Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling

Ethnic offerings take backseat to lunch, American-style

I'm so full of Rosie McCaffrey's beef stew, dunked in great quantities with thick, soft biscotti-like soda bread, that I'm suddenly having a hard time seeing straight. But the waitress assures me that I'm okay; it's just the local phantom playing tricks again.

It happened after that last bite of braised beef, as I struggled to finish the massive, marvelous portion. "It's a big plate," the waitress warned me when she set down that oversize bowl, brimming to its edges with tender, pull-apart beef, skin-on red potatoes, carrots, peas and onions with rich Guinness broth. And it followed a dinner-plate-size garden salad drowning in tangy ranch plus a fresh soft roll with butter. Just as I finished, the room suddenly grew dim, and I thought, I've done it. I've finally eaten myself blind.

But the waitress is insisting that the descending darkness is because of something supernatural at work in the restaurant's electrical system. "It's a ghost," she whispers. "I swear we have a spirit here that plays with the lights and the CD player." The sprite has been wandering wild since the Celtic cafe opened this spring, she confides.

Lisa the bartender carefully pours a Guinness — not just a drink but also a key ingredient in the few authentic Irish dishes you'll find on Rosie's menu.
Erik Guzowski
Lisa the bartender carefully pours a Guinness — not just a drink but also a key ingredient in the few authentic Irish dishes you'll find on Rosie's menu.

Location Info

Map

Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub

906 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85014

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

Nellie's Irish stew: $8.95
Harp battered fish 'n' chips: $8.95
Guinness-braised boxty: $9.95
Shepherd's pie: $8.95
Granny McDonnell's apple dumpling: $4.25

602-241-1916. Hours: Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

906 East Camelback, Phoenix

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I know better. It's only one o'clock, barely a late lunch, and I can see through the dark wood-framed windows that it's summer-bright outside. This fogginess consuming me is partly the gangly electrical system of a new restaurant, but mostly the ravages of contentment that come from filling my belly with that fine, deep muck of savory stew.

Besides, I've been to authentic Irish pubs before, and have heard enough ghostly yarns to have my doubts. I actually stood in line once to perch atop a commode in a historic off-continent European watering hole, lured in by the pub's promise that the toilet is haunted. The specter, so the story goes, gets its revenge — or its kicks — from the bowl, by blowing up the skirts of female patrons. There was no gust for me, just the questionable novelty of drinking one of the most expensive, tourist-priced Guinness beers I've ever had.

If there are any spirits haunting Rosie McCaffrey's, I wonder just how content they are, caroming around in a building that for a long time housed a Good Egg restaurant, in a neighborhood that long ago gave up its urban dreams to car dealerships, Toys "R" Us, a few Denny's, and way too much never-ending street traffic to make coming here on purpose a pleasure.

Rosie's is the latest incarnation by Séamus McCaffrey, who 18 years ago brought a taste of Ireland to the Valley with the opening of the Dubliner Irish Pub and Restaurant in northeast Phoenix. After selling that shop, he opened his eponymous cafe at Central Avenue and Adams. Now he's passed that on to a new owner, and introduced this pub named after his wife. Portions are generous — trying to polish off just a few more forkfuls of that hearty stew has my vision clouding again.

Unhappily, though, after a couple of visits, I'm wondering if a Celtic spirit just might be here to protest. My beloved stew aside, too little of this menu is actually Irish, and periodically, the dishes that are Irish haven't spent proper time with the stove.

McCaffrey has spent considerable dollars sprucing up the place, at least, decking the two-story property in a multitude of beer- and whiskey-logo mirrors, fake stone, green plaid booths, and a huge bar with Jaegermeister on tap. There's still some work to be done, though: Who decided to place a picnic table directly in front of the entry, situate the music stage right in the foyer so my companion almost goes face-first tripping over it, and put such huge ornate bases on the booths that the only way to sit comfortably is with our legs tucked underneath us?

If McCaffrey's ghost is grumbling, it's probably because while the place looks Emerald Isle enough, the new landlord brings us a menu that's surprisingly American.

"Paddy O'Melt?" my dining companion sputters, grinning at the pun despite his scoffing tone. "Séamus O'Sandwich (turkey or roast beef with lettuce, tomato and mayo)? Finnegan's Filly Steak (cheese steak sandwich)?" He was craving chicken and dumplings, and the closest thing Rosie's has is tri-mustard chicken, grilled breast topped with mushrooms and onions in a creamy mustard sauce.

It feels silly to be listening to gorgeous Celtic CD music (live acts perform Fridays and Saturdays) while chewing on spinach artichoke dip with tortilla chips, baked soft pretzels, chef salad, club sandwiches, quesadillas, a chicken Santa Fe sandwich or a bacon cheeseburger. As much as I like this place, there's something depressing about going to an Irish pub and finding such a limited selection of ethnic dishes. Topping potato skins with corned beef, and soaking chicken wings in Harp is a start, but it's still just bar food.

So where are the more adventurous things, like those found at Tempe's terrific Rula Bula — the traditional oysters, smoked salmon, Guinness and beef in pastry crust, or even the chicken pot pie and steak-and-mushroom pie from McCaffrey's original restaurant? I expect more risk here — after all, when McCaffrey first opened the Dubliner, he struggled to track down a distributor to sell him Guinness and Harp; the stuff wasn't even heard of in Arizona.

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