I like to pretend that I am Irish. Most Americans only pretend on March 16th as they wear green and consume vast amounts of colored beer. I however, pretend year round. I love beer. I love the Irish accent. If I ever get to visit, I am sure that I will love Ireland. What I love most about being Irish though is the food.
Irish 31 owner Jay Mize likes to do things a little different from your typical Irish Pub. It is described best on their website:
"The Irish 31 brand begins and ends with a passion for providing nothing but the best to our patrons, or as we call them, our partners. From the obvious things like our chef driven food menu and mixology themed drink menu, all the way down to the sinks in the bathrooms, Irish 31 is proud to reset the standard for all Irish Pubs. Our intimate spaces are specifically designed to create a cozy feel that you might mistaken for your own living room. Irish 31 combines the traditional aspects of Irish pubs that we have all come to know and love, but also adds a modern twist through a meticulous selection of materials, decor and overall product. In the end, the Irish 31 brand encompasses the best of all worlds, has never been created, and certainly won't be duplicated. At Irish 31 we will never claim to be the biggest place, just the best."
Irish 31 has two locations: the original in Hyde Park, Florida and a second location in Westchase, Florida. I recently visited the Hyde Park location and they definitely blew me away. The interior of Irish 31 is very comfortable. From the huge patio that has a fantastic cover band belting tunes to the massive amount of televisions, to the cool Edison light bulbs hanging from the rustic fixtures.
I started my meal with a Painkiller. A Painkiller is a tropical mixed drink made with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Coconut, Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Pineapple, cream of coconut and orange juice. It is topped with a dash of nutmeg.
The Painkiller was delicious. The pineapple was very evident, but the orange juice and the coconut flavors were light. I do wish there was a bit more coconut. However, I loved the addition of nutmeg. It helped to cut the sweetness. My Husband decided to go the Irish route (beer) and ordered a Fat Tire on draft.
For our appetizer we picked a Loaded Boxty:
The Loaded Boxty is a Velveeta cheese, bacon and chive stuffed mashed potato ball that is hand rolled in a special breading and deep fried. They are then baked and served with sour cream.
I have never seen anything like this on a menu before. Every time that I order potato skins in the future I am going to wish that they were Boxty's instead. The Loaded Boxty's are fantastic. The outside breading forms a crunchy shell. The inside is soft and packed with flavor. I was a little concerned about the Velvetta (I prefer real cheese), but the Loaded Boxty is more about the mashed potato and the bacon. I wouldn't even have known it was Velvetta if the menu hadn't told me. Boxty's also come in Legendary (plain), Shepherd's Pie, Corn Beef with Cabbage and Ham n' Cheese.
For my entree I decided to go with something a little different. Jay (the owner) had mentioned to me on a previous visit that he likes to have a variety of items on the menu. If you aren't in the mood for Irish, you can order a Gyro Flatbread, Pecan Crusted Shrimp, a Ribeye or a Turkey and Avocado Ciabatta Sandwich. I decided to try the Shrimp and Grits.
The Shrimp and Grits at Irish 31 is a combination of tiger shrimp, Black Forest ham, bacon, diced tomatoes and red onions folded into cheesy grits. It is the type of meal that you will be dreaming about for awhile. The grits were cheesy and flavorful enough to eat on their own. However, once you have a taste of this incredible sauce (which I could not discern the ham or bacon in), you won't want to eat them by themselves. The shrimp were large, fresh and well seasoned. The entire dish had a slight heat to it that blissfully tingled the back of my throat. Perfection. I will have a hard time ordering something else on my next visit.
This is how much I liked it:
My Husband went with the Fish and Chips:
I initially thought that his fish was overcooked. It looked a lot darker than Fish and Chips that we have had at other restaurants. After tasting a bite, I was amazed. This was some of the best Fish and Chips I have ever tried....maybe even the best. The batter was so incredibly flavorful that I wanted to steal my Husbands meal. I used restraint and settled for two bites. I spoke with the chef and learned that they use a batter that is a combination of Bud Light and Guinness. Wait, what? Bud Light? I am normally very anti-Bud, but it really works well.
We were beyond stuffed at this point. However, Irish 31 wanted us to try dessert too. Hmm..okay, twist my arm.. I let my picky Husband choose the dessert. He surprised me and picked bread pudding. Normally the thought of bread pudding disgusts him. He had previously seen a picture of the Irish 31 bread pudding which is made in house and wanted to try it. Okay.
The Irish 31 Bread Pudding comes out warm and crispy. It is sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with Baileys Creme Anglaise. It is heavenly. We planned on taking a bite or two each and taking the rest home. Yeah, that didn't happen. We cleared that bowl. A perfect ending to a delicious meal.
I also have to take a second to mention the fantastic service. Irish 31 was aware that I would be reviewing the meal, but we sat at the bar surrounded by patrons. We could hear and see that everyone was receiving the same fantastic service.
My Husband's words as we left summed up our experience, "I have a new favorite Tampa restaurant". If you are in the Tampa area, make sure you stop in and try Irish 31.
*Disclaimer: My Husband and Myself received a free meal in exchange for this review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own honest thoughts.