Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub

Name: Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub
Address: 100 S Lowell Ave, Syracuse, NY
Phone: 315-476-1933
Neighborhood: Tipperary Hill
Website: www.colemansirishpub.com
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Irish, Traditional American, Pub Food
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Sunday 11:30 AM to 2 AM
Parking: Private lot and on-street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Takes Reservations: Yes
Waiter Service: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: No

Originally established as a small working man's saloon in 1933, Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub has evolved to become a permanent fixture nestled upon Syracuse's Tipperary Hill. Growing both in size and within the surrounding community's hearts over the decades, it continues to be an anchor in sustaining the Irish heritage of the city.

Fixated at the corner of S Lowell Ave and Tompkins St, Coleman's is a massive place. The surrounding streets of Tipp Hill are dotted with mostly large houses and Coleman's is no exception. Irish flags, two red phone booths (one regular sized, one for the leprechauns), a statue sitting on a bench, and two heavy wooden doors greet you as you approach and welcome you in arrival.

Coleman's does have their own customer parking lot, but if that's busy, there's plenty of on-street parking nearby. The neighborhood is quaint and quiet, so it's a pleasant walk if for some reason you're unable to find a close spot.

On the inside you'll find dark, ordinate woodwork lining the rooms and bar area, stained glass window dividers near tables, and plenty of old photographs adorning the walls. The rich colors coupled with stained glass make you feel as if you're in a place of grandeur. It's almost church-like but certainly not uncomfortable. Rather, it's very down-to-earth, inviting, and homey.

Aside from that, there's a pool table, darts, engraved beer mugs hanging over the bar (for regulars), flat screen TVs, a fireplace, a coat check, and a gift shop selling Coleman's and Irish-themed products like pint glasses, T-shirts, and other little odds and ends. There's also live music on the weekends, trivia on Tuesday nights at 9, seating for roughly 105 people (which is a mix of tables for large or small groups as well as intimate pub-style booths), and an upstairs banquet area for formal occasions and private parties. Needless to say, it's a big place with a lot going on.

The menu reads pretty straightforward and contains a nice mix of pub food (though a bit limited on the vegetarian side of things). It definitely hovers within the Irish-themed pub and comfort food genres. A few of the offerings include: potato leek soup, smoked Irish salmon, wings, potato skins, Irish soda bread, bangers and mash, beef on weck, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, open-faced sandwiches, burgers, salads, as well as a few pasta dishes.

Beef O'Flaherty, a signature dish of Coleman's, is not something that would normally jump out at me on a menu, but it had some positive reviews online, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

The order...

Guinness Onion rings: $5.99
Beef O'Flaherty: $8.99
Two Guinness stouts: $8
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $29.18

Several got snatched up before I could get a picture.

These hefty onion ring slices were coated in a crunchy, stout-battered breading and laid on top of a bed of green lettuce. A somewhat pinkish mayo and horseradish dipping sauce accompanied them and was pretty good for dunking. The rings were a bit on the greasy side, but that's anticipated and encouraged with fried onions. It was an excellent appetizer, addicting, and definitely the highlight of the meal. Granted, I had some good ones in my last review, but these were some of the best onion rings that I've been able to find in the city.

Holy cheese!

Large slices of well-cooked roast beef and soft bread were tucked underneath a covering of slightly chunky and homemade blue cheese that was nicely browned and bubbly on top. The cheese had a more mellow flavor than say, chicken wing blue cheese. It was nice but a tad overwhelming (not necessarily the flavor, but the amount). The roast beef was a little more well-done than I prefer, but the large pieces still remained juicy. I wished there was a bit more bread to balance the rest of the ingredients though, as the mostly beef and cheese presence made it a little "one note"-ish.

Also on the plate were Irish fries, which were lightly fried and golden on the outside, had a nice starchy and airy potato filling inside, and were a bit like steak fries from the taste. I'd get them again.

Good portion sizes all around, but I'd probably opt for a different main course next time. The fries and rings both get a thumbs up though.

Some other Notes...

- A lot of effort goes into the Beef O'Flaherty, which I found out after reading this informative article by Megan Hess on Syracuse.com.

- Depending on the time of day, the vibe inside can range anywhere from calm and relaxing to crowded and rowdy, so be mindful of your timing. I came in for lunch on a weekday afternoon and while it was a little busy inside, I found it to be cozy for a meal with my family.

- If you have a few minutes before or afterwards and are interested in some local history, don't miss the green-on-top traffic light located just two blocks away at the intersection of Tompkins St and Milton Ave. So the story goes: when the City of Syracuse first started to install traffic signal lights in the 1920's, one was installed here in the predominantly Irish neighborhood on Tipperary Hill. Some Irish youths, incensed that anyone would dare put the "British" red above the "Irish" green broke the light with stones continually until the city relented and let the green remain on top.

- The "painting of the shamrock" also takes place at this intersection. It's an informal ceremony that happens at Midnight right before St Patrick's Day. Essentially, a crowd of a few hundred people will gather around 11:45 PM. At Midnight, a few local residents then read the names of family and friends who have passed away over the last year and sing a few Irish folk songs in remembrance. That's followed by the painting of a huge, green shamrock in the middle of the intersection. Everyone is given a little white card with some Irish quotes on it and then you go and dip that into the not-yet-dry green paint for good luck. The crowd then disperses around 12:15 AM and back into to their homes and into the surrounding neighborhood pubs (including Coleman's). The crowd's size has steadily grown over the last several years (thanks a lot, internet! always spilling out these cool little known details about things!), yet it remains one of the true cultural gems of the city.

- Coleman's green beer delivery parade, unofficially dubbed "the shortest parade in the world", has been happening every year since 1962 and is typically held near the end of February. Irish step dancers, bag pipers, and a huge beer tanker begin at the green-over-red traffic light and proceed down the hill towards Coleman's, where roughly 8,500 gallons of green beer are pumped into the restaurant and/or tapped directly out of the tanker for parade-goers. There's tents, music, and it's typically very crowded. For all intensive purposes, "Green Beer Day" is an excuse to drink on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter. Despite the high volume of alcohol in abundance and how crowded it can get, the parade is actually quite family-friendly. The green beer usually lasts until about St. Patrick's day.

At last year's green beer parade, I remember talking to a guy who restored both the regular-sized and leprechaun-sized phone booths in front of Coleman's. Nice guy. I'll be damned if I can remember anything from that conversation though.

- Coleman's has a few recipes up on their website if you're at all interested: lamb stew, Bailey's chocolate chip cheesecake, and hot bloody mary soup.

While I found the entree to be slightly underwhelming, it's hard to overshadow the place's hospitality, charm, and nostalgia. I love the atmosphere of Coleman's and it's tough to fault them in just about any category. It seems excellent for family dining, children (that is, when the time of day is appropriate), and gathering with friends for drinks on a quiet afternoon or, if you're in the mood for it, a busy weekend night. I'll be sure to return for both food and a pint again soon.

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