We were out on a recent Saturday for a full afternoon of shopping, and wanted to grab lunch nearby to allow as much time in the stores as possible. I gave my friend Donna the option of eating at a deli or a pub, as both Schenectady eateries have made their way onto my “want-to-try” list.
Donna chose Katie O’Byrnes, an Irish-style pub near the Amtrak train station, just off Erie Boulevard.
The friendly neighborhood establishment attracts a hearty following of pub crawlers during the weekend evening hours, but we found the surroundings much quieter during our midday visit.
The sun was shining the day we visited, and the storefront windows and high ceilings created an illusion that the place is larger than it is in real life. There are only about a dozen tables between the two levels, and a bar that seems to invite standing-room-only crowds.
We found the atmosphere cozy, with the surroundings accented by dark brick and a considerable amount of Irish-looking wall ornamentation.
A few small parties shared the upper tier of the restaurant, and we opted to sit on the first level, where the only other party was a group of eight engaged in what appeared to be a working lunch. “D” and I were both open-minded that day, and our server was exceptionally helpful in steering us toward a few of her favorites.
Fish and Golden Rings
“D” decided on the Celtic Haddock Sandwich ($8.99), which was dredged in a crunchy Bass Ale batter. For 75 cents more, she substituted onion rings for the french fries, and was thrilled when her sandwich arrived with about a dozen of the golden beauties stacked high on the plate.
“I know they’re not good for you, but these are delicious,” my good friend said as she munched on the crunchy rings. She offered some to me, and I appreciated that the onions remained crispy inside the batter; more often than not, I find that when the temperature in the fryer isn’t hot enough, the batter is browned and the onions are limp and overcooked. These were prepared just right.
Donna also assigned high rankings to her fish sandwich, which, as our server described, was a generous portion of moist, snow-white filet topped with two types of cheeses, lettuce, tomato and onion. Famished, my friend finished her plate.
“So much for South Beach,” she said of the high protein diet she’d started four days earlier.
I hadn’t yet started to worry about the extra 3 pounds I’d gained over the holidays, and so I was not at all remorseful as I made my way through my Roast Beef Grill ($8.79).
The sandwich could be made with either turkey or beef, and its description had many of the characteristics of a corned beef Reuben (fare offered at Katie O’Byrnes for $8.29). The beef version I ordered — our server’s favorite on the lunch menu, she said — was served on grilled sourdough instead of rye, and piled with sauteed mushrooms and onions instead of sauerkraut.
I could tell that the mushrooms were fresh and not from a can, and the onions were nice and caramelized. A slice of Swiss cheese and a tangy horseradish-Thousand Island dressing put the finishing touches on the generous sandwich.
All of the hot and cold sandwiches at Katie O’Byrnes come with a garlicky half-dill pickle on a leaf of colorful purple cabbage.
The beef inside my sandwich was thinly sliced and barely grilled, which meant it wasn’t too dry. The fillings made for an interesting combination, and there were plenty of them. My only complaint was that while the top bread of the sandwich was nicely browned and slightly crispy, the underside — the slice laying on the plate — was a bit soggy.
I chose the macaroni salad instead of the french fries, onion rings or sweet potato fries. The salad was tasty, with the right amount of celery, onion and mayonnaise, but the portion size was skimpy and amounted to no more than two heaping tablespoonfuls. I know it’s a side dish, but it seemed odd that the kitchen spared no expense with my sandwich, while cutting corners with the less-expensive item.
Limited Lunch Menu
The lunch menu is limited, offering a few wraps and hot and cold sandwiches, two salads and a small selection of finger foods.
An Irish stew is listed at $3.99 a cup and $7.99 a bowl, and served with Irish soda bread. A dinner menu also has limited offerings.
Lunch for two with sodas and tip was $29. Service was attentive and helpful. The food was good, but a bit overpriced in comparison with other similar Schenectady venues.
WHERE: 121 Wall St., Schenectady. 395-5999
WHEN: Kitchen open noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week
HOW MUCH: $29
MORE INFO: Handicapped-accessible. All major credit cards.