Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brazen Head

Restaurant: Brazen Head Irish Pub
319 N. 78 Street - Tower Plaza
Genres: Irish, Pub
Check Constraints: Unknown
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Farmhouse Brie(7.95)
  • McGillicuddy's Root Beer(2.50)
  • McGillicuddy's Root Beer Float(3.50)
  • Colonial Boy Boxty(8.95)
For appetizers, the four of us each ordered one, and we tried all of them. Farmhouse Brie and Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast were known quantities from our first visit, while Gaelic Hot Wings and Quincannon Potato Skins were new choices.

Farmhouse Brie ($7.95) is two very good wedges of brie dipped in a very light batter and deep fried, then served with toast and a Cumberland sauce. I wasn't prepared for the sauce the first time I had it, so it didn't strike me well, and I avoided it a bit this time. That's not because it's not a good sauce, mind, but because it's very good cheese, and it doesn't really need anything.

Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast is aptly named, as it's easily the best iteration of cheese bread at any restaraunt I've been to. French bread with herb & garlic butter, plus romano cheese and huge tracts of havarti over the top. I don't think I'd be willing to kill or die for this bread, but I'd definitely be willing to maim someone for it.

The Gaelic hot wings were... well... hot wings. They were light on the sauce, which was good for my fingers, but they were also pretty small. I'm not a big fan of hot wings in the first place, but I still went back for a second one, and the plate was relatively generous with them.

The Quincannon potato skins were pretty much exactly what you'd expect of potato skins. Sour cream on the side, and a generous portion of it. The skins left a fair amount of potato inside the skin itself, and after the bacon, green onion, and irish cheddar, there was just a bit of hollow left to put on the sour cream. Not bad for the price, but for my money, I'll stick with the fried brie and cheese toast, which get even better when you put them together.

McGillicuddy's Root Beer is probably the best root beer I've tasted outside of Sprecher's, which is pretty local to Milwaukee. It makes a great float, too, and 2.50 a bottle is pretty much what you expect to pay for a bottle of really good root beer, anymore.

The soup of the day was baked potato soup, which I got with the boxty (choice of soup, salad, or a cup of fresh fruit). Potato soup, being cream based, is fairly easy to accidentally screw up. This was the best potato soup I've tasted short of my mother's. The only way it could possibly have got any better is if they'd added tiny chunks of cheddar cheese slightly before serving. I only got a small cup of the stuff, but I could happily have eaten a large bowl of it for lunch, and if they have it next time I happen in, I may well eat just that.

The boxty was... okay. Boxties are what you get when you make a potato pancake, then wrap it around a bunch of other stuff, tortilla style. These had a cream sauce over the top, but it wasn't a sauce that tasted like it was there. Inside, the colonial boy is smoked turkey, black forest ham, bacon, tomato, swiss, and cheddar. I habitually avoid cooked tomatoes out of abhorrence of the texture, so the inside of my boxty was cheese, meat, cheese, meat, meat, and that's it. My only complaint, honestly, is that the bacon wasn't done enough to be cuttable without dragging out the knife. Inside a sandwich-type construct, it's much preferable for the bacon to be on the crispy side. Otherwise, a meat and cheese lover cannot possibly go wrong with this thing.

Price-wise, the Brazen Head is about average. The appetizers aren't the absurd size that you get at some other places, but the quality of the cheese more than makes up for it on our favorites, and one order each of fried brie and cheese bread is good enough for four people, if you're not living vacuums like we are. The sandwiches seem a little undersized to me. Last time I went, I got an asiago chicken sandwich, and it didn't do much more than dent my hunger. If you're hungry for a filling meal, go for one of the boxties.

Overall, I've been here twice, and if we weren't on this whole "new place every week" thing, I'd advocate going there more often. This is definitely the sort of place you can go back to over and over again without it getting old.

