Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do as I Say…Not as I Do

Kitty O’Shea’s
720 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL

“I don’t trust no one who don’t take their own advice”
            -- Black Crowes,
                “Bad Luck, Blue Eyes, Goodbye”

That’s the trouble with being overly opinionated.

In typical rock star eloquence, Chris Robinson may have gotten the grammar all mangled, but he still somehow manages to make an insightful point.

You always have to take your own advice.

Oh well, even Suit757 can’t be that consistent.

I deserve to be put on Double Secret Suits in Strange Places Probation for this one.

My meal at Kitty O’Shea’s in the Chicago Hilton violated not one, but two inviolable Suit757 commandments:

1) Never eat at a hotel restaurant.

2) Don’t order the food at an Irish Pub.

Just think, if it had been one of those national chain pseudo-Irish restaurants like Bennigan’s or Beef O’Brady’s I could have hit the trifecta of road food sins.

The reason to avoid hotel restaurants should be obvious – most of their customers are never coming back. No incentive to create shirt-buying-worthy cuisine.

And as for Irish Pub cuisine, take it from someone who has spent his fair share of time downing pints in the deepest, darkest nooks and snugs of America’s and Ireland’s most famous Irish pubs. It’s not the food that makes them famous.

But, today, a strange set of circumstances (involving stored luggage, subway station proximity, flight schedules, an urgent call from Suit69 and the overriding desire for a cold beer, among other things) conspired to lead me to the conclusion that of all the great dining establishments the Windy City offers, Kitty O’Shea’s in the Chicago Hilton was my best option for a meal.

Apparently a lot of other people don’t take my advice either. At 5:30 on a Wednesday, the place was packed.

Mostly suit-wearing 20-somethings networking over pints of American-made light beer and breaking their best moves on their busty brunette co-workers.

Also, a few unadventurous traveling suits like me who for whatever reason had no desire to leave the confines of their hotel.

As far as Irish pub authenticity? Well, what do you expect?

Kitty O’Shea’s has dark wood paneling, a few Irish beers on tap, and a cow painted in green shamrocks.

If you are looking for more than that, then I’m afraid you are going to have to venture outside the Hilton.

I do have to give a few begrudging points to Kitty O’Shea’s for their beer selection. It’s not extensive, by any means, but it does have a couple unusual offerings you can’t find in just any old bar.

For example, forgoing my Irish Pub customary pint of Guinness, I sipped a Kilkenny while perusing the very limited menu.

Kilkenny is somewhat unusual simply because it is an Irish beer far less ubiquitous than the typical corporate Irish beer triumvirate of Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks.

When you order a Kilkenny you can still live under the illusion that you are supporting the little guy, rather than some international conglomerate.

Just don’t read the fine print on the tap handle.

Turns out Kilkenny is a part of the vast Diageo booze empire, along with the rest of the Irish corporate triumvirate.

Am I the only Irishman on the planet who finds it sacrilegious that 99.9% of all Irish beer is produced by a world-dominating beverage conglomerate headquartered in London?

Arthur Guinness (God rest his soul) must be flipping in his County Kildare grave.

Kilkenny is light, but tasty and goes down smooth (REAL smooth) because it is nitrogenated like Guinness.

(More friendly advice for you – if you ever find yourself in a beer chugging contest, always go for a nitrogen-based beer like Kilkenny or Guinness. It goes down much easier than a carbonated beer. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

My second beer was a local microbrew, Gossamer Golden Ale, from Chicago’s own Half Acre Brewing Company. A pilsner with a bit of hoppy flavor, it was okay. Certainly better than Bud Light.

When it comes to ordering food at an Irish pub, the safest bet is to eat before you get there.

The second safest is to get the fish and chips.

Kitty O’Shea’s version consisted of two beer-battered pieces of mystery fish and a handful of seasoned fries. The dipping sauce for the fish was described on the menu as an “Old Bay Sauce”. In reality, it was more like a remoulade from New Orleans.

The fish wasn’t bad. Crispy and flaky, the sauce really elevated the dish to above average.

The fries were pretty good too.

I was even thinking of giving the meal a little higher rating.

Until the check came. And I was reminded of the other reason to avoid hotel restaurants.

Would you pay $35 for two pieces of fish, two beers and a few fries?

Well, I just did.

But that’s what I get for not taking my own advice.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.

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