Restaurant News & Reviews

Mulligan's Gardenside Cafe: Simple, hearty Irish fare can make a diner want to sing

With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, I felt a need to review an Irish restaurant. I found a humdinger.

Mulligan's Gardenside Café isn't the prettiest place I've ever seen. It used to be a gas station. But it has a capable kitchen and one of the friendliest wait staffs around.

I went to Mulligan's twice for this review, once with a colleague and once alone. The first visit was, in a way, a bust. We were served fantastic Irish cooking, but we were the only people dining in the restaurant. There were a few people in the bar, but the dining room was empty when we arrived. On the second trip, the place was busier. On both trips, we ate Irish and weren't disappointed.

I'll start with what I had on Tuesday, boxty ($7.95) and braised cabbage ($2.95). The boxty was made of heavy mashed potatoes mixed with green onion and maybe a little egg for binder. They were flattened into patties and fried to almost crunchy. Two boxty were set in a good Mornay sauce. They were heaven. What's better than potatoes and gravy?

The cabbage, something I usually like with vinegar, had a hint of garlic and a lot of butter. I've never had cabbage so good. Vinegar wasn't necessary.

For Thursday's dinner, one of the more predictable appetizers we tried was the stuffed mushrooms ($6.95). Nice but not extravagant button mushrooms were stuffed with chicken, cheese and herbs and served with a slightly spicy Cajun, dill remoulade. My dinner companion thought they were great.

Another appetizer, the Dublin potato pot ($8.95), was as large as any entrée we tried. This dish was dressing- or stuffinglike, just chunkier. Potatoes, bacon, green onion, slices of grilled chicken and cheddar cheese were mixed and baked in the same dish. Flavors most people love were served in one entrée.

Hot pots, kind of a crustless pot pie, seem to be an Irish favorite. The Irish hot pot ($10.45), made with ­either beef or chicken, (we chose chicken) was a delicious stew made with garlic and onion and topped with a puff pastry. A side of heavy but luscious buttermilk mashed potatoes ($2.95) was as good as it gets.

And, lastly, I sampled Mulligan's Irish stew. Beef, not lamb, made up this hearty stew — and the beef, according to our server, was tenderloin. Beef, potatoes and onion were cooked in a beef demiglaze and served in a deep soup plate. It was as rich as cream and delicious.

The only mistake I saw on the slow Thursday night was while we were finishing our stews, I noticed the lights went out in the kitchen. Dessert wasn't an option at that point. We didn't have room left in our stomachs, anyway.

All of the dishes we ordered were on the heavy side. I was beginning to imagine Food Network's Paula Deen was in the kitchen dumping butter into everything. But Mulligan's offers lighter fare, including assorted sandwiches, salads, beef and chicken dishes, and interesting seafood entrées. When I go back to Mulligan's Gardenside Café, though, I want Irish.

Dinner for two, including one cocktail, was $55. A single dinner of boxty, cabbage and iced tea was $13, tip not included.

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