CLIFTON PARK The lilting Celtic music is soft, there are bangers and mash on the menu, and a few Irish flags are displayed. In other words, the Irish theme is evident but restrained at Dorothy O’Day’s restaurant at Clifton Park Center in Clifton Park.
The flag of Ireland was snapping smartly in a chilly breeze as Mom and I headed in for lunch. This was my third Irish-themed restaurant in the past year and I was wondering whether the area could sustain more hearty Gaelic fare. As it turned out, our lunch was delicious and our visit delightful. Dorothy O’Day’s is a good addition to the burgeoning independent restaurant scene in Clifton Park.
We were the second customers for an early lunch and had our choice of seats. The restaurant, formerly Salsarita’s and even more formerly Nothing but Noodles, is a large corner space next to Sakura, with windows on two sides. It’s cozier now, the windows covered partway with prints of stylized shamrocks, there’s dark wood, and the high ceiling is painted black.
Dorothy O’Day’s Irish Pub
WHERE: 22 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park. 557-2401
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. , Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $60.30, with two drinks, tax, and tip
MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible. Children’s menu. Reservations accepted.
The dining room is divided by a low wooden wall, the better to add more booths. There’s a sign where you enter that directs you right to the bar or left to the dining room. That’s helpful and shows they’re trying to make things easy for new customers.
The bar is way in the back of the dining room, and the three large flat screen televisions that Mom spotted did not interfere with the soft music or our enjoyment of the meal. There’s plenty of activity outside the windows, and the dining room with its gas fireplace is agreeably attractive.
Dorothy’s has a blog and a Facebook page, but their website isn’t up yet. The simple menu, divided into a few sections, offers starters, salads, sandwiches, burgers and a few Celtic specialties. A burger is $12, high enough to give pause. It comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, a pickle and choice of french fries, Saratoga chips, or sweet potato fries. But compared to the chains in Clifton Park where a plain burger with fries is just under $10, the prices at an independent restaurant don’t look so high. What we had was delicious, but the tab definitely jumped out of the cheap-eats category.
And that’s a problem with dining out these days. Mom observed, “People will pay to eat out, but they can’t afford to be extravagant.”
Our friendly server set us right up with menus and drinks. Here’s something different — we started with hog wings ($10). You get chunky riblets in a paper-lined basket, and with a nod to Buffalo, there’s sliced carrots and celery and creamy sauces. But they aren’t like wings at all; they’re deep-fried crispy little ribs in a chipotle rib sauce with a definite hint of lime. The meat almost falls off the bone, and the cool sauces provide pleasant contrast. “It’s like a barbecued spare rib,” said Mom, “It’s a pleasant change from chicken wings.” The meat shrinks back during cooking, leaving bits of clean bone for easy eating. They are awesome, and you should try them.
Mom ordered the One and One ($17), which the menu tells us is the manner of ordering in Ireland, presumably at a fish and chips shop: “I’ll have one of these and one of these”. The enormous plank of fish looked handsome, coated in a smooth and crispy brown batter. Mom broke off a chunk at the one end, revealing white, steaming chunky flakes of fish within. Delicious, she said.
You expect good french fries at an Irish pub, but Dorothy’s are outstanding. They are thick slices of Russet potatoes with a bit of skin left on, fried a golden hue, soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, about as good as a potato can get. And then there are the Saratoga chips.
I passed up the calorie-laden bangers and mash and braised short rib shepherd’s pie in favor of a blackened grouper sandwich ($11), without the roll for even more healthfulness. I liked the assertive Cajun seasoning and ripe red tomato slices, but I really liked the freshly cooked Saratoga chips. They’re oblong, like good Russet potatoes are, slightly thicker than chips from a bag, and crunchy but not brittle. Some are translucent, some are a bit soft in the middle to remind you they’re just-made, and they’re all good. The fish was low-cal, but the chips did me in.
Dorothy’s has homemade desserts, and we can’t say enough about the Bailey’s fudge and cream. It’s served in a generous white china bowl filled to the brim with chocolate mousse, minimally but attractively decorated with stripes of chocolate syrup.
We dug happily into the mousse and eventually our spoons met with some resistance: a crispy, sugary, fudgy layer heavily flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream. Wow. Don’t go thinking you can finish this on your own; this is strictly a group dessert. For $7, it’s a steal.
The $7 lunch special is also a steal, that day a Hawaiian burger with a slice of pineapple on a puffy pretzel roll with a pickle slice speared to the top. When we saw it, we wish we’d ordered it, too.
The tab came to $60.30 with two drinks, tax, and tip. Going out to eat is an expensive proposition these days. Spend your money where the food is made fresh and the owners are local.