“This joint is jumpin’,” observed Patrice, when we arrived at Katie O’Byrnes for dinner on a Tuesday night. “Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked. We did not. “We only have hightops left,” she said.
We’d just navigated the hectic shared parking lot to find everyone at Katie’s. We took the hightop.
“There must be a reason all these people are here,” said Patrice. We found several, starting with the atmosphere.
The lively, hoppin’ ambiance is convivial, welcoming. It’s noisy, but from folks talking and laughing, having a good time. We surveyed the premises from our hightop in the front window: large dining room on the left, long wood bar on our side, reverberating wood floors, brick walls, metal ceiling. We were out of the scrum, in a cozy corner with a view.
Katie’s menu is Irish-American, with Emerald Isle favorites like fish and chips ($13.99), beer-braised corned beef and cabbage ($12.99), bangers and mash ($11.99), Guinness-glazed salmon ($13.99). A side salad is a bit extra, but these prices are still a bargain, though a bit higher than what’s shown on their website.
Other items are Irish in name only, like Molly’s chicken strips ($7.99) and shamrock (mozzarella) sticks ($6.99), Danny Boy’s buffalo shrimp wrap ($10.49.) Hey, they get points for trying. Oriental chicken wraps, wings, tuna melts, all come from this side of the Atlantic.
The menu rounds out with burgers, sandwiches and salads, at similarly attractive prices. Another reason for Katie’s popularity, we thought.
We shared an order of Buffalo wings, medium ($9.99), the heat calibrated perfectly: hot enough so you know you’re eating wings, not too. “They’re steaming,” said Patrice, then, “I’m making a mess but it’s worth it.”
The skin was crispy, the meat tender, with a distinct chili flavor to the sauce. We liked them and each had a few.
Katie’s most popular menu items are in red, which might help you choose, at least, it helped us. Patrice ordered the well-liked Bunratty Bleu beef sandwich ($9.99).
Also, she’d been to Bunratty castle on her honeymoon.
“This is really good,” she said, after a bite. The sandwich was handsome, with Bleu cheese-dotted meat piled high on a shiny-crusted roll. “The beef is thin and tender, with mushrooms and onions,” she said, passing over a piece. The sweet taste of the onions came through pleasantly, and all was held together with a thick, tasty gravy. She pointed to her sandwich as another reason for Katie’s popularity.
Sandwiches come with a choice of homemade tortilla chips, seasoned fries, macaroni salad or coleslaw. “The mac salad is good,” said Patrice, pleased with her choice.
I was impressed with the lemon garlic haddock ($13.99), and Katie’s gets serious points for fresh vegetables and attractive plating, with fish fillet draped over pilaf, vegetables arranged around. Carrots, green and yellow squash, broccoli and red pepper were cooked to varying degrees of doneness; together with slim lemon slices, their colors jazzed up the plate. It’s nice to see someone in the kitchen taking care over how the food looks.
The lemon flavor could have been more pronounced, and a bit of sauce welcome, but I’ve had similar dishes at other restaurants for a lot more money that weren’t as attractive or well-prepared as this.
We ended our meal with Katie’s sole homemade dessert, bread pudding ($5), something you should consider because it’s warm, full of cinnamon and raisins and as Patrice said, “It tastes like really good French toast.” Just a little whipped cream and sweet caramel-type sauce dressed up the plate.
Our server brought the tab, $42.09 for food. She ran my card and was back in a jiffy, and service had been consistently good. “Just what you want in a waitress,” Partrice observed.
So, high marks for Katie O’Byrnes from us both. “That was really good,” Patrice said as she got into the car.
All the reasons the restaurant is hoppin’ means you should probably call ahead when you go. No matter which side of the Atlantic inspires your food, Katie’s will deliver.
Katie O’Byrnes Irish Pub
WHERE: 121 Wall Street, Schenectady, 518-395-5999, katieobyrnespub.com
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $42.09 for food, with tax and before tip.
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Children’s menu. ADA compliant. Parking lot accessible from Erie Boulevard and Liberty Street.