Tuesday, June 21, 2011

O'Moving Day at O'Niell's

How do you thank people who drive 400 miles through wind and smoke (yes, we drive through smoke in New Mexico now) several hours each way to store a truckload's worth of furniture for you while you prance off to Ireland?

You take them out to lunch, of course. We took Jenny's folks to O'Niell's Uptown this past Saturday for just that reason. (Thanks for making that drive, guys!)

Can I just say that taking them to lunch is the best thing you can do for your parents when they are as true-blue as mine until you are a millionaire, at which point you need to alleviate them of all the stress and burdens they ever had!

O'Niell's has become a bit of a standby in Albuquerque. It now has two locations (one in Nob Hill, one in the Northeast Heights), which pretty much means it's conveniently located no matter what circle of friends, family, or acquaintances we have any reason to dine with.

And it's alright. The food is solid if not spectacular (I think we both wish so many of the entrees were less greasy than they are--yes, it's pub grub, but still), the decor is fitting if not exorbitant, and, well, each spot has an outdoor patio where I prefer to sit.

Don't let Zach's description underwhelm you. O'Niell's has done a spectacular job making itself the closest thing to a community-minded, family-friendly pub...the kind one sees overseas. They have regular live performances by bag-pipers, folk-singers, and more! They have other fun events like Geeks-Who-Drink! Zach and I have attended several of these, whereby you listen to several rounds of mixed Trivial Pursuit-like questions, mark your answers on a sheet and turn them in one round at a time. You're trying to come up with on-the-spot answers on topics as varied as movies, history, pop-culture, music, and so on. All while drinking...and probably eating. It's fun! We placed 5th one night...which is not bad considering we were up against teams of 5+!

We end up going there so frequently in large part because of the variety of the menu, and that's both food and drink. Family can't agree on American food or Italian food or Mexican food? O'Niell's has a bit of all of it, on top of the standard Anglo-Celtic fare. They are one of the more vegetarian-friendly places in town, with several palatable options (including the Weird Sandwich, which changes to something different each day, with varying degrees of weirdness), and the portions are substantial without being too large. I've yet to see someone take home leftovers because they got too full... but then again, no one leaves complaining of hunger.

The drink menu is, objectively speaking, one of the better in town. If you're into scotch, our friend Megan would have some recommendations for you. And if you're into beer... well, you're talking to the right folks.

O'Niell's has a standard set of beers on tap -- ones like Guinness and their own* O'Red. And the best part is, they have a rotating seasonal variety. (Most of them aren't local, but they're decent microbrews and other small-brewery products.) This past winter, for example, they had Rogue's Dead Man Ale, a Monkeyshine (so good you'll get a third pint), and the Santa Fe State Pen Porter. (That porter deserves a post all its own. Jenny, whaddya think?) 

No objections here! I love that porter! Stay tuned devoted readers....

*This past Saturday, I asked our waitress if the O'Red was brewed by O'Niell's. She said no, that it was really the Full Sail Amber, just relabeled. O'Niell's is good, but this is why it doesn't rank among the very best beer establishments in New Mexico.

What do they have this summer? Well, I wish I could tell you in greater detail. But our waitress ascribed to the school of "ask me what's on tap, and I'll cock my hip and try to recite them all in one breath." And then get them wrong. I know they have a double Fat Tire right now, because when my dad asked what that was, she said it was a new strong version from Newcastle, rather than New Belgium. She was clearly not a beer drinker herself. Which is fine--but those of us who care what's on tap probably want to hear the names as separately and distinctly as we want to taste them. (And I have to say, I think that's rare for the staff at O'Niell's. Usually they are quite knowledgeable about the drinks and specials. This girl had to be new.)

Jenny ordered the Santa Fe Hefeweizen, which I think was the perfect selection for an early Saturday afternoon in June. (It truly was. I was the envy of our table. This Hefeweizen was pretty good! It was--almost shockingly--the color and opacity of melted butter. It made me think immediately of those deliciously make-believe butter beers we Potter fans have read about for years. Although it came with a wedge of orange, it did not need it. The beer had a wonderfully bright, citrussy flavor all its own. You could of course taste the wheat, but it did not remind me of liquid bread, as many wheat beers are wont to do. It's was not as good as Hefewizens I've had in Europe, but I can hardly object. I thoroughly endorse this beer for anyone's consumptional enjoyment.)

I got the Arrogant Bastard, in part because I'm snotty about my German-style beers and partly because it was the first item in our waitress's recitation. (Specifically, I think you got the Oaked Bastard...)

The Bastard was good. Like O'Niell's--solid, everything I asked for, but nothing to make the family sell the farm. (So really, what you're saying is that it was more of a Pretentious Fop, and not so arrogant or bastardly?) I appreciated the hint of oak that lingered around the edges of the dark brown ale, though like a fat guy in a Boba Fett costume on Halloween, the taste of alcohol let its presence be known more than I would have preferred. It was a good complement to the Big Cheese sandwich I had, but more than anything because I drenched my fries in malt vinegar. Ale just goes with malt vinegar, no matter what you put it on.

We left the restaurant before having a second drink because we had a truck full of furniture to get loaded up. But if we had stayed, I don't believe I would have ordered another Bastard. To be honest, I'd have stuffed my stuffiness and ordered one of the Hefeweizens, hold the orange.

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