Overall impression: The Dubliner's goal is to re-create the cozy ambience of an Irish pub, which is a tall order considering its location in a retail Disney World such as Mizner Park. The Dubliner does give it a mighty try, though, and succeeds in generating a certain amount of conviviality among its patrons. For example, half of the seating space inside is taken up by long, high trestle tables with stools, designed to make quick friends out of strangers. There's a lively scene in the adjacent courtyard, which has more high-top trestles. A small stage at one end of the room accommodates live musical acts and provides a venue for trivia contests. An open kitchen adds bustle. The friendly servers make customers feel like regulars. At the heart of the place is the bar, behind which an ornate wooden showcase rises from the floor, past the open ventilation ductwork and on into the heavens, with row upon row of bottles spotlighted like a celestial altar to booze. Plenty of open space is provided at the rail for the communicants to mingle.
The reputation of the Irish nation has never rested upon its cuisine, so the key to presenting traditional Emerald Isle favorites is to prepare them well, with a few imaginative touches where possible. The Dubliner does this with a great deal of success. The menu is chock-full of the kind of comfort food Americans would expect in an Irish-themed restaurant and bar, and the prices are quite moderate.
Starters: We tried the "jumbo" lump crab cakes ($12), which were not jumbo but about the diameter of a paper-towel tube and an inch thick. They were spicy and not particularly crabby, but tasty enough when smeared around in the accompanying sherry-mustard sauce. This is probably a good time to mention that the incorporation of alcoholic beverages into the house recipes is a recurring theme. Of special note is the mac and cheese ($6), also available as a main course ($9.50), which is served in a cast-iron skillet, crusted beautifully on top, and made with real Irish cheddar and "a hint of Guinness." One member of our party said, "I could eat this stuff all night." Truly, it is a standout.
On the lighter side: A couple of soups are available: hearty beef barley and potato leek ($5). Salads include the artichoke-and-hearts-of-palm salad ($9.50), which was large enough to make a light entree, and came on a bed of greens with red onion and an explosively flavorful balsamic reduction that drew compliments all around.
Entree excellence: The shepherd's pie ($15.50) reinforced the notion that the iron-skillet dishes are the Dubliner's strong suit. It's a mixture of ground beef and lamb, carrots and some other assorted vegetables topped with a deck of mashed potatoes and a thick, crusted layer of Irish cheddar. It was heavy and sweet, and very comforting to eat. No Irish menu can be taken seriously unless it includes corned beef and cabbage ($14.50), and the generous pile of thick-cut slabs came with small side orders of mashed potato and boiled cabbage with some bacon for flavoring. Either you're a fan of this dish or you aren't. If you are, it's satisfying. Likewise, the beef brisket (14.50) is typically an unremarkable dish, but it's been enhanced by an Irish-stout demi-glace, a heavy sauce that picks up the flavor where the meat leaves off.
Sweet! If there is any room left after all the heavy victuals, the Irish coffee tiramisu ($7) will knock you out. This originally Italian specialty has been adapted to Hibernian tastes by drenching it in Jameson Irish Whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream. So much so, in fact, that it's more like a mixed drink with a few ladyfingers stuck in it for filler. You may want to designate a driver if you order this dessert.
A word about the beer: There is a large selection of bottled beers and stouts (35 from around the world), and several Irish brands, such as Guinness and Harp, on tap.
-- Chan Lowe, staff writer
435 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton
Hours: 4 p.m.- 2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, noon-2 a.m. Sunday
Reservations: Taken for parties of six or more
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Visa, MasterCard
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Noisy
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Children's menu, booster seats and highchairsCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun