Snow had been falling for several hours when my friend Dave and I headed into the Shannon Rose. It seemed the perfect combination: freezing cold and some hearty Irish pub fare. We had just seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi on opening day, and wanted to skip our usual haunt when I’m in town, the Nutley Diner. We made it a point to try some place new—well, new for me. He had been there a few times years ago, and we have a mutual friend who is a regular (who we actually ran into that night). Dave promised me good food and a cool environment. He was right on both counts.
There was a Guinness beer flight staring at me from the menu. I’m usually not a fan, but this seemed a good a time as any to give it another go-around. The flight contained four pours: Guinness by itself, Guinness/Smithwicks (“Black and Tan”), Guinness/Hard Cider (“Black Velvet”), and Guinness/Blue Moon (“Black and Blue”). For $7, it was well worth it. The sampling equaled what was probably a pint of beer.
Dave and I have an inside joke that I don’t know where it started. Despite neither of us being a card-carrying fan of nachos, somehow whenever we meet up, that’s usually the appetizer. It also usually sucks to the point where we laugh at it. We would make no such mistake here. When he asked, “What should we get for an appetizer?”, I responded, “Anything but nachos”. He suggested the Boxty, which is an order of potato pancakes covered in cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Could not go wrong there. They were good, though admittedly, lukewarm. Dave added a cup of French Onion Soup for himself which looked pretty good and unlike the Boxty, was burning hot.
I knew what I was getting for an entrée before I even stepped foot in the place: the Irish breakfast. I had one only once before, at Kildare’s in Pennsylvania. There it was good. Here it was great. An ungodly, colon-clogging amount of meats was placed down in front of me. There was a hefty portion of rashers (Irish bacon), two bangers, three or four slices each of black and white puddings, two fried eggs, beans, a tomato, and a slice of Irish soda bread…with butter. For some inane reason, I added a twice baked-potato on the side. I left this meal more stuffed than I have been in a long time. I could not even finish it. I don’t know how anyone “over there” eats a meal like this in the morning and then goes to work. To quote Anthony Bourdain, you will suffer from the “meat sweats”. It is inevitable. Why in heaven’s name they even bother with a tomato, I don’t know. In Ireland they even go so far as to add mushrooms. While the acidity of the tomato does do well to cut the heaviness of the meat, especially those bangers, by the halfway point you may fall to your knees praying to whatever God you believe in that he send you spinach or some greenery.
Meanwhile, Dave went with a Shepherd’s Pie that he also did not finish. His too came with a side of Irish soda bread, which I must admit, rivaled only my mother’s. My complaints for Shannon Rose are minuscule, and that is the food temperature. As I said before, the boxty was lukewarm, as was my baked potato. It was creatively made (a crisp shell of a potato stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, scallions, and cheese), but it bordered on cold. While it is acceptable for a restaurant like this to have some food already made and waiting, it needs to be hot upon arrival.
Other than that, I would suggest a whiskey flight at a more affordable price. Beer flights were a commendable $7, but ones for whiskey (Scotch, Bourbon, or Irish) started at $28. Granted, the selection within these flights was some pretty good stuff, but neither I or many others are going to drop that amount of money. Maybe they could add a lower tier sampling or something of that nature. Priced around $18, I may have splurged and gave it a shot. No pun intended.
The Shannon Rose is going to get a 4 out of 5 stars from me. The place was absolutely rocking—the snow kept nobody in. It was such a far drive home for me, or else I would have liked nothing more than to sit snowed in at an Irish pub clutching some whiskey. Maybe next time, and there will hopefully be a next time.
Shannon Rose is located at 98 Kingsland Road in Clifton, New Jersey.