  • Gaelic Hot Wings ($6.95)
  • Captain Riley's Roast Beef ($8.50)
The Gaelic Hot Wings were simple hot wings. There were 11 or 12 mixed wings and "drumsticks" on the plate, and you had a choice of ranch or bleu cheese. It also came with celery sticks. The chicken was well cooked. The sauce was about medium level, I'd say. It had some heat to it, but it didn't burn my mouth off. Overall, they were good but nothing to write home about.

The other appetizers were also pretty good, but not extraordinary. All of them had good sized portions for the price. The unique one is the Farmhouse Brie. The Cumberland sauce is odd, but I liked it well enough. I didn't find the Brie as amazing as the others seemed to.

The sandwich was a good sized sandwich loaded with ham and roast beef on toasted ciabatta bread. The flavor wasn't overpowered by any one of the items. It had a good, unique flavor that I don't really know how to describe. I got the coleslaw for my side dish, which was relatively plain but not bad.

It's a bit expensive, but definitely good food and worth coming back to. Last time I was here I got a Brian Boru Boxty, which is mashed potato wrapped in potato cakes with a bit of cheese and sausage for good measure. Very good, but be sure you like potato! That was worth the money for sure. The atmosphere of the restaurant is really nice too.

  • Pint of Smithwick's ($4.50)
  • Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast ($5.95)
  • Colonial Boy Boxty( $8.95)
  • Root Beer Float ($3.50)
The Brazen Head pub takes its name from the oldest pub in Ireland (, and it at least does justice to that name with the decor. Having only been to Ireland once, and not while of drinking age, I couldn't actually tell you what the inside of a Real Irish Pub looks like, but the Brazen Head sure does look like what I'd expect out of it. Lots of wood, a nice bar, and a certain sort of "lived-in" sense, like the place has seen a drunken row or two, one of which left a gouge in the bar that got sanded out the following May. Most importantly, though, it feels a lot older than a building which exists inside a strip mall has any right to feel.

Oh, and the food. Supposed to be rating food, right.
Well, "irish cuisine", as the world at large understands it, really falls into two categories: "Lamb", and "Hey, look at what we can do with potatoes!" Brazen Head lies solidly in the latter, which is fine. Lamb's tough to get, sometimes tough to work with, and not really something you find on a lot of American restaurant menus. Potatoes, though... they do some serious magic with potatoes. It's a thing of beauty.

First, though, let's attend to the beer. Smithwick's is one of my favorite beers, and as I mentioned in the post on Indigo Joe's, it's not impossible to find on tap in Omaha, but it does take some looking (though I might have found a new source in an old location, hooray!). It's... I'm not really a beer head, yet, so the best way I have to describe it is to say that it's like Guinness, if Guinness lost 50 lbs and went out to the beach. Lighter, but with the same flavor profile, really. It is a little smoother, which makes it better for summer and general drinking.

The appetizers are pretty much as ND described above. The cheese toast is delectable, though how they square using a Dutch cheese in Irish cuisine I'll never know. I suppose sheepmilk cheese would be a little too sharp for this application. A decent marinara was served alongside. The fried brie is also delicious, though I am not a fan of the Cumberland sauce which attended it. The potato skins and wings were on a par with what you could get from almost any restaurant which serves them, but they weren't overpriced for what they were, which was nice. The fresh bacon on the skins did elevate them over, say, Denny's. The sauce on the wings was in the level I would call "tangy", pretty standard NY style, with there being very little in the way of capsaicin.

The last time I was here I went along with Moogle and had the Brian Boru boxty, along with the (incredibly delicious) baked potato soup, which means that my meal consisted of almost entirely potato. I'm serious. At least six whole potatoes had to have died for that food. This time, however, I went with the colonial boxty. As ND mentions, the boxtys are basically what you get if you replace the egg in a single-fold omelette with a potato pancake. It was filled with, essentially, lunch meats and bacon, and for all that sounds like it might not be so good, it was. You have to know what you're getting into, though. Boxtys (boxties?) are not to be taken lightly - they have a heft to them which you will retain throughout the afternoon (or evening). It's a lot of food, not light on the carbs, so it tends to slow you down a little. But its so good. The cream sauce could almost be left out; it melds the other flavors decently, but has little of its own and really only serves to make an already hefty meal even more filling. You could easily have them skip it, since the boxty itself was not dry or even really desiring of more liquid.

