When I prepare to go to a new restaurant I often look for a menu online. I genuinely get excited by descriptions like "steamed mussels in garlic white wine, fresh herbs and cream" or "chicken and vegetable pot pie with chunks of chicken and vegetables in a thick sauce topped with a pastry crust." Descriptions like these whet my taste buds and I arrive at the venue ready to be won over by savory morsels and a well-rehearsed staff.
Sometimes, unfortunately, fantasy and reality don't quite mesh. Such was the case when I visited Molly Malone's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Covington. The restaurant is the second location of the Louisville restaurant that goes by the same name. The local business press played up the owners' Irish heritage so much that I have to admit I was a little disappointed when we were greeted by a Southern drawl rather than an Irish brogue. Still, as is often the case during my dining experiences, the server was the hero in our story. He said he was really a bartender, but he seemed to run circles around the usual serving staff (one misidentified the French onion soup as the lamb stew) and he was sweet enough to indulge by mother's own brand of Irish comradery.
Molly Malone's occupies the building that once housed Jack Quinn's, and if someone had taken me in blindfolded I wouldn't have known we were in a different restaurant. But if you're changing an Irish pub to an Irish pub, there probably isn't much of a reason to do a full redecorating job since you want a similar atmosphere.
The menu, while similar to the Louisville location, seems a bit more abbreviated and some of the preparations are different. Both menus offer a combination of traditional Irish and American pub grub, but the Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer at Molly's of Louisville is served as a Fried Green Tomato BLT ($6.95) in Covington.
I was glad to see the inclusion of a Smoked Salmon Platter ($10.95) on the appetizer list, something not typically found on other Irish pub menus in the area. Ours came with capers, lemon and thin slices of soda bread. While everyone else at the table thought it tasted fine, I was a little disappointed. My fantasy was fresh smoked salmon and this tasted more like the grocery-store pouch version I've had on occasion. I also would have liked a bit of a cream sauce with it. I tried the mustard sauce that came with our Irish Spring Rolls ($6.95), but the combination didn't work.
Molly's did get a table-wide thumbs up, however, for its creative way of serving corned beef and cabbage. I've not seen the spring roll concept for this particular item before. And my parents enjoyed the Bread Sticks ($6.50) with garlic butter and marinara.
For entrées, my mom had a side House Salad ($4.50) and cup of French Onion Soup ($2.95), which, unfortunately, looked like anemic chicken soup topped with melted Swiss cheese. She said it didn't taste much better than it looked. The salad's mixed greens, however, were fresh.
My Fish and Chips ($9.95) came with fries and a really good tarter sauce, but it was overly greasy and overdone -- the three dark fish planks resting on pale fries did create a study in contrasts. My step dad tried the Rueben Sandwich ($7.95), which came with home fries, and he enjoyed that; the sauerkraut provided a nice tang to the dish.
The Traditional Irish Lamb Stew ($10.95), a slow-stewed dish with chunks of lamb, carrots and onions, was easily the best dish on the table. The lamb was flavorful but not gamey. It was thick and hearty and will be excellent comfort food in the colder months.
I almost skipped dessert, but while my mom was giving the server a hard time, he mentioned that the Bread Pudding ($4.95) was made in-house, so the four of us split one. It was served warm with a bourbon butter sauce that would be easy to guzzle and filled with good, tart raspberries.
I guess I just have to wrap my mind around the fact that Irish pubs aren't really about food. (Maybe that's why Irish food gets a bad rap.) We Americanize the wild salmon, tender lamb stews, boxty and colcannon. But we did at least seem to import the atmosphere of an Irish pun right. Molly's offers a place to commune, like a good neighborhood pub should. On the weekends it has bands, there's international football (soccer), rugby and hurling on the Setanta Sports Channel and plenty of room to join your friends for a good, thick Irish or English ale.
I guess I just want to have my boxty and eat it too. ©
Molly Malone's Irish
Pub & Restaurant
Go: 112 E. Fourth St., Covington
Hours: 11-2:30 a.m. daily
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Seafood, chicken, vegetarian sandwich
Accessibility: A few steps up at the front door