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It was during the 1970s and early 1980s when a predilection took hold for restaurants to be named after a fictional person, names with little or no association to the actual owners and operators: Ruby Tuesday’s, Tia’s Tex-Mex, R.J. Monkeyshines, Applebee’s, and so forth. These sorts of restaurants usually sported a certain sameness – bar with shiny fixtures, high alcohol cocktails, and main courses that absorbed alcohol, or at least gave the impression of absorption. There were a few in Redding,.all of which seemed to be located at the spot now occupied by Cool Hand Luke’s (now closed).
Shameless O’Leery’s has one of those goofy names but breaks some of the rest of that same-old same-old pattern. Run by the team known for Market Street Steakhouse, Shameless O’Leery’s is quite popular; depending on when you time your visit, the atmosphere might be relatively sedate (early evening) to very lively (during any televised major sporting event). The first time Femme de Joie visited, a sign outside proclaimed the soup of the day was Whiskey. It took her a while to realize they don’t serve soup. The Jameson barrels stacked on one wall, with the names of advertisers inscribed across them, gave credence to their claim of Jameson on tap.
Shepherd Burger, $13.00, with garlic fries, $1.00 extra
The menu describes the Shepherd Burger as a lamb patty with Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and rosemary aioli. Femme de Joie loves lamb, but unfortunately she didn’t love this one. How to describe it? You know how cheese drips out of your grilled cheese sandwich and cooks by itself in the skillet? That fried cheese is righteous. But if the cheese cooks in a large amount of grease, it is greasy cooked cheese. That was the overwhelming taste. The rosemary aioli was nowhere to be found. And the French fries had been fried a good 20 minutes or more before they arrived at M. de Joie’s table. They were warm, but had lost their crispness and were starting to get a bit floppy.
Corned beef and cabbage Reuben, $11.00
The Reuben was a huge improvement over the lamb burger. M. de Joie was dubious about the substitution of shredded white cabbage for the customary sauerkraut, but it worked nicely to add crunch (though perhaps not flavor). Piled high with lean corned beef, the Reuben made for a very satisfying lunch. A side of green salad was fresh and crisp but unexceptional.
Black and Tan Onion Rings, $7.00
When you order onion rings in most restaurants, they are tumbled out of a freezer bag into the deep fryer. Shameless O’Leery’s gets big points for making their own in-house and frying them in a beery batter – beery enough that you realize most frozen onion rings are coated in a sweet batter. The bitter edge contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the onions.
Guinness Beef Pie, $12.00
When waitstaff tells you, “Be careful, the plate is really hot,” usually it’s not. This time, the waitress wasn’t kidding. The crock containing the beef stew was sizzling and held its heat for a good 25 minutes. That meant the stew was also very hot – too hot to eat right away. To while away the time, M. de Joie tasted the Irish soda bread (made in-house) served on the side. At first it seems too plain to bother with, but then the sweetness of the currants kicks in, and before you know it, you’ve eaten all of it. Guinness beef stew was more like a thick soup of shredded beef and carrots in a very rich gravy with that distinctive Guinness taste. Again, the beer lent a bitter edge that was a pleasing change from the customary canned broth taste you’ll find in most similar restaurant renditions. The puff pastry didn’t survive being over that steamy hot stew and collapsed into a stretchy pull-apart topping.
If you’ve ever been to Ireland or England and visited an Irish pub, you know that this isn’t an “authentic” Irish pub. It’s the prettied-up, cleaned-up Americanized version. Nothing wrong with that, of course – hanging some Guinness ads on the wall is a nice touch – but this is mainly a sports bar-cum-gastropub. Shameless O’Leery’s is a big hit with the downtown lunch crowd as well as sports fans on weekends. While their predominant demographic isn’t families, Femme de Joie saw several parents with children having lunch during football telecasts, tiny tots futilely trying to get dad’s attention away from the TV (there are at least six televisions). Service is friendly, helpful, and reasonably quick. Femme de Joie would definitely go back.
Shameless O’Leery’s, 1701 California Street, Redding, CA 96001.530-246-4765. Open Monday through Wednesday, 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Thursday throughSaturday, 11:00 AM – 2:00 AM, Sunday 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM. Cards, cash; no checks. Full bar. Street parking or park in the mall parking lot. Vegetarian options. Website at http://www.shamelessoleerys.com/#about
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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