If you’ve read many of my other posts, you’ve probably seen lots of whining about Midtown East. There are way too many Starbucks (Starbuckses?) and real estate is insanely pricey, so there isn’t much room for charismatic hole-in-the-wall ethnic joints. (If the term “hole-in-the-wall” brings back gleeful memories of truck stop toilet stalls, please stop reading my food porn blog and go bother somebody else.)
But at least we have lots of good Irish pubs around here, and that makes me sorta happy. And when I say “good” Irish pubs, I actually mean “crappy”… which, in my book, is the same thing as “good” if we’re talking about pubs. Got that?
The first Midtown business I ever fell in love with was Muldoon’s Irish Pub. Everything in this neighborhood is so damned squeaky-clean and corporate, but Muldoon’s is—and I mean this in the best possible way—just a crappy old bar. Everything in there is a little bit worn, including all of the furniture and most of the bartenders. The beers are cheap ($6 for a Guinness) by Midtown standards, the staff is warm, crass, and informal, and there isn’t a hint of pretention to the place, ever. Some of the regulars are wonderfully crusty and mean: one night, a leathery old lady with a pickled brain started randomly screaming at us for being “assholes”, even though we were quietly minding our own business and hadn’t said a word to her. What’s more unpretentious and un-corporate and un-Midtown than a drunk old blue-haired lady screaming obscenities at you on a Saturday night?
Muldoon’s food isn’t amazing, but it’s always solid, and reasonably priced by Midtown standards. The Irish breakfast (10.95, including coffee and a bloody Mary or beer) is decent, but it isn’t unusual for certain pieces of the dish to be missing: on one recent Sunday afternoon, they were out of breakfast potatoes and toast, and gave me a small
mound of French fries instead. Kind of funny. The black pudding and white pudding were surprisingly delicious—both little patties were seared until they were black as death, and had a crispiness that allowed me to forget that I was eating pig blood mixed with suet and oatmeal. And really, who wouldn’t prefer to forget that you’re eating pig blood mixed with suet and oatmeal?
I truly love Muldoon’s, but if I’m in the mood for a slightly classier experience, my favorite spot is Jameson’s pub, which serves the best burrito I’ve had in NYC (with the notable exception of the Tacos Morelos carts). You couldn’t possibly mistake Jameson’s breakfast burrito for legit Mexican food (ever see a breakfast burrito in Mexico? I didn’t think so), but it’s the perfect hangover breakfast, stuffed with about six eggs, bacon, and cheese, and topped with black bean sauce and half of an avocado. (You weren’t expecting vegetables in an Irish pub breakfast, were you?) Your lovely Irish-American breakfast burrito is served with Irish soda bread, coffee, and your choice of a bloody Mary or beer… all for $10.95.
Though the breakfast burritos are my absolute favorite, pretty much everything I’ve ever eaten at Jameson’s has been good-to-great, including the shepherd’s pie. Whenever I order it, the charming, sassy, overeducated bartender nods grimly and says, “ah yes, comfort food.” It’s delicious stuff, but you may or may not feel comforted after jamming your stomach with a massive, dense, 4000-calorie brick of beef, peas, carrots, and creamy mashed potatoes. But at least it’s a little bit more comforting than getting cussed out by an angry old lady.
Muldoon’s Irish Pub
692 3rd Ave. (between 43rd & 44th), Manhattan
Subway: Grand Central (4, 5, 6, 7, S trains)
975 2nd Ave. @ 52nd, Manhattan
Subway: 51st St. (6 train) or 53rd-Lexington (E train)