Review: Fadó Irish Pub and Restaurant

As we get deeper into Euro 2012, I thought it was about time I finally got around to writing about Fadó.  Fadó has been in Austin about as long as I have, give or take a few years (I’ve been here since 1997, with a four-year detour in the UK).  I went there a couple of times in college (including, once, with members of the Secret Service—ask me about that story sometime off the record), but I hadn’t spent much time there since returning to Austin six years ago, aside from a couple of  quiz nights and one very fun Blaggards show.

Let's throw in a Gerrard pic, because, hey, why not?

Let’s throw in a Gerrard pic, because, hey, why not?

Since the boy moved to Austin, though, I’ve gotten into watching soccer again.  I was introduced to the glory of the Beautiful Game while studying at Lancaster University, in England.  Most of my roommates were from Merseyside, so we watched a lot of Liverpool matches, and I’ve loved them ever since.  Steven Gerrard has been my favorite player since 1999.  Let’s not talk about this season.

Thank to Eric’s status as a professional soccer blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to get beyond the Thighlights and really appreciate the sport.  We only have an old, thirteen inch television; for most big matches we go to a bar or a friend’s house.  We’ve spent most of our time at Fadó this season, and, a few weeks ago they kindly invited us to a sports bloggers’ happy hour.  So please note that some items I review below were comped on that occasion.  We also received appetizer and drink passes (good throughout the Euro), a Guinness pint glass, and amazing T-shirts.

The atmosphere at Fadó is really nice: it’s both cozy (thanks to the secluded wooden booths) and convivial (thanks to all the soccer fans).  The design of the place is based on a traditional, nineteenth century Irish pub, and, though Fadó is a chain, the result is very homey and comfortable.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to Fadó and left in less than four hours!  The crowd is mixed and diverse, changing based on the event (they also host parties, pub quizzes, and rugby fans).  The staff is attentive and helpful, although you may find it difficult to get a refill in the middle of, say, the FA Cup.  Parking can also be a problem due to Fadó’s prime location in the Warehouse District.  For soccer watching, I’d advise either arriving early and scoring on-street parking or simply riding Capital Metro.  Another thing I really like about Fadó is the fact that I have never had to wait in line for the women’s room!  In fact, they even have a secondary set of restrooms on their back patio.

Now, on to the food!  Let’s start with the beer selection, shall we?

Fadó has a great selection of British and Irish beers on draught, including Bass, Boddington’s (our favorite, lately), Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny Cream, Newcastle Brown, Smithwick’s, and Strongbow, in addition to some typical Continental offerings, including Carlsberg, Hoegaarden, and Stella Artois.

The list of bottled beers is even longer, encompassing everything from Coors Light to Magners Pear Cider; and the whiskey menu is very impressive indeed, with 21 offerings, including a whole array of Bushmills and Jameson as well as five more Irish whiskeys and eight varieties of Scotch.  They also serve wine, liquor, and some delicious Irish coffees.

Our favorite dish is the Hangover Sandwich, consisting of two fried eggs, Irish sausages, bacon rashers, and Irish cheddar, all served between thick slices of tasty, tasty sourdough and served with potato wedges and ketchup.  Since the full menu isn’t available until 11:00am, and we are often at the pub early to catch a live EPL match, this is our go-to order at Fadó.  At $9.95, it’s also a great deal; sometimes, we split it.

The Smoked Salmon Bites ($8.95 for four) were a bit of a revelation for me.  Generally, I am not a fan of smoked salmon (I know), finding it a tad too fishy for my tastes, especially when paired with the distinctive and decidedly pickled flavor of capers.  However, these bites were excellent, and I plan to order them again.  They were packed with flavor and well balanced with the horseradish (I love horseradish).  I could’ve eaten a whole pile of them!

The Smithwick’s Mini Burgers ($8.95) were also fantastic: three Smithwick’s ale-flavored beef burgers served on adorable little grilled buns with Guinness mayonnaise, pickles, onions, and melted cheese.  The burgers were perfectly cooked (medium well), and combined beautifully with the other flavors.  These are some must-eat sliders.  They were a big hit with our friends, too.

