Get a little Irish in you
American misconceptions of Irish cuisine thrive like clover in the meadow. In our minds, the island’s entire culinary history revolves around four food groups: potatoes, corned beef, cabbage and Guinness. Yet there’s so much more to the story.
Hurley’s, an Irish-inspired restaurant, leaves out several chapters while adding a few of its own. A cute Los Ranchos bistro on Fourth Street between Osuna and Montaño, Hurley’s does its best to combine coziness with a storefront location. Though institutional ceiling tiles loom overhead, the sufficiently understated atmosphere is helped by a gas fireplace, bookshelves holding trinkets that call to mind the Green Isle and an arrangement of instruments hung on an opposite wall.
The menu continues the Irish theme, mostly by hitching Celtic designations to its breakfast and lunch offerings. A Philly cheese steak goes through a “magically delicious” metamorphosis, emerging as a Limerick Philly. In addition to a revamped moniker, it also gets a schmear of cream cheese. I call blarney.
Once past the indignation of ordering such frivolously named items, a few dishes stand out—though not as particularly Irish. The Shamrock is a panino (plural: panini) packed with salami, ham, apple relish and Swiss. It lacks the salty punch I’ve come to expect from this cured-meat combo, but the nectarous relish pairs beautifully with the Swiss. Ordered on rye, the strength of the bread stands up to the sweet, raisin-heavy relish.
An Emerald Caprese is an appetizing panino of pancetta, mozzarella, spinach and basil-almond pesto. This tried-and-true medley comes close to the top of the lunchtime contenders, marred only by the awkwardness of spinach that slides out whole with each bite, landing squarely on the diner’s chin.
Hand-cut fries and onion petals are entitled to a rousing round of applause. The fries are crisp, served as hot as molten lava. They’re a shining example of the humble potato's ability to achieve culinary greatness. Onion petals give those consummate fries some stiff competition. Delicate and fine, ever-so-thin onion pieces are hand-battered and fried to sweet, oniony perfection.
The fries are crisp, served as hot as molten lava. They’re a shining example of the humble potato's ability to achieve culinary greatness.
Bacon pancakes combine two breakfast staples into one with voluptuous results. The bacon adds texture and meaty flavor to the cakes. But while the flapjacks are fine and dandy, the baked goods, and the service at breakfast time, are a gamble. They may look nice in the case, but ask when those pastries were actually baked. My server commended my decision to order a selection because they had been made “just the other day.” The puff pastry was pasty and limp, the filling so congealed it seemed seconds away from fully solidifying.
Corned beef hash has an undeserved reputation for being Irish as Irish gets (it's more Irish-American, or even Jewish). Hurley's hash is minced and mild, without a strong red pepper presence, but it veers dangerously close to mushy. No question it’s far above canned varieties, but I'd rank it a notch or two below homemade.
Despite my criticism of Hurley's misplaced Irish intentions, it's a great place to meet friends for lunch if you find yourself in the area. Once it settles in and the staff gets a little more experience under its belt, I have no doubt it'll be a great neighborhood joint—Irish or not.
The Alibi recommends:
• The Shamrock
• Onion petals
• Hand-cut fries
• Bacon pancakes
• Telling your server lunch was “magically delicious”
Hurley's, 6100 Fourth Street NW, 345-4029. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Price range: $2.50 (plain pancake) to $8.99 (Waterford Reuben). Ambience: Clichéd but charming. Credit cards accepted, breakfast and lunch only.