Not your typical Irish pub: Erin’s Isle has gourmet approach to dining

American Folk Trio violinist Linda Kallinger gets worked up over an Irish jig.

Photo by MARTIN MIRON, Special to ETC // Buy this photo

American Folk Trio violinist Linda Kallinger gets worked up over an Irish jig.

Erin's Isle

5375 Hibiscus Drive , Naples, FL

“Yes, we do pour a proper Guinness,” proclaimed Executive Chef/Owner Michael Ward of Erin’s Isle Restaurant and Lounge, “but the pub is really a bar, a lounge.” Confused? Technically, a true Irish pub serves specific ‘pub grub,’ which does not include Lobster Thermidor or a French rack of lamb.

What is ‘proper Guinness?’

In Ireland and Great Britain, one does not imbibe this traditional chocolate colored liquid cold. Since Americans usually nix warm beer, Erin’s Isle doesn’t offer the room temperature alternative as an option. However, bartender Dana Hampton said that aficionados who disdain the chill of Ireland’s beverage of choice usually warm the final product by rubbing the glass between their hands until it’s suitable to drink. Before it gets to that point, the pour must be in keeping with procedure. Hampton tilts the glass just so, slowly pours, let’s it sit and sit — patience here— and tops it off and, finally it’s done.

Not just fish and chips

Advertisements tout Guinness as ‘food’ and ‘good for you.’ Perhaps, but most hungry diners envision a night out consisting of something more substantial. That’s where the inviting adjacent restaurant comes in. The cozy restaurant decor is reminiscent of a snowy lodge tucked in the mountains. So as diners peruse the reasonably-priced culinary offerings looking for an entrée to tempt their taste buds, they’ll certainly get the feeling of being in the Adirondacks, of northern New York, and its familiar surroundings.

Menu selections from the sea are straightforward sans fussy calorie laden sauces. Emphasis is on freshness and flavor for sautéed or batter fried Grouper ($19), shrimp scampi ($17), fried shrimp with almonds ($17), frog legs ($18), scallops batter deep fried or garlic sautéed ($18), Florida lobster tail ($36 for one or $44 for two), and a fried seafood combination consisting of Grouper, shrimp, scallops, oysters and clam strips ($18).

And for a limited time, Erin’s Isle features its tantalizing ‘summer seafood sizzlers’ at attractive prices. Sautéed Grouper drops to $12.95, shrimp scampi knocks off a buck, broiled filet of salmon is added ($15.95), and live Maine lobster is a catch for $17.95. If that’s not enough, littleneck clams are steamed or half-shell for $11.

Carnivores might forego the 14-oz New York strip steak with peppercorn sauce and sautéed mushrooms ($21) for the aforementioned French lamb rack, served with lamb sauce and mint jelly ($22).

In an island mood? Maybe a tropical cocktail and full rack of Jamaican-style baby back ribs accompanied by Jamaican jerk sauce will mentally send you to the Blue Mountains of the reggae island.

Or envision the Bavarian Alps while indulging in succulent Veal Oscar topped with white asparagus, fresh snow crab meat, complimented by hollandaise sauce ($19), Wienerschnitzel ($18) or roast loin of pork ($12). These hearty dinners will satiate the hungriest among you.

The menu also entices you with additional beef, poultry and vegetarian choices, special nightly items, and for those who want to pamper their palate on a budget, various $9.95 Blue Plate Specials are served from 4 p.m. to closing. The affordable daily tummy pleasers are really the chef’s whim but the specials usually highlights four entrees that include salad, potato, vegetable and choice of apple or chocolate cream pie.

One might wonder how Erin’s Isle can stay in business while accommodating a consumer’s prudential pocketbook. Chef Mike laments, “It isn’t about making money. It’s about maintaining cash flow but it is difficult to stay in business these days with the high cost of everything.”

Tenacity, dedication and family seem to be foremost with owner and staff. Waitresses Ruby Dennison and Sarah Gade have been on board since the beginning, 25 years ago. Gade, who now greets guests at the door, reminisced, “I gave up waitressing a few years ago.” This knowledgeable hostess/cashier can answer any question you might have with a dash of restaurant history thrown in.

Although a diligent workhorse by nature, Chef Ward has relinquished much of the cooking to his competent kitchen staff. However, he still arrives each morning by 7 a.m. to create a daily soup from scratch. And the bread is homemade, too.

What’s this amicable owner/chef’s paramount concern to sustain his enterprise? “To figure out what the younger people want. It’s a new generation with different tastes,” he muses. He’s tossing around a few ideas that would appeal to gourmands of all ages. “Maybe a 70s party.” He’s also considering wine dinners, which pairing a wine with each course. “I’ve not done them before, but it’s worth thinking about.”

Erin’s Isle also provides nightly entertainment featuring the venerable Bobby Gideons, versatile Sister Kaite Delaney, the American Folk Trio, and coming soon, the Dueling Pianos. Call for updated schedule of who is highlighting a particular evening.

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Erin’s Isle is open Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner from noon to 10 p.m. Blue Plate Specials are offered from 4 p.m. to close. There is a full bar and nightly entertainment. Located at 6190 Collier Blvd., between Marco Island and U.S. 41. Information: 239-774-1880 or www.erinsisle.biz.

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