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Published: Thursday, 12/28/2006

Restaurant review: Mulvaney's Bunker ***

Mulvaney s Bunker is on Dorr Street, east of Reynolds Road.
Mulvaney s Bunker is on Dorr Street, east of Reynolds Road.
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At Mulvaney's Bunker, the sign out front tells you half of what you need to know.

Yes, it's an Irish pub, selling not only imported and domestic beers and spirits but also Irish food, including potato leek soup, fish and chips, corned beef boil, shepherd's pie, and Irish stew.

What you may not know is that Mulvaney's also advertises itself as a sports bar, with all that brings to mind - loud music, dancing, blinking neon, ball games on dozens of TV sets, thickets of sports and beer banners hanging from the ceiling, and lots of college-age kids having a boisterous good time.

What further surprised me is that for a sports pub, the menu is unusually expansive. In addition to Irish dishes, diners have a large choice of tempting possibilities. Of course, there's the requisite sports bar fare such as burgers, pizzas, deep-fried bunker balls, wings, onion rings, and fried jalapeno poppers. True to its "Irish Pub & Grub" moniker, an Imperial pint of Guinness beer is also offered - as an appetizer.

But the place also boasts a half-dozen dinner-salad selections, along with 10 sandwiches, steaks and chops, chicken and seafood entrees, sides, desserts, and a kids' menu.

Mulvaney's, which celebrated its first anniversary last August, is in the Library Plaza shop-ping strip on Dorr Street, in cavernous surroundings more friendly to rock and roll than decorous conversation, especially during karaoke on Tuesday nights and when live acts take the bandstand after 10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

But the lunch and dinner hours are usually quiet enough to hear yourself think. As for the food, I found it much improved since my first visit not long after it opened.

Back then, we had to make do with the likes of a so-so fried chicken Fat Boy sandwich with marinara sauce (no longer on the menu); somewhat chewy steak tips ($8.95) with a mediocre dipping sauce, and a reuben sandwich ($7.25) that could have been more tender.

Then again, a medium-rare grilled swordfish dinner ($10.95) burst with juicy mesquite flavor. The well-browned French fries are the kind you file away in your head for future reference, and the onion straws were deliciously thick.

On our latest visit, the kitchen seemed to outdo itself, serving up a Sicilian sandwich ($6.75) loaded with ham, salami, pepperoni, tomato, peppers, onions, melted provolone, and parmesan mayonnaise - a fabulous concoction that all but smothers the puny baguette it comes on.

Fortunately, the same was true of the Irish dishes. The Irish stew ($6.95) was thick with beef, vegetables, and potatoes served with soda bread, and the baked shepherd's pie ($8.50), combining beef, vegetables, and mashed potatoes blanketed in melted cheese, was enough for two meals.

Last, and best, was the Galway Bay fish and chips ($8.50), two massive fillets of fork-tender breaded cod that could stand up against the fish and chips at any other pub in town.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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