Shortly after 6 p.m. on a recent Friday night, my husband and I had trouble finding a parking spot in front of the decades-old O'Michael's Pub & Grill. After parking in the lot across the street, we stepped inside the pub to find the place was packed. We were joined by our friends, Peter and Alice, who also had trouble finding parking, and within minutes, we were sipping Fat Tires and red wine and chatting happily. O'Michael's is divided into two distinct rooms. When you enter, the bar is to the right and the dining room is to the left. I've never been in the dining room, having always met friends in the bar for beers and snacks. The clean, dark interior of O'Michael's bar is lined with rough wooden paneling and brick, making it feel worn and comfortable like a favorite pair of shoes. Arched windows that sit low give the place a sleepy feeling--as though looking out at the colorful townhouses across Bogus Basin Road through eyes that are half open and not easily impressed, eyes that have seen plenty of neighbors come and go in the decades they've been open.
On Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon, you can order breakfast dishes like chicken fried steak ($6.99), eggs Benedict ($6.99) or an on-the-go burrito ($5.92) filled with eggs, cheese and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage. Daily lunch and dinner fare ranges from wraps, burgers and sandwiches to soups, salads and steaks at reasonable prices. The daily special when we visited was fish tacos ($6.49), which sounded tempting, but I was looking for something different. I asked the waitress which dish is most popular, and her reply surprised me. "The Slaw Burger," she said. After vacillating between the buffalo chicken wrap ($7.99) and the salmon Caesar salad ($11.99), I decided on the unusual-sounding Slaw Burger ($6.59), made with shredded barbeque pork and coleslaw on a toasted hoagie roll. Alice ordered the Reuben sandwich ($7.99) with turkey instead of corned beef because she was burned out from St. Patty's Day but still craved the tangy sauerkraut. Peter chose the hot pastrami sandwich ($7.99), while my husband went for the cod fish and chips ($9.99). Halibut fish and chips are also available.
Earlier in the evening, I joked to my friends that since I'm reviewing O'Michael's, I expect to have a bite of everyone's food. My kidding around paid off, for each of us divided our meals into four portions, and we all got to sample each other's dinner. We started by passing around a cup of homemade New England clam chowder that was creamy, but not too thick, and chunky with diced potatoes and tender clams. Nobody complained about the basic dinner salad. However, we all had something to say about the slaw burger. Peter thought it was really good and liked it a lot, while Alice thought the coleslaw was too sweet. She prefers her cabbage on the bitter side (hence the kraut cravings). My husband Dan said, simply, that it was different. I agreed with Peter. The juicy pork, sweet barbeque sauce and crunchy slaw made for a tasty sandwich. Peter's hot pastrami came on toasted marbled rye bread, while Alice's turkey Reuben was a little funky for my taste. It tasted good enough, but it's just not a Reuben without corned beef. Dan's lightly crusted fish and chips with tartar sauce was an easy winner, as was the juicy bar prawn ($3.49) that was a little bigger than the average cell phone, lightly breaded with a crispy crust and made better with a dip in cocktail sauce. Even on a jam-packed Friday night at O'Michael's Pub, the beer and wine flowed freely throughout our meal, service was efficient, and we had a good dinner with good friends without breaking the bank. We'll definitely be back.
--Jennifer Hernandez's ego is a little bigger than the average cell phone.