If you go› Where: Leapin’ Leprechaun Pub & Eatery, 101 Market St.› Phone: 423-777-9097.› Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m. daily.› Price: $8-12 for entrées.› Alcohol: Full bar.
Irish cuisine is something of a rarity in Chattanooga. The Honest Pint on Patten Parkway appears to be the only other place that has dedicated a significant portion of its menu to delicacies like corned beef and cabbage and shepherd's pie. (A ChattanoogaNow review on Feb. 18, 2011, praised its "huge menu with authentic Irish dishes with big twists.")
Now it has some company. Nestled between L2 Outside and Rita's on the south end of the Market Street Bridge is a new Irish pub, Leapin' Leprechaun.
The Leprechaun's owner, Brendan O'Doherty, is of Irish descent. His father hails from County Donegal, which is a part of the Republic of Ireland.
And O'Doherty knows how to make some good traditional Irish food.
The menu is small and simple, which certainly works to the Leprechaun's advantage. There's corned beef, St. James pie, ham cabbage and bangers (sausage), all of which are served with smash, or mashed potatoes, and a selection of stews. The most curious item on the menu is the Irish pizza, which is topped with bangers, bacon, potatoes and Irish cheddar.
I ordered corned beef and smash, while my sister Maddie ordered bangers and smash. Both of our meals included a decent-size salad, complete with fresh chunks of bacon (saying bits would be a disservice), sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese, plus a unique dressing that was surprising.
At first, we were puzzled by what the dressing was. Was it ranch? Bleu cheese? I knew I asked for the latter because I despise ranch. But I liked this odd combination. Whatever it might be, it was superb because it brought out the best of both flavors and harmonized them.
Before my visit to Leapin' Leprechaun, it had been well over eight years since I'd eaten traditional Irish food. As our plates came out, I had a generalized idea of what we had gotten ourselves into.
Across my plate lay a giant slab of brisket covered in sautéed cabbage studded with bacon, all on top of a bed of perfectly thickened garlic mashed potatoes.
Being able to cut the brisket with a fork is a testament to how tender the meat was. Whatever brine they use to cure the meat is impeccable in its ability to produce tenderness.
The bangers were amazing as well. The dish consisted of four halves of Irish sausage with sautéed onions, which had a slight sweet taste, perhaps due to cinnamon or nutmeg. This addition was subtle enough to help the dish.
For dessert, we split a slice of Lowland chocolate cake, which was a bit cold but delicious nonetheless. The thin chocolate crust was topped with a layer of cake, a kind of white chocolate ice cream, more cake and a light dark chocolate. The texture was very soft and fluffy, and the flavors complemented each other throughout the slice.
Instead of a traditional Irish pub feel, the restaurant is a modern take on that, being completely designed and renovated by the restaurant's owner. The only thing that bugged me was the number of TVs centered around the room. It's a pub, but for its small size, it felt like too much. Other than that one little downside, it was a homey little joint, like a place you could sit down and feel comfy at for a bit and enjoy a Guinness.
Situated to the right was the centerpiece that pulls it all together: the giant polished wooden bar. I'll contend that a pub is not Irish if it doesn't have one of these.
The bar also has darts tucked into the front corner of the restaurant, next to the bar. As for other diversions, O'Doherty wants to host live music, trivia nights and show Ultimate Fighting Championship matches.
We visited the restaurant midafternoon, when it was less busy. Our waiter, Frank, was phenomenal. I still remember the best service I've ever received, and Frank's care of our table paralleled my family's experience at Teppan Edo at Epcot at Disney World in 2010. Just like the waitress there, Frank stopped by multiple times, consistently asking us how things were going and refilling our water. The food came out as quickly as you would expect it to. He went further by ensuring that we had our tab by the time we were finished eating and even held the door as we left.
I highly recommend taking some time to visit Leapin' Leprechaun to grab a bite of some delicious Irish food. The meals were more than satisfying with both taste and portions, and for $12 an entrée, it's well worth the trip. I'll be heading back next time some Irish food sounds great (which is always).
Contact Hayden Seay at 423-7575-6396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.