Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. But Slainte Irish Pub and Restaurant in Fells Point celebrates the culture's gastronomy on a daily basis.
Dishes like corned beef and cabbage and shepherd's pie are staples on the menu, as are beverages such as Guinness, Harp Lager and Irish coffee.
There are other foods, too, prepared by chef Michael Russell, responsible for the terrific offerings at the former Italian wine bar Vespa in Federal Hill and most recently worked at Le Garage in Hampden.
The seafood gumbo, crab cakes and burgers are delicious alternatives at Slainte. Mostly, though, I like being able to eat Irish dishes on a whim.
Maybe it's because my middle name is O'Connor, and I'm drawn to the hearty food of my ancestors. But it's really because the food is well-prepared and quite good.
Patrick Russell (no relation to the chef) and his wife, Katie, opened Slainte in 2004 in honor of their Irish descent and because "we love the concepts of Irish pubs," Patrick Russell said.
On St. Patrick's Day, Slainte will be at the forefront of celebrations around the city. The restaurant will open earlier than usual (6 a.m.) and serve breakfast until noon. Do try the breakfast boxty with potato pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, rashers (slices of ham or bacon) and Irish cheddar cheese.
After that, a traditional Irish menu will be available. For entertainment, the Teelin Irish Dance Company will perform at 5:30 p.m.
Go ahead and wear green and head out to Slainte on St. Patrick's Day. But don't forget about the Irish pub the rest of the year, either.
Scene & Décor The pub-style restaurant has dark wood, booths, tables and bars on two levels. It's a popular hangout for soccer, hockey and rugby fans, who gather around the TVs for favorite games. Even on a non-game day, the place can be rollicking. We like sitting in the upstairs dining area by the windows, which offer a great view of the water and the Fells Point scene.
Appetizers The golden-brown Scotch egg ($13), wrapped in house sausage and panko breadcrumbs, was sensational. The two half eggs rested on smooth cheese grits and were dressed up with green onions and tomato halves. The poutine fries ($10, plus $5 for corned beef) were a heavenly indulgence, with thick potato wedges in a truffle chicken reduction and fresh mozzarella curd. You can get them minus the meat, but you really should add the cubes of salty corned beef.
Entrees Paddy's corned beef and cabbage ($16) is a satisfying comfort meal whatever your heritage. Slainte's version sticks with the familiar, featuring rosy chunks of corned beef served with carrots, roasted potatoes and tender wedges of cabbage. The shepherd's pie ($15) is a humble, satisfying serving with a mix of ground beef, carrots and peas hidden beneath a lush cap of mashed potatoes.
Drinks Drafts like Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Guinness and Miller Lite are popular; there are also dozens of bottled beer options, including George Killian's Irish Red and The Brewer's Art Resurrection. Wines and mixed drinks are available, too.
Service Our waiter, who was also performing bartender duties, was attentive and engaging.
Dessert The New York cheesecake ($7), drizzled with chocolate sauce, was appropriately creamy and served with ice cream, but the apple bread pudding with apple whiskey caramel ($8) was our favorite.
Slainte Irish Pub and Restaurant
Backstory: Patrick and Katie Russell opened Slainte Irish Pub and Restaurant in Fells Point in 2004 after purchasing the building next to their other restaurant, Kooper's Tavern, which opened in 1997 and now has Baltimore County offshoots. The couple also runs Woody's Cantina on the third floor of Slainte and has two food trucks.
Signature dish: Corned beef and cabbage
TVs: Eight TVs (and four more if you want to climb the stairs to Woody's)
Where: 1700 Thames St., Fells Point
Contact: 410-563-6600, slaintepub.com
Open: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Accepts reservations
Bottom line: Fells Point has myriad restaurant choices, but you'll always get a good meal at Slainte, whether it's Irish or American fare.