- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Traditional Irish flavors from the auld sod are on tap at Galway Bay in Annapolis. Parking here, near the State House on Maryland Avenue, is at a premium, though, especially during the General Assembly session. Try your luck at finding a spot a block or three away.

Co-owners Michael and Fintan Galway and manager Sean Lynch prefer their establishment to be known as “an Irish restaurant with a bar, not an Irish bar with a restaurant.” They did wonders with what was formerly the Little Campus Inn, a popular local hangout. Items from the Ireland countryside adorn newly exposed brick walls. The room boasts a strong feeling of Celtic pride.

The house is divided into two: pub to the left, restaurant to the right. The kitchen area separates the two rooms, so you enjoy a cozy evening of dining without noise from the pub. (You will have the occasional happy hour wanderer entering the room to use a cell phone.)

Chef Mike Marrone’s menu contains all the traditional Irish plates, but look closely and you’ll find a few offerings with a twist.

For starters, soup lovers should try Galway’s version of potato and leek ($2.95 cup, $3.95 bowl). Well-seasoned with the addition of mild leeks, the soup was comforting and filling. It was smooth and creamy, but not overly rich, and accented with nice chunks of potato.

The smoked salmon rolls ($8.95) are filled with a prawn-and-crab dip and served with slices of homemade brown bread, capers, purple onion and chopped egg. The salmon was luscious and accented nicely by the filling. The brown bread is thick and traditional, but its flavor is a bit overwhelming for the delicate prawn-and-crab dip.

The house salad ($4.50) is a mix of mesclun greens, romaine and spinach leaves topped with tomatoes, onion, cucumber and mushroom, served with a mustard vinaigrette on the side. Good but standard.

Chicken breast Cashel Blue ($14.95) was a pleasant surprise. A chicken breast is filled with Cashel Blue cheese and wrapped with a strip of Irish bacon, then oven-roasted and served with Colcannon potatoes. The mild blue cheese was a nice match with the roasted chicken and the wrapped smoky piece of bacon. The potatoes are boiled with greens, usually cabbage, then mashed. The combination is quite tasty.

A 14-ounce New York strip is flamed in Jameson, charbroiled and topped with carmelized onions and served with a baked Cashel Blue cheese potato, carrots and parsnips.

Shepherd’s pie ($9.95) is filled with ground sirloin, onions, peas and carrots and topped with mashed potatoes. The casserole was rich and comforting, with nice chunks of tender sirloin to sink your teeth into.

Thankfully, tomato was not the dominant flavor in the broth, as is the case in some eateries. The mashed potatoes were firm, flavorful and wonderful to use to sop up the casserole.

Game pie is made with pheasant, venison and rabbit and stewed in a Guinness Stout casserole topped with a puffed pastry and oven baked. A hearty lamb stew is made with cubes of lamb stewed with chunks of celery and carrots and served with mashed potatoes.

Of course, there’s the old standby of corned beef and cabbage, which the staff says “is the best you’ll ever have.” The kitchen slow-cooks the corned beef for 10 hours with a traditional blend of herbs and spices. It is served with braised cabbage, Colcannon, and carrots and parsnips.

If you are watching your carb intake, there’s the mixed grill. Irish bacon, sausage, black and white pudding — served with a lamb chop, two eggs and a grilled tomato slice.

From the sea, there’s a salmon fillet stuffed with crabmeat (an Irish-Annapolis dish), oven baked and served with a champagne citrus cream sauce with rice on the side. A rainbow trout is dipped in a whole meal coating, pan fried and finished with a spinach-and-cream sauce and served with garlic-mashed potatoes.

Perfectly prepared fish and chips are made with pollock dipped in a house-made beer batter and fried to a golden brown — served with tartar sauce and Irish chips (thick fries).

An interesting variety of desserts is offered. Because my wife is a chocoholic, she picked the Irish whiskey cake ($4.95). It is billed as deliciously rich, and it lives up to its billing. The best thing about the cake is the touch of Irish whiskey — it adds a lot of flavor and moistness to the cake and cuts a lot of that oversweetness that often comes with chocolate desserts.

Other offerings are bread pudding, rhubarb-and-strawberry tart and Biddy’s apple pie. If you want something a little different, try the brown bread Bailey’s ice cream — yes, that’s ice cream made with brown bread and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Or devour the white chocolate mousse, which is flavored with Bailey’s and black currant coulis.

Galway Bay has nine fresh Irish beers on tap. The list includes three house beers (red ale, pale ale and gold light) all made from their own Irish recipes (hops come from Kilkenny, Ireland) and are brewed locally by Old Dominion Brewery in Herndon. There’s also Guinness, Beamish, Harp, McEwans, Smithwicks and Magners.

A worldly wine list includes labels from California, Oregon, Washington state, Australia, South Africa, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, France, Spain and Chile.

A special lunch and dinner menu is on tap for St. Patrick’s Day. For information, visit the Web site at www.galwaybayannapolis.com.

RESTAURANT: Galway Bay, 63 Maryland Ave., Annapolis. 410/263-8333

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES: Soups/salads $2.95 to $12.95; appetizers $5.95 to $8.95; sandwiches $6.95 to $12.95; entrees $9.50 to $19.95

RESERVATIONS: Recommended

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: Limited street parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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