The first time we had Fadó’s Cheese Dip and Wedges was a couple of years ago when we attended a weeknight pub quiz*, and we’ve been talking about it ever since.  These things are so addictive!  I don’t know what they do to this queso (the menu just says it’s a “creamy blend of Irish cheddar, pepper jack cheese and green onion”), but it’s one of my favorite appetizers in Austin, especially in the winter.  The boxty wedges are deep fried, and each bite just melts in your mouth in a delicious symphony of cheese.  At $8.95 per order, I’ve been known to demand two in a single visit!

I have to talk about the Bangers and Mash.  The first time I ordered this was during the aforementioned FA Cup.  I couldn’t believe my eyes: there were five bangers, on top of a mountain of mashed potatoes and peas.  Maybe it was because I’d been sick for two weeks and had little to no appetite in the days preceding my visit, or maybe it was just because I am a Huge Glutton, but, for once, my stomach was as big as my eyes, and I ate the entire thing.  And I saw that it was good.  The Bangers and Mash are $12.95, but, honestly, this would make two meals for most normal people.  So, so good.  (Photo by kittygutz on Flickr.)

Be sure to check out the rest of the traditional pub menu, too, because Fadó is definitely a great place to get your fix of  British Isles comfort food.  In addition to the Guinness and Tayto Crisps on offer at the bar, they also serve up Corned Beef and Cabbage, Fish and Chips, and a decadent Shepherd’s Pie.  The have dessert, too (though I can’t imagine ever having room to order any!).

Fadó also offers a discounted happy hour appetizer menu, featuring a BBQ Chicken and Bacon Boxty, Caprese Salad, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Boxty Wedges, and Smithwick’s Mini Burgers for $4.00!  And be sure to check out their brunch menu, which includes a generous All-Day Irish Breakfast ($13.95 gets you two eggs, Irish breakfast sausages, both black and white puddings, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and pan-fried potato bread!  I die.), $3.00 Bloody Marys and Mimosas, and a great fusion dish: the Breakfast Boxty Quesadilla (scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon mized with pico and pepperjack cheese and served between two fried boxties, $10.95).

If you’re looking for a fun, lively spot to watch international soccer with a great beer and whiskey selection and an impressive, Irish-accented menu, check out Fadó.  You’ll probably see us there!

Fadó Irish Pub and Restaurant
214 West 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 457-0172

*We came in fourth out of twenty-something teams, even though ours only had three members!  Somehow, all the questions were about the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and existentialist philosophers.  If only there had been a Gone with the Wind category, we would’ve totally destroyed the competition!

Homebrewed Coffee Milk Stout


This is just a teaser. A full post will come later, when I have time.

We popped open the first bottle of our homebrewed Coffee Milk Stout last night (a little early, I admit!), and it was amazing. It was thick, dark, opaque—not red in the light, like Guinness. It smells like coffee, with a kick of parsley (?). It’s smooth, with no bitterness, and complex. It tastes like coffee—just the right amount of flavor, not overpowering. It finishes clean. I can’t wait to share the whole process with you soon. Eric made it with our pals Mike* and Kris.

*What kind of freak doesn’t have a blog?

Stella’s Colcannon

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

The Queen planting a tree in Ireland.

The Queen planting a tree in Ireland.

Well, it’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and I am a hardcore Anglophile, but I just couldn’t help whipping up some delicious Irish comfort food this week, so that’s what you’re getting! Hopefully, as heralded by Her Majesty’s recent trip to the Emerald Isle (the first by a reigning British monarch since her grandfather King George V visited in 1911), relations between the two countries will continue to improve. Meanwhile, we can all enjoy the best, butteriest foods from both windy isles.

