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Over the next few months, the Valley is going to be awash in new brew pubs. At least three are opening near the new ballpark. And two more--the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and Alcatraz Brewing Company--are poised to compete with Arizona Roadhouse & Brewery in the already suds-saturated Tempe market. If your two favorite words are "on tap," every day could seem like St. Patrick's Day. It's a good time to grin and beer it.
The Blarney Stone, 4341 North 75th Street, Scottsdale, 424-7100. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, noon to 1 a.m.
According to legend, if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you'll receive the gift of smooth talk and convincing speech. If you visit The Blarney Stone in Scottsdale, however, it's not exactly clear what gifts you'll be getting.
1120 E. Apache Blvd.
Tempe, AZ 85281-5822
Category: Bars and Clubs
In our rising sea of upscale brew pubs, The Blarney Stone holds fast, resisting the trend. It's a throwback to the neighborhood tavern of an earlier age.
There's no brewmaster here making his own beer. There are no microbrews on tap. There's a decent draft selection--Guinness, Bass, Harp and Newcastle go for $3.75 a pint. Bottled imports from Pilsner Urquell, Foster's, Beck's, Heineken and Corona will set you back $3.25. You can count on your favorite Bud, Miller and Coors to be in stock.
Valley old-timers (i.e., residents who've lived here more than three years) might remember when this spot housed another Irish-themed pub called Ireland's Black Rose. The Blarney Stone hasn't made too many changes. The brick accents are still here, and so are the dart board, the beer signs (including beers that The Blarney Stone doesn't carry) and the very pleasant patio. When the live music shuts down, Irish tunes are piped in. One new touch, I think: The signage on the rest rooms is in Gaelic. You have a 50-50 shot of guessing right.
What does The Blarney Stone offer that other pubs don't? It's the food, at least some of it. Although this kitchen isn't steeped in culinary artistry, you'll run across a wonderful Irish main dish that you won't find elsewhere in this town.
Of course, Scottsdale isn't exactly Dublin. So when it comes to munchies, your beers will be washing down familiar nibbles like hot, oily Buffalo wings and a basic spinach-artichoke dip with tortilla chips. Under no circumstances should you be tempted to try the bizarre "Irish potato skins." These unfortunate spuds come stuffed with minced corned beef, cabbage and cheese, a combination whose time has not yet, and may never, come. You'll also want to steer clear of the "French" onion soup, which is about as French as the Coneheads. This forgettable version consists of flavorless broth, soggy croutons and tasteless cheese.
The reason you want to eat here are the boxty dishes. These hearty platters bring a bit of the olde sod to the Sonoran Desert.
Think of boxty as a cross between a crisp potato pancake and browned mashed potatoes. The Blarney Stone fashions three belt-loosening variations. The chicken boxty is stuffed with poultry, peppers and mushrooms, along with canned peas and carrots that somehow seem exactly right. It's all bathed in a creamy white-wine sauce. Another version brings lots of stout-marinated beef in a hard-hitting burgundy sauce. There's also a corned beef and cabbage model, coated with a parsley sauce. You don't need Irish eyes to be smiling after polishing off one of these plates.
The Blarney Stone offers several other Old Country options, though they're more British than Irish. Shepherd's pie is well-crafted, with ground beef in a rich gravy underneath a browned canopy of cheese-topped mashed potatoes. The Irish stew employs beef, not the traditional lamb or mutton, and not particularly tender beef at that. There's also not much in the way of veggies--a bit of celery, one slice of carrot. Good Irish soda bread helps, but not enough. The fish and chips plate is undistinguished--both parts of this equation tasted as if they were poured out of a freezer bag.
Yes, you can get corned beef and cabbage. It's as basic, and as snoozy, as it gets: a few slices of meat, boiled potato and boiled cabbage. Sometimes simple authenticity just isn't enough.
Desserts? "Ask your server," says the menu. We did, and on each occasion she told us there weren't any.
The Blarney Stone isn't the pot of gold at the end of the Irish-pub rainbow. But with boxty and Guinness, it does conjure up a wee bit o' Ireland. A rather small, wee bit o' Ireland, perhaps, but here in County Maricopa, that's about as much as we can expect.
Arizona Roadhouse & Brewery:
Beer-B-Que ribs 8.95
Chocolate fudge cake
The Blarney Stone:
Buffalo wings (10)
Fish and chips