I like nothing more than a hearty meal and a fun environment, and I found both when a guest and I recently visited Ballydoyle Irish Pub in downtown Aurora.
Located on New York Street, just steps away from the historic Paramount Theatre, Ballydoyle provides a mix of the classic Irish pub atmosphere with modern touches, creating an enjoyable atmosphere for both families and those spending a night on the town.
When my guest and I visited, the restaurant was not too crowded; we were seated in the second room, with a view of the bar and the solo artist performing on stage. The atmosphere of Ballydoyle is similar to that of other Irish pubs we’ve visited in the past: dark wood, traditional decor, and the undercurrent of friendly chatter that filled the pub. A welcoming feeling, indeed.
When ordering, we decided to go for the more classic fare on the menu, but chose to start out with a unique take on a favorite Irish dish, fried corned beef bites.
Breaded and deep-fried, containing a mix of corned beef and cream cheese, the substantially-sized bites were delicious, with a mixture of salty and smooth from the beef and cream cheese. Coming with the bites was cocktail sauce, more typically seen as a side with shrimp. While we were surprised by the selection, it was an intriguing taste, providing a burst of sweetness to counter the heavy texture of the bites.
Upon the recommendation of our waitress, who deserves her own accolades for her welcoming and friendly nature, we tried the bites with plain mustard, a sauce more traditionally associated with corned beef, and the taste was fantastic. We later tried the bites with brown mustard, and it was even better than our original experiment.
For our main course, my guest and I went with two of our favorite dishes: a corned beef sandwich on marble rye, and fish and chips. My guest’s corned beef was cooked well, with melted swiss cheese covering it, and the marble rye and brown mustard topped off the sandwich for a filling take on a classic Irish sandwich meant to be enjoyed year round, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
Both meals came with my favorite kind of fry (or chip, given the establishment): Crunchy and full, without being too crumbly or stodgy.
Fish and chips are a favorite of mine, something I tend to order often when I go out to eat, and I was pleased with the selection at Ballydoyle. Instead of fillet-style options, the Harp-battered North Atlantic cod at Ballydoyle was more of a hefty portion, coated in thick, yet crunchy breading that covered the flaky, steaming fish inside. The accompanying tartar sauce was thick and flavorful, and went well with the fish, as did the light and slightly spicy serving of coleslaw that came on the side.
For our dessert, my guest and I chose to veer away from the traditional dessert menu, and instead selected two milkshakes from the bar menu: The Irish Candy, and the Black and Black.
The Irish Candy, a vanilla milkshake with Jameson’s Irish Whiskey was a delightfully light-tasting shake, that reminded my guest and me of a similarly flavored custard served at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest. The alcohol was not overwhelming, but provided a slight sharpness on the back of the tongue, after the smooth taste of vanilla.
Our other choice, the Black and Black, was a vanilla milkshake made with Guinness stout and chocolate sauce – our decided favorite of the two. We even had a small debate over whether the delicious shake tasted like Oreos or Cocoa Puffs.
While we were eating, the pub was filling up with families and patrons to enjoy a night out, some just coming from the Paramount, or heading there soon. The relationship between the two establishments was highlighted in what my guest and I found a charming manner. The specialty menu is inspired by the theater’s current production of “The Wizard of Oz” and the servers dressed up as characters from the show.
Visiting Ballydoyle was a treat for my guest and I, an excuse to splurge in the holiday season and enjoy some of our favorite cuisine. Ballydoyle proved a welcoming spot, offering options for a variety of patrons looking for a quick pint, or a full meal with friends and family.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: 28 W. New York St., Aurora
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday
MORE INFO: www.ballydoylepub.com, 630-844-0400