With the Indy Irish Fest coming up next weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to try the city’s newest Irish pub. And I was happy to discover that if you want to get into the festival spirit a little early with some traditional Irish fare, Nine Irish Brothers, which opened this summer at 575 Massachusetts Ave., is certainly the place to do it.
Now I have to point out that I was doing just that – checking out the traditional Irish specialties. I didn’t spend much time considering the more typical pub fare. I certainly like breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches or a good burger or BLT, so those options were a bit tough to pass up. Still, there are plenty of places for pub fare, but Guinness stew or corned beef and cabbage? Well, those are a little harder to find.
Thank goodness for half portions. Nine Irish Brothers offers half sizes of some of its classic dishes, so we were able to try several without overloading the table or ending up with an excess of to-go boxes.
But since it is an Irish pub, after all, we started off with beers, taking advantage of the daily drink special: pints of local craft beers are $5 on Mondays.
Now sitting in a pub and having a pint on a laidback Monday evening would ordinarily be a perfect time to order up such familiar appetizers as nachos or wings. But since I was set on trying the more traditional portion of the menu, I skipped the apps (with only a bit of wistfulness for the potato skins and fried pickles).
So really, our ordering discussion hinged on whether one of us should get the corned beef and cabbage or the shepherd’s pie, because I knew for sure I wanted to try the Guinness stew and the fish and chips. (Bangers and mash would’ve been a contender too, but it wasn’t available as a half portion, and I was determined to try at least three entrees – in the name of research, of course.) In the interest of variety, we opted for the corned beef.
While all were good, the Guinness stew, $7.49 for a half order, stood out as our favorite. Now a hot and muggy Indiana September might not seem like the season for stew, but cooler temps are coming, and I know just what I’ll be ordering when sweater weather finally arrives. The rich, flavorful stew was loaded with tender beef and had plenty of long-simmered carrots, potatoes and mushrooms too – plus, the stew was topped with thick, well-seasoned mashed potatoes (or champ, the traditional name for potatoes mashed with green onions). Even a half portion was plenty hearty, and this stew could easily become my go-to dish for fall.
The corned beef, $8.49 for a half serving, was likewise tender, juicy and flavorful, and, again, even the half portion was a generous amount. This dish also included more of those tasty mashed potatoes. The only disappointment was the cabbage. Unlike the tender corned beef, the well-seasoned stew and those flavorful mashed potatoes, the cabbage was a bit undercooked and in need of a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper.
We also ordered a half portion of the fish and chips, $10.99, because any Irish pub worth the name should be able to turn out that classic menu item. And Nine Irish Brothers didn’t disappoint. Beautifully cooked in a just-heavy-enough batter, the fish was golden brown on the outside and tender, mild and flaky on the inside. The chips, too, were good – round slices of potato that were nicely crisp and not too thick. And while I would have preferred a heavier hand with the seasoning, the fish and chips were definitely solid.
Now as much as we enjoyed dinner – particularly the stew and the flavorful corned beef — we couldn’t pass up dessert, especially after our server’s recommendation of the Irish whisky crème brulee: life changing on a good day. Now how can you pass that up?
And it was definitely delicious — although I wouldn’t call it crème brulee. The $6.49 dessert featured smooth vanilla custard served in a small hollowed out bread bowl that sat in a puddle of delightful whisky sauce. And while there was a bit of crunchy caramelized sugar on top, there was no hard sugar shell. This was more like bread pudding-meets-crème-brulee, but whatever you call it, I’ll definitely be ordering it again.
Aside from the food, Nine Irish Brothers, a family-owned, Lafayette, Ind.- based restaurant, offers attentive service and plenty of charm (and live Irish music on the weekends) to keep customers coming back. And maybe one of these days, I’ll try the Nine Irish Brothers version of dill chips or a pork tenderloin sandwich – if I can get past that Guinness stew.
Jolene Ketzenberger covers local food at EatDrinkIndy.com. Follow her on Twitter @JKetzenberger.
Three stars for food, service and atmosphere