45 E. Main St., Newark
Poutine appetizer, chicken wings, Irish breakfast sandwich
There is no sign of a potato famine at Kildare’s Pub in Newark. All sandwiches come with hand-cut fries. There is an appetizer of cheese curds and brown gravy over fries. Boxty (a potato pancake with filling) comes with seasoned julienned Yukon gold potatoes. And what is an Irish pub without fish and chips?
The prominence of spuds is understandable. The potato played a large part in Ireland’s history, and Kildare’s promises an authentic Irish experience.
This Kildare’s, seventh in a regional chain, is the first in Delaware. The concept is the brainchild of Dave Magrogan, a chiropractor-turned-restaurateur who, two weeks before opening Kildare’s in Newark, cut the ribbon on Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House in the Colonnade at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
Doc’s also gives the spud its due. Consider Old Bay-dusted fries smothered with seafood fondue, as well as entrées accompanied by garlic-mashed potatoes or oven-fried potatoes.
The similarities, however, go beyond vegetables. Both chains are built on a theme that begs for replication. Kildare’s is all about Ireland. In fact, an Irish company, which designed the flagship restaurant in West Chester, shipped more than six 40-foot containers of paraphernalia to lend authenticity.
Magrogan followed the same approach for subsequent restaurants. The Newark Kildare’s features tin ceilings, hardwood floors, a fireplace flanked by full bookcases, and mismatched tables, chairs and upholstery. Though it could have easily become Disney-esque, the decor stops short of stereotyping Irish culture. The result is a comfortable space with character.
Doc’s, meanwhile, is dressed like a turn-of-the-century oyster house. Victorian-styled potted palms dot the floor and heavy dark furniture predominates. The mood is clearly Old World.
Both restaurants’ bars have all the makings of friendly neighborhood hangouts. The feeling stems partly from the great beer selection. On my visit, Kildare’s offered more than 30 bottled beers and more than 20 on draft. Boddington’s Pub Ale from Manchester, England, and Guinness Stout from Dublin both came in glasses bearing the appropriate logo.
Doc’s offers many of the same selections, but fewer of them. The menu instead features specialty martinis and a longer wine list, though that’s not saying much. Both wine lists are brief.
In a seafood restaurant, I was surprised to find just one Sauvignon Blanc (Kenwood) available by the glass. The only other Sauvignon Blanc, Cakebread, was $60 a bottle. Sparkling wine jumped from $10 for a split of Korbel to $100 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. All but six of the featured wines were available by the glass for $6 to $7. There are a few selections in the $18 to $20 range.
If you hold Kildare’s and Doc Magrogan’s menus side by side, you’d see the same minds at work. Kildare’s offers a three-cheese mac-n’-cheese. Doc’s has a smoked salmon mac-n’-cheese. Kildare’s serves a triple-cheese fondue. Doc’s goes with a seafood fondue. Kildare’s prepares Buffalo shrimp in a whiskey glaze. Doc’s does a Guinness-battered coconut shrimp with a honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Kildare’s mines the gastro-pub territory, and it does it well. The poutine appetizer was an interesting offering for an Irish pub. (It’s actually French Canadian in origin.) A heaping mound of golden fries, covered in rich brown gravy, blanketed a dinner plate. Cheese curds, curled on top, looked like tendrils of fresh mozzarella. The secret to success—I was told by a dining partner who’d lived in Wisconsin—is the curds’ freshness. Plan to share. This is one heavy appetizer.
Another thumbs up for the wings, which are baked, fried, then grilled. Slathered in a Jameson Irish Whiskey sauce, the morsels of chicken were meaty, crispy and tangy. Grilling added a nice smoky flavor, which was enhanced by an earthy wing sauce.
Page 2: One Potato, Two Potato continues…
Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House
Dover Downs Hotel
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover
Oysters on the half shell, bouillabaisse
The menu’s section of Celtic cuisine includes all the predictable dishes: Guinness stew, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash (sausages served over potatoes), and fish and chips. The cod, dipped in ale batter, tasted fresh—true of everything we sampled.
As befits any good pub, Kildare’s offers plenty of sandwiches and finger food. It’s in this segment that Kildare’s displays real creativity. Meaty grilled portobello mushrooms stand in for steak in the vegetarian cheesesteak, which also features sprouts, grilled veggies and American cheese.
If only fast-food restaurants could make a morning menu item such as the Irish breakfast sandwich, a blend of fluffy scrambled eggs, melted cheese and cubed brunch potatoes on a seeded baguette. Next time I’ll add bangers or bacon for $1.
Glistening oysters on the half shell are the main attraction at Doc Magrogan’s, and each one I sampled was outstanding. Island Creek oysters from Massachusetts were delightfully briny, shining with the clean taste of the ocean. Piper’s Point oysters from Prince Edward Island were milder and sweeter, while the succulent Deer Creek oysters from Washington had size on their side.
The Mediterranean salad featured colossal snow crab claws that were sweet and slightly salty. I was equally pleased with the size of the two fat shrimp. The salmon, however, was surprisingly bland.
More attention should go to the salad’s accoutrements. Instead of the pedestrian black olives, Kalamata olives would have upped the flavor. The tomato wedges were wan, though fresh local tomatoes were still available when I visited.
The popcorn crawfish came in a bowl big enough to serve four hungry men. Into the clams casino, Doc’s throws andouille sausage. Clams played the right role in the bouillabaisse, which included linguini and chopped tomatoes, making it more like a cioppino. Still a seafood stew by any name, the medley included a decent-sized lobster tail, perfectly cooked shrimp that twisted in the broth like fusilli, and mussels.
I like the idea of offering eight types of seafood with several different sauces so you can pick and choose. Adding lump crabmeat for an additional $4 is brilliant, though I didn’t care for the lemon-butter sauce I requested on my tasty mahi-mahi.
Service at Kildare’s was efficient, perhaps a nod toward the businessperson’s schedule. At Doc’s, dirty plates lingered in front of us. The place is new, so it was working out the bugs. Regardless, its best features are fresh, unadorned seafood, especially oysters served with a frosty beer. Kildare’s is all about the nosh and a pint. Consequently, these sister restaurants are the perfect spots for friends who want to say, “Bottoms up.”
Page 3: In Nog We Trust
How do you take yours? With a shake of cinnamon? A dollop of whipped cream? Perhaps a shot of rum?
No matter the embellishment, eggnog is a frothy holiday tradition—especially at Lewes Dairy, which is famous for the stuff. The family-run dairy makes about 30,000 gallons every holiday season.
“We win people over,” says Lewes Dairy supervisor Nevin Wynn. “People who don’t like eggnog have loved ours. It’s very rich, it’s very thick, and it gets even better as it sits.”
Lewes Dairy makes its eggnog with milk and cream from local dairy farmers, a bit of nutmeg and a few other touches from the generations-old family recipe.
Get noggin’ upstate courtesy of Hy-Point Dairy Farms in Wilmington.
Wynn takes his eggnog in a frosty mug that’s been chilled in the freezer. His tip: Save the leftovers for French toast batter the next morning.
A little hair of the nog, if you will.