This past Saturday, I dined at Molly’s Shebeen Irish Pub on 23rd Street and 3rd Avenue. Spur-of-the-moment dinner plans made finding a table for two in Manhattan a difficult challenge; however, with only a 15 minute wait, Molly’s was more than accommodating.
Molly’s bills itself as New York’s most traditional Irish bar, and I wholeheartedly agree. Upon entering the small pub, I noticed the floor was covered with sawdust, and people were gathered around a wood burning fireplace waiting for their tables. The pub’s bar occupies half of the dining room, and the architecture and fixtures that adorn the walls look as if they were imported directly from Ireland.
Our waitress was friendly and spoke with a heavy Irish accent, as did most of the restaurant’s staff and patrons. She took us through the restaurant’s rather extensive menu, highlighting several Irish specials, such as apple-brined pork chops, as well as recommending the homemade mozzarella sticks as an appetizer. Since I was dining with a vegetarian and fellow Midwesterner, this was a no-brainer.
The large deep-fried mozzarella logs came on a platter with a gravy boat of marinara sauce, and, on the initial bites, the crisped bread crumb crust crumbled in a way my mouth did not even know was possible. The warm, melted mozzarella cheese oozed out and brought me back to my Midwestern roots, making me forget for a moment that I was in New York City.
For my entrée, I ordered the restaurant’s famous shepherd’s pie, a traditional Irish dish that consists of marinated ground beef, carrots and peas, topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes and placed in the oven. I was pleasantly surprised with my first few bites, as this was the best shepherd’s pie I had eaten in New York, period. The mashed potatoes were homemade and rich, while the beef was tender. I also had the delicious French onion soup. Warm and incredibly cheesy, the soup complemented the shepherd’s pie well. With the soup, half an appetizer and an entrée, my meal came out to be around $30 total, which, considering the Manhattan locale and the generous portions, is fairly reasonable.
My friend ordered the vegetarian sandwich, which consisted of Portobello mushroom, eggplant, roasted red peppers and basil pesto on a bun. I did not try it, however, it both smelled and looked delicious, which she confirmed.
Both dishes were presented simply, with the focus on the food’s taste. This is by no means a fine-dining establishment. Nonetheless, the fun atmosphere is welcoming to any and all patrons, whether you are just off-the-boat, a tourist or a New York native. The intimate, inviting atmosphere makes this spot perfect for a casual date or a group dinner with friends, and it is a place at which I wish I could become a regular patron.
For those of you who are of legal age, it is good to note that the restaurant had at least a dozen varieties of beer on tap and in bottle, with several Irish favorites like Guinness, Smithwick’s and Beamish all reasonably priced.
To step into Molly’s Shebeen Irish Pub is to step into old world Ireland for a brief moment. Molly’s exhibits as authentic an Irish vibe as possible in New York City. Among the hundreds of forgettable Irish pubs that dot the streets of Manhattan, Molly’s is a gem that shines above the rest in service, food and atmosphere. I cannot wait to return.
Molly’s Shebeen is located at 287 3rd Avenue. Visit MollysShebeen.com. Call (212) 889-3361 for its menu and hours of operation.