I had a (in retrospect crazy) idea that Erin's Snug Irish Pub was unfindable.
My first attempt to dine at Erin's Snug Irish Pub was on a Friday night. Fish-fry time. The time when it seems as if everyone in Wisconsin is in a restaurant, eating fried fish. Or waiting to eat fried fish.
I had a (in retrospect crazy) idea that Erin's Snug Irish Pub was unfindable. It is located in what I considered a no-man's land, out in the twisting four-lane boulevards near American Family Insurance headquarters. Probably no one even knows it's there, I thought to myself. The parking lot will be nearly empty, and we'll be served pronto.
Oh Linda, wake up and smell the Guinness.
Apparently the Am Fam crowd has discovered Erin's in a big way. The parking lot was full. People were parking in the street. The place was a madhouse -- there were people standing around everywhere waiting for tables. After fording a path through to the main desk, I ascertained the wait for a table was at least an hour.
That seemed a short estimate, considering the press of people milling about. They did seem raucously happy, with pints of stout in hand. I, however, went to plan B, which involved leaving and eating somewhere else. It was just a little too crowded.
On Saturday afternoon I ended up back at Erin's. It's not far from East Towne, but was far from the madding crowd -- the sparsely populated parking lot matched up to my original imaginings, this time.
I had also imagined Erin's as a bar/sandwich type place, but it's fancier than that, with a modest menu of sandwiches and wraps, but a more interesting selection of Irish dinners.
The interior is vast, with various dining rooms clustered around a large bar area, and an open space with a dart board. Every sub-area has a flat screen TV, so Erin's has sports pub ambitions as well as an old-country devotion to corned beef and Guinness.
We started with an appetizer of homemade spinach artichoke dip. The artichoke and spinach were both prominent in this thick, cream-cheese-based dip. For dipping, there were small slices of "Guinness crostini," a slightly sweet, dark, dry beer bread. The dip would go great with beer, too; but we needed more of the crostini -- the dipper to dippee ratio was totally out of whack.
My co-diner ordered the "O'Ryan's Corned Beef Sandwich," a Reuben by any other name. Served club-sandwich style (that is, with a middle slice of bread) with lean and neatly stacked corned beef, the O'Ryan was the perfect O'Reuben, really good. The middle slice of bread stabilized a perennial problem with Reubens -- they're sloppy and tend to fall apart during the eating process.
I ordered the salmon burger, which was modestly-sized and somewhat bland. It wasn't bad, just dull, especially after the much tastier dip.
Sandwiches come with coleslaw, although we were asked if we wanted to substitute fries. We stuck with the coleslaw but ordered a side of the pub fries, a thick but crispy steak-cut. The coleslaw, a tiny serving in a white porcelain cup, was a little bland.
Other sandwiches include burgers, a club sandwich, ham and cheese, roast beef, and a walnut veggie burger, along with chicken, salmon and club sandwich wraps ($5-$9).
Based on the excellent corned beef sandwich, though, I would be happy to go back to Erin's soon to investigate the Irish specials menu -- dinner items include shepherd's pie ($11), fish and chips ($12), bangers and mash ($11), Guinness beef pot pie ($13), corned beef and cabbage ($10), and lamb shank ($15). Colcannon, the Irish blend of mashed potatoes, cabbage and kale, is served as a side ($2).
Erin's Snug Irish Pub is locally owned and has another restaurant in Reedsburg.
New at Erin's is a Sunday Irish breakfast (9 a.m.-2 p.m.) that debuted Nov. 11, with bangers and bacon; corned beef hash, Irish Benedict, Crabcake Benedict, and more.
The whole layout is great for real pubbing -- beer and appetizers. Guinness, Smithwick's and many other import as well as Wisconsin brews are on tap. Erin's has a list of variations on the Black and Tan as long as my forearm, including the Black Cow (Guinness and Spotted Cow) and the Black and Blue (Guinness and Blue Moon). Why should martinis have all the fun, anyway?