Kip's Pub (St. Louis Park, MN)
The Irish pub, a worldwide export of the Emerald Isle, has been carpet-bombing the Twin Cities. Pubs pop up everywhere, with dark wood, good beers and Irish food on the menu. They serve basic bar food and Irish staples such as fish and chips, lamb stew and pot pies.
Kip's Pub in St. Louis Park has the bar part mostly right. It has several Irish beers on tap, as well as the local Finnegan's Irish Amber. We wish it served Strongbow cider on tap, and not the much sweeter Woodchuck.
Quite a bit of Kip's menu is fried, and most of it tastes like the fryer instead of whatever it is supposed to be. Think of State Fair fried foods, and you'll know what we mean.
The fried "spring roll" was stuffed with corned beef and cabbage but tasted like generic fried food. The same flavor profile inhabited the boxty, a fried potato pancake topped with diced tomato, scallions and the same pinkish mayonnaise sauce that came with the "spring roll." These dishes tasted very nearly like each other.
The Buffalo wings are misnamed. It's not enough to serve fried chicken wings with bleu cheese dressing, and they are not southern food as described on the menu. Buffalo wings (from Buffalo, N.Y.) should be drenched in hot sauce. These were good for ordinary chicken wings.
Another disappointment was Kip's fish and chips, which can only be described as tasteless fish wrapped in thick, doughy batter. It's a batter suited to some styles of onion rings, but not fish. We expect an Irish pub to get this staple right, and we were disappointed by Kip's offering. At least the chips were good.
Move off the fried foods, and you're likely to do a lot better. On the appetizers list, we liked the spinach dip. So often these are smothered in cheese, but Kip's was lighter and chunkier; the spinach and artichoke flavors came through nicely.
We liked the lamb stew, made with lots of peas and aromatic with good fresh rosemary and thyme. This was topped with whipped potatoes and run under the broiler. This could have been meatier, but it still was quite tasty. We also liked the beef stew, served in a single-serving caldron, heavily scented with thyme and served with roasted vegetables.
On the other hand, the rib-eye was absolutely ordinary. It was served with the same whipped potatoes and some very tasty green beans.
We liked the amusingly named "Salmon of Knowledge": grilled salmon with a lively citrus mango chutney. We'd have liked more chutney here.
One thing Kip's does very well indeed is to get the food to you while piping hot. It's so rare to get a really hot meal, and Kip's kitchen staff impressed and delighted us on this point.
We like the kind of restaurant where friends gather in big bunches, co-workers have a drink together before heading home, and families go for dinner. Kip's Pub in St. Louis Park is just such a convivial, though noisy, gathering spot.
It also has some pretty good local music acts lined up on Saturday nights. We just wish the place had better food.
Where: 9970 Wayzata Blvd., near Hwy. 169 and Interstate Hwy. 394, St. Louis Park
More info: 952-367-5070 or www.kipspub.com
Hours: Mon-Thu, 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri, 6:30 a.m.- midnight; Sat, 7 a.m.-midnight; Sun, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sound level: Very noisy
Recommended dishes: Beef stew, Shepherd's pie, corned beef and cabbage
Prices: Entrees $10–$20, $10 lunch specials
Children: Special menu available