Evening restaurant review
7:30 p.m. rolls along and dinner still isn’t on the stove. A hard day at work conspires with a cold autumn evening and I snap. We aren’t cooking tonight. We’re going out. Cautious of the time (its a school night!) we deliberate briefly. Somewhere close, quick, easy, no fuss and suitable for a chilly evening. A few moments later we agree on MacCool’s, or MacCool’s Public House to be formal.
MacCools is now well established with a second location in Layton. The food is Irish. Irish to me says meat, potatoes, cabbage and carrots. Not overly exciting fare, so when the menu liberally stretches what can be classified as Irish, it’s undestandable. Take the Buffalo Shephard’s Pie; in my mind’s eye, I don’t picture many Buffalo roaming the streets of Dublin. American-Irish would be a suitable term if you had to label MacCool’s.
Walking into the the restaurant on a cold night, it certainly has a cozy feel; a lit fireplace sits central in the restaurant, perfect for winter nights. The restaurant features an ecletic mix of seating from standard booths and tables to huge hand-carved wooden “thrones” surrounding high tables. I seem to recall once reading these had been specially imported. The decor comprises as much chintzy UK/Irish flare as I imagine the owners could find. This ranges from the typical Guinness signs through various packets, jars, books and so on.
Most importantly, they have a full bar and it is stocked with some great beers. They have a wide selection of European and English beers (not to mention wine and spirits). A year or two ago I spoke to the manager, who proudly informed me they had been certified by Guinness as pouring a perfect pint of the stuff.
My tipple of choice this evening was one of my English favourites. Tetley’s Bitter. A creamy and smooth English bitter. If you are only used to drinking American style lagers you owe it to yourself to try English bitter at least once. I have yet to find anyone in America who doesn’t love the stuff. English bitter is substantially different to what you may find here in the form of a Squatters bitter for example.
A quick and easy dinner is all we wanted so we skipped appetizers. Quickly browsing the specials menu (there is generally a different special each day), Wendi ordered the Smoked Salmon Chowder and I the Braised Lamb Shank.
Our choice of quick dining was rewarded as our food came from the kitchen in no time at all. Wendi’s chowder ($11.50) although listed as an entree, did seem to come out appetizer-sized. It came with a little piece of soda bread on the side:
Wendi was pleasantly surprised with the chowder, this being her first at MacCool’s. The chowder was infused with a light smoked salmon flavour and had a lovely piece of smoked salmon floating on top. The bread is an acquired taste. If you have ever tried an English scone, imagine a less sweet version and you’re close.
My lamb ($17.99) was similarly smaller portioned. For 18 dollars, four potato wedges, a few pieces of beets and a smallish piece of lamb seemed like a stretch to me.
I had to steal most of Wendi’s bread in the end. At this price point I really do expect a little more, heck even a soup or salad would have been a great touch. I can’t imagine some free pea soup would harm the profit margin.
Flavourwise, I could not fault the dish. The lamb was juicy and tender, fall off the bone so. The potato wedges were seasoned with fresh rosemary and perfectly done. The red wine sauce held the dish together beautifully. Excellent dish, shame about the portion size.
Still a little peckish, we ordered dessert. A favourite of ours at MacCool’s is the Apple Cobbler ($5.99). Warm apple crumble topped with rich vanilla ice cream. Simple, but pefectly executed:
Dinner was quick and comforting as planned. Indeed, on Thursday nigts, MacCool’s features a live band playing traditional Irish/Celtic music (see fiddles and the like). Not too loud and they make for a nice backdrop. Service as ever was super-friendly and prompt. I don’t know what the management puts in the water for the staff, but everyone seems really happy here. Really happy.
MacCool’s is a great ‘go to’ place for quick, tasty food. Whilst we ordered some relatively expensive dishes on the menu this night, you can eat here quite cheaply. They have a range of sandwiches (the corned beef here is a personal favourite) and burgers served with sweet potato fries. A sandwich and a bowl of split pea soup is more than filling for me, even on my most ravenous evenings. A couple of beers and sandwiches will see you get out of here with a bill of around $30. Not bad.
I’m not aware of a website for MacCool’s, it is located at 1400 Foothill Dr, Salt Lake City, UT
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.