Oddly, you can add a boxty to any order for an additional $5, so what I'd actually recommend doing (and what I plan to do next time) is get something else and split the boxty with a friend. Or take some of it home for dinner, I suppose. They're just a little too much food for a working lunch. And yes, I'm complaining that something's too filling. The comedy does not escape me.

The root beer float was good. The vanilla ice cream could have been more heavy on the vanilla, really, but I doubt it was made in-house (which is fine!) and the excellent root beer more than made up for it. Mecha's dessert was also delicious, but I'll let him share his opinions on that.

Having currently exhausted my desire for So Much Potato, I think the next time we go (and we will be back) I'm going to try the fish and chips.

Edit: I totally forgot to mention the service. It turns out that when we arrived for lunch, the Brazen Head was dealing with two parties, one of which had to be at least 40 people! Still, the waitstaff made room for us, were attentive, and the food came out of the kitchen with relative speed. I wish I had caught the name of our server, because he was an outstanding example of the breed; attentive without being annoying, a good sense of humor, and a darn good plate balancing skill. He more than deserved the tip I left.

  • Quincannon Potato Skins ($7.95)
  • Pub Classic Sandwich (w/Cottage Fries) ( $7.95)
  • Hot Fudge Brownie ($3.95)
Okay, so I've been busy, sue me. I'll add a bonus post in a second.

Atmosphere: Solid. Although in contrast to Cham, I will say that the place should have been darker for more authenticity. But we've never gone at night.

Appetizer sampling: The fried cheese was good, and I liked the cumberland sauce and the toast that came with it, although I'm not as blissful about it as the others. The cheese bread was indeed glorious. The potato skins were standard and solid, and the wings were actually pretty tasty with reasonable meat.

The sandwiches are tightly packed, the pub classic having roast and corned beef, horseradish, and cheddar on sourdough. It all worked together very well, easy to eat, reasonably filling. It's pub food, and it's solid. There's not much to complain about there. At least they're not skimping on it. Also, the 'cottage fries' are actually waffle fries, which is to say, the best type of fries ever. It's a shame they weren't seasoned in any way, really, because they could be fantastic.

The dessert? It was huge. Maybe 6-8 inches square of brownie (cakelike, though, so more like sheet cake says the experts) covered in hot fudge, caramel, and ice cream. It was very good. And for 4 bucks, I've definitely gotten less dessert for more money, and it seemed to be made fresh as opposed to dethawed/reheated. It could have been warmer, but that's me being a bit of a stickler about the standard hot fudge brownie. Which I can be when I have to!

The service was fast, the guy was responsive, the food is good (and I don't think anyone mentioned that he balanced the table's height with a packet of sweet and low. The server thinks on his feet!) There's really no reservations I have about the place at the moment. I'm curious about a few of their other extensions into less strictly Irish cuisine (their slow roast pork shanks drew my eye: would they manage the BBQ?) but that is for another time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We tried the Farmhouse Brie appetizer and found it tasty, as mentioned above. My take on the sauce is that it tasted like shrip coctail sause with some raspberries blended in...I didn't ask for the recipe. However, it was intersting and gave you something to do with those toast points if you just popped chunks of the cheese directly into your mouth.

The entre I picked was the Dub Lin Stew in a bread bowl. It was very tasty and substantial in the quantity of tender beef chunks and other vegies beyond just potatoes. The Bread bowl was nice to munch on as well, but you might not want to eat the whole thing. I was too stuffed after that to even think about guys must have bottomless pits! Thanks for the entertaining reviews! Those restaurants should pay you for your services in free meal, but that would smack of a bribe, I guess.