I’m not a big drinker. And I hate going out to the bars. A night with a bar stool up my butt while I sip on a $10 drink? Not my idea of a good time.
I do make exceptions for two things:
- A good happy hour (cheap drinks AND I can still be in bed by 10)
- Bar food
Bars are an untapped resource when it comes to finding a good cheap place for a full meal. When I visited London in college, pubs became the only place in which I could afford a meal that was tasty, filling and easy on my student budget.
Under normal circumstances, O’Shea’s is a place I would avoid. It’s one of many bars sandwiched together along Baxter Avenue. On weekend nights, traffic inches by groups of bar-hoppers. It’s loud. It’s crowded. It’s a shock to my system that keeps me tucked far away.
But Baxter Avenue at 5 p.m. on a weekday? Completely manageable, downright pleasant and the best time to slide into a wooden booth at O’Shea’s and enjoy an early dinner.
The lunch and dinner menu is full of filling dishes that include Irish favorites and Kentucky standards. The Guinness Beef Stew topped with mashed potatoes ($6.99) sounds great for a cold winter day, but I’d also settle for Irish Whiskey Style steak sandwich ($8.99, includes one side item). For those with a more Bluegrass taste, there is the Classic Hot Brown ($8.99) or the 12-inch Bourbon County Flat, a whole-wheat pizza with chicken, mozzarella, red onions and bourbon barbeque sauce ($10.95). Diners can also substitute any of the pub’s hamburgers ($6.99-8.59) with Kentucky-raised bison for an additional $2.50.
O’Shea’s also offers a variety of pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers that could turn into meals. But when I hear the word “pub,” my mind instinctively scans the menu for fish and chips. O’Shea’s doesn’t disappoint — Fish & Chips is the first option available under the “Pub Classics” section.
On a recent dinner date, my husband and I each ordered the Icelandic cod, battered European-style with Guinness beer (the other option is a cracker-crumb coating known as O’Shea’s-style). On the advice of a waitress, we replaced the fries that come with the platter with pommes frites, “handcut potatoes fried twice at two different temperatures the way they’re prepared in Belgium,” the menu told us. The fish and chips also comes with a side of coleslaw. I had the half order that comes with one fillet ($8.99), while Mr. Ashlee Eats got down with the two-fillet full order ($12.99).
First, let’s talk about the bad, which was fortunately just a tiny part of the meal.
One bite into the coleslaw, and the little plastic cup earned a place off my plate. The pub considers this more of a garnish than an actual side, the waitress said, and it was evident in the taste. The cabbage tasted like it had been sitting in the refrigerator for a day too long. It was bland and forgettable, especially compared to the delight that was the entree itself.
The fish and chips (well, pommes frites) were fantastic. It is just as simple as that. The cod was freshly battered and hot out of the fryer, so much so that a few moments of cool breath were necessary. The coating was thick, crisp and perfectly brown. The fish beneath the batter was flaky and moist with a seemingly melt-in-your-mouth quality.
The pommes frites are just as crispy as the breading on the fish. The side dish seemed more like the kind of french fries I might make at home if left with a pile of potatoes and vat of grease. They were much better than anything a fast-food restaurant could offer. There’s also a medley of dipping sauces you can choose to go with your frites. My heart belongs to the horseradish aioli.
By the time we polished off our meal, the after-work crowd had started to trickle into the pub. I happily walked by the faces at the bar with a belly full of good food and a smile knowing I wouldn’t be stuck on a bar stool for the rest of the evening.
Notes about O’Shea’s Irish Pub
- Want a drink while you eat? Here is the pub’s drink menu.
- The servers have always been super friendly on my visits to O’Shea’s. They give great recommendations and are very honest.
- The menus, options and prices are different at each of the four bars in the O’Shea’s family, so look at the menus before you pick your destination.
O’Shea’s Irish Pub, 956 Baxter Ave., Louisville, Ky.
- Fish & Chips half order, European style: $8.99
- Water: $0
- Total (with tax): $9.53