Colcannon

3 lbs. potatoes (about seven medium-sized potatoes), peeled and chopped
1/2 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
2 sticks of butter
6 additional pats of butter, pre-sliced and softened
1 cup of cream
10 slices of bacon
salt and black pepper
3 spring onions, finely chopped (optional)

1. In a large stock pot, cover potatoes with water, lightly salt, and bring to a boil. Cook for about fifteen minutes, or until fully softened.

2. Meanwhile, heat bacon in a large skillet over medium low heat. Allow to sizzle for about ten minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.

3. In a medium stock pot, cover cabbage and spinach with water and bring to a boil. Allow to cook for about five minutes, until cabbage begins to darken, and add a pat of butter. Stir and cover. Boil for a further ten minutes, then drain and set aside.

4. Once potatoes are cooked through, drain and return pot to stove. Lower heat to simmer and add about half the remaining butter, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mash until potatoes are as smooth as possible, slowly drizzling in cream. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as desired. Add the cabbage and spinach, along with the rest of the butter, reserving four pats. Stir thoroughly so that all ingredients are evenly mixed.

5. Serve immediately by ladling the colcannon out into bowls and smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Add reserved pats of butter, one per bowl, and allow to melt into the grooves created by the spoon. Top with crumbled bacon, chopped spring onions, and additional black pepper, if desired.

Serves 6. Also makes great leftovers. Just throw a pat of butter on there and reheat!

*I used Kerrygold! Mmmmmmmm.

Not Nigella’s Shepherd’s Pie

The pie.

Okay, so it’s 104° here in Austin (seriously), and I decided to make a shepherd’s pie.  Am I crazy?  Judge for yourself.

British food still has a reputation for being bland. I lived in England for four years, and since returning to Texas in 2005, I have been on a mission to share the diversity of delicious British food with my fellow Americans.

Britain enlightened me to the fact that there are more types of pies than chocolate merengue.  In fact, while the sweet dessert pie is virtually unheard of in the UK, the array of meat pies is astounding: cottage pie, shepherd’s pie, Melton Mowbray pie, chicken and mushroom pie, beef and ale pie, steak and kidney pie.  And don’t forget eel pie.

Before I moved to the UK, I had never eaten lamb. I have often  opined that it would’ve been better never to try it, because I am a stickler for adorable baby animals and lamb is succulent and singular.  Lamb was a revelation.

One weeknight, I had a pound of lamb and a bag of potatoes that needed eating. So I whipped up a delicious pie. The resulting recipe has become a family favorite!  This crispy potato topping is especially tasty.  This dish is perfect for reheating, but be aware that nothing beats a shepherd’s pie straight out of the oven!

Since I adapted this recipe from beloved British food broadcaster Nigella Lawson’s, I decided to call it Not Nigella’s Shepherd’s Pie.  Enjoy—but don’t forget to give Britain credit!

Not Nigella’s Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb. ground lamb
~ 4 cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
2 Tbsp tomato paste, diluted in 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
pinch of cinnamon
4 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp melted butter
additional pat of butter for greasing pan

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic and shallots in olive oil until fragrant (about three minutes). Meanwhile, boil potatoes in salted water in a separate pot.

2. Add lamb to garlic and shallots, breaking it into fine pieces and stirring until brown. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Once browned, add wine, tomato paste mixture, and cinnamon, and stir thoroughly.

3. Drain and mash potatoes; add cream and about 3/4 melted butter and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

4. Grease a medium casserole dish (I used a quart Pyrex) with butter. Fold meat mixture into dish and top with mashed potatoes. Smooth mash potatoes evenly over surface with a spatula or large spoon, then make a criss-cross design with a fork. Drizzle remaining melted butter over the top, and then sprinkle with additional Worcestershire sauce, if desired.

5. Bake at 425° for about half an hour, or until topping is crisp and brown; broil for a minute or so at the end of cooking, if desired. Remove from oven and allow to cool for approximately five minutes, then serve.

This dish is perfect for reheating, but be aware that nothing beats the crispy potato topping straight out of the oven!