By Kit Waskom Pollard, For The Baltimore Sun
4:03 PM EDT, May 28, 2014
Liam Flynn's Ale House has all the ingredients to be a great Irish-American bar and restaurant. Its welcoming space, friendly crowd and commitment to local products — both at the tap and in the kitchen — are points in its favor.
As a bar, Liam Flynn's is a success. As a restaurant, it's getting there.
Scene & Decor Liam Flynn's sits on a rapidly developing stretch of North Avenue in Station North. Even from the outside, there's no questioning the type of establishment it is. From the name to the green and gold signage, the look is pure Irish pub.
The visuals carry over inside, where dark wood reigns, flags line the walls and the bar is front and center. During our visit, on a busy Tuesday night, musicians gathered in the back of the restaurant. Liam Flynn's regularly hosts traditional Celtic music and Appalachian music sessions. From our spot in the front of the restaurant, we couldn't hear the music well. But what we heard, we liked.
Drinks As is appropriate in an Irish pub, we started with beers. Liam Flynn's boasts an aggressively local beer program; 12 of its 14 taps are dedicated to local brews.
We mixed it up, opting for one local beer, the easy to drink, Baltimore-brewed Public Works Fair-Shake APA ($6), plus a creamy milk stout from Colorado's Left Hand Brewing ($7) — and the old Irish favorite, Guinness ($7).
Service Liam Flynn's opened in 2011 as a bar only; the food portion of the business was added a few months ago. During our visit, patrons placed their food orders at the bar, then the meals were delivered directly to the tables.
In a bar, this would be no big deal, especially because the bartender was friendly and the food arrived in a timely fashion. Still, having to leave the table and navigate the crowd at the bar to order another beer during the meal threw off the rhythm of the evening. If Liam Flynn's is serious about being a restaurant, hiring a server or two would be a good move.
Appetizers Small ramekins of kale and salmon "chips" ($4) and homemade beef jerky ($6) were locally sourced, nicely seasoned and perfect matches for a pint.
Given the popularity of kale chips, we weren't surprised to see those on the menu. Salmon chips, however, were a pleasant surprise. The bits of salmon skin were salty, smoky, chewy and interesting.
Like kale, jerky is having a moment in the spotlight. At Liam Flynn's, the convenience food got a homemade makeover. The chunks of dried beef looked like the stuff available in bulk at gas stations but, served warm and seasoned with a salty, slightly spicy blend, it tasted more gourmet than grab-n-go.
Entrees Our entrees, unfortunately, were less of a home run. Our first choice, pulled pork, wasn't available, so we opted for something else from the smoker (the smoking is done offsite but tastes surprisingly fresh).
Smoked salmon served with a salad of greens tossed with smoked onions and red peppers ($16) was fresh, bright and lovely; the salmon was moist with nicely smoky flavor. However, the salad arrived without the promised lemon pepper dressing. Making our way to the bar to ask for the dressing seemed like a big hassle, so we went without — but we missed it.
The crust on our hen pie ($12) was flaky and pretty and the game hen and carrots inside were cooked properly. The sauce, though, was more than a tinge too acidic. Usually, we love the gloppy sauce inside any savory pie but this version had us scraping any trace of liquid off the meat.
Dessert Desserts at Liam Flynn's are outsourced to several local vendors. During our visit, the options were limited but we were very pleased with the cheesecake ($6) we grabbed. Topped with cherries steeped in red wine, the cake was tart and sweet and satisfying.
As we left Liam Flynn's, the back of the bar continued to fill with musicians, and everyone gathered in the front was having a blast. Without question, it's a great bar. With a few tweaks to the service and in the kitchen, it could be a great restaurant, too.
Liam Flynn's Ale House
Back story: Since 2011, Liam Flynn's has been serving up local beers and Irish music in a fun Irish pub environment. Several months ago, owners Liam Flynn and Stephen Marsh added kitchen service, focusing on Irish-inspired, bar-friendly foods.
Parking: Street parking
Signature dish: The jerky appetizer — a bowl full of warm, homemade beef jerky — was a pleasant surprise. The chewy meat's seasoning added tons of flavor and the tiniest bit of spicy bite. As a bonus, serving the jerky warm made the treat something special.
Where: 22 W. North Ave., Baltimore
Contact: 410-244-8447; pintsizepub.com
Open: 12 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday-Saturday; 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted
Bottom line: In this welcoming Irish pub atmosphere, the beer is local and tasty but the kitchen and food service are still finding their footing.
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