Lifting a Pint to Dear Old St. Canice

2011.Jul.22 Friday · 0 comments

in Restaurants

“To understand Kilkenny’s unique character one should retire from the busy streets to the lovely Castle Park and, standing within the shadow of the ancient pile, contemplate the great jumble of roof-tops, old and young, which tumble down to the quiet-flowing river beneath. Here dove-grey spires and battlemented towers proclaim a city old in Christian living and wise in human experience. One can feel the heartbeat of an ancient civilised community.”

– Katherine M Lanigan, Gerald Tyler (Eds), Kilkenny, Its Architecture & History

You likely remember last week’s disastrous visit to the new (and hopefully either short lived or rapidly improved) Thai fast food joint. Having left behind the majority of the meal in a bin, I wandered back out onto the Reconquista peatonal in search of more interesting sustenance. The proliferation of places to eat along this street over the last few years since they turned the stretch into a pedestrian mall (that still seems to get a steady stream of traffic through, despite the signs that only allow for delivery trucks and such – and none of the patrolling PFA officers seem to care) is truly amazing. It might actually be an interesting exercise to eat from one end to the other, at least of the places that are actually restaurants (there are as many small sandwich and empanada type kiosks as there are sit-down places).

A block away at the corner of Marcelo T. de Alvear I spotted The Kilkenny at #399, one of the classic Irish pubs of BA. Not my normal fare, but, a good sandwich had a certain appeal at the moment, and I’d made a scribbled note awhile back when Brando magazine listed it as having one of the top five sandwiches in the city, a fresh grilled salmon sandwich, which sounded perfect.

The Kilkenny

It looks like a pub. It’s lit like a pub. There’s a pony-tailed bartender behind the bar who told me I could sit anywhere that was a table for two, not one of the larger tables. Not a big deal, though the place was completely empty at 1 p.m. – there is an upstairs dining room as well, and there were maybe a dozen people up there. He popped over to the table, rattled off a couple specials of the day, and offered the menu as well. Hmmm, no salmon sandwich. I mentioned the article (which is just a couple of years old). He said he’d been there for going on five years and never seen a salmon sandwich. He popped back to the kitchen and returned to say that the chef, who’d been there even longer, said he’d never had a fresh salmon sandwich on the menu.

The Kilkenny - smoked pork sandwich

Among the half dozen sandwich offerings, and several burgers, the one that caught my eye was the “smoked pork and cheddar” sandwich. Now, I have to admit, I envisioned something completely different. I was thinking along the lines of a smoky, pulled pork sandwich, tender and dripping with melted cheddar on its thick cut multi-grain bread. The bread, though thinner cut, was exactly what I envisioned (The Kilkenny makes all its own breads, and they’re excellent), but the filling, not so much. A few leaf thin slices of lunchmeat style smoked pork loin, a couple slices of sandwich singles, and a drizzle of herb oil. Tasty, and in and of itself, not a bad choice, especially with a pulled pint of the Gambrinus IPA (I was thinking the stout, but the bartender assured me the IPA would be a better match), though perhaps a trifle skimpy in the middle and just not what I was fantasizing about. Of course, the disappointment of the earlier attempt at a meal was probably coloring my afternoon as well.

The Kilkenny - aussie burger

The Kilkenny - lamb burger

Still, it was good enough that a few days later when a friend was up for meeting downtown I suggested we go back and try some others. Same bartender, but a waiter in the room. Still, with two of us, only a small table, despite the fact that during the entire lunch not a single other person joined us in the pub – a few came in and headed upstairs again. Really, if you’re not busy, what’s the big deal if two folk take one of the dozen or more tables for four? Anyway, just out of curiosity, asked the waiter the same question, he too had been there for a couple of years and no, no salmon sandwich that he was aware of. We decided to try a couple of the burgers – the Aussie and the Lamb. Pretty darned good. These are less what I think of as classic burgers and more of a handful of ground meat that’s been smashed flat on the griddle and cooked nicely on both sides – both burgers juicy and well seasoned, the buns, really about the best hamburger buns I’ve encountered in this city, all the accompaniments fresh and even reasonably abundant. This time I had the stout with the lamb burger, another great match. Chips, by the way, are tasty, though on all three plates over the two days, a bit over-cooked.

Prices for sandwiches and burgers run in the mid 30s, the pints of ale the same, perhaps a touch out of balance there. Then again, that’s for the imported Irish ale, the local stuff is much cheaper. Overall, a decent place to pop in and have a bite and lift a pint to St. Canice (the patron saint of the city of Kilkenny). I just wonder where Brando’s writer actually ate her salmon sandwich, it still sounds really good.


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