, green onion, red peppers and bacon and the Reuben Nachos ($7.95) — sauerkraut, corned beef and a Swiss cheese sauce on top of thick potato chips. I was skeptical of the Reuben chips, but I gotta say that tangy sauerkraut and salty chips mysteriously kept finding their way to my mouth. We finally had to tell the server to take the dish away in our own best interest.

For entrées we weren't so lucky. My mom's cup of Irish Onion Soup ($3.95) — made with sautéed onions, beef broth, Guinness, croutons and melted cheese — was as flat as a can of Campbell's. The over-sized onion slices were definitely sautéed, but the best French onion soups consist of caramelized, slow-cooked slices that add a sweet, deep flavor to the soup. Her House Salad (half/$4.95; full/$5.95) stood up better with a selection of mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons and cheese. (Our server endeared herself to me when she read off the salad dressing choices to my mom, realizing the print was too light and room too dark for customers with older eyes.)

My stepdad was looking forward to what he expected to be thick, juicy slabs of pork chops at $17.95. He remained politely quiet as he ate his thin, over-cooked chops, which were served with an apple and cider sauce, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach with bleu cheese.

Sadly, my Corned Beef and Cabbage ($8.95) was no better. What the menu proclaimed as "tender" turned out to be two mottled slabs of meat that were dry as a bone. They sat on top of some buttered green cabbage and were served with a creamy mustard sauce, which helped add a little flavor.

Our server realized I didn't have any carbohydrate with my meal before I even had to ask. It was sweet of her — I just wish the kitchen cared as much for us. They had to make a new batch of potatoes and in their rush they didn't completely cook them.

I've been lukewarm about Irish pubs for a while and generally feel they have run their course, but the menu listings at Sully's sounded good and a little different than what I was expecting, so I was disappointed in the execution.

Maybe the restaurant is just trying too hard to be too many things. It has the bar with its emphasis on sports, a dining room that seems to aspire to a more upscale feel and the exclusive Jameson Room, yet another step up. With so much going on it's probably hard to stop and focus on the food.

I would recommend it to someone looking for a good place to hang after work for appetizers and a drink (check out those Reuben Nachos) or for a quick bite before going to the game. But the kitchen definitely needs to work on their entrées if the restaurant hopes to move up a rung on the local culinary ladder.

As for the service side, the restaurant should be saluted for hiring people who care about their customers. Along with attention of an earnest young server, the dining room manager, seeing that our service took too long, comped part of the meal without our having to ask.

This kind of attention can go a long way in building repeat business. ©

Sully's Saloon
Go: 700 Race St., Downtown

Call: 513-381-4302

Hours: Dining hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; late-night menu: 10 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday

Prices: Moderate

Payment: Major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, seafood, chicken, vegetarian sandwich options

Accessibility: Fully accessible

Grade: C