August 19, 2009

Rí Rá Irish Pub

I just finished a media lunch at Rí Rá Irish Pub in Midtown Atlanta. The place just recently opened and already draws a crowd.

Folks who work within walking distance have it easy since parking is a challenge. A lot across the street charges a flat $5; metered street parking would be cheaper but odds of finding an open space are slim.
The interior space is packed with Old World relics:
CREDIT: Heidi Geldhauser
The implied intent of the Rí Rá design is that when you walk through its doors you'll get the funny feeling that you somehow stepped through the time-space continuum into a pub in Dublin, Ireland where it's the 19th Century. (But the hip Atlantans frantically typing into their Blackberries throw this feng shui off.) The custom space was made using salvaged materials, including a 19th Century bar, a shop storefront circa 1800, wood paneling that dates between 1850 and 1900, and a parquet floor made in Belfast's Harland & Wolff shipyard (where the Titanic was built). All of the artifacts were restored in County Wicklow (south of Dublin), then shipped to Atlanta. Rí Rá’s private party room, The Harbour Bar, is literally a miniature Irish pub that was once in Portstewart, County Derry, then transported and reassembled here.

Just to look at all this stuff it's worth stopping in to have a pint. But the food is great, too, so come hungry. Our group of five quickly polished off four starters: Pan Seared Potato Cakes, crispy on the outside/fluffy on the inside and served with balsamic reduction and sour cream; Steamed Mussels in whiskey garlic butter, white wine and fresh herbs; Crab Cakes, lightly fried and very meaty; and hand cut Chips (French fries), cooked to perfection. All very good. For my entrée I tried the Shepherd's Pie and Caesar Salad and would happily order both again.

Sure, it was a weekday lunch, but I had a Guinness — hey, I'm self-employed so I can't get into trouble with the boss and nothing pairs better with Irish food!

The restaurant can get very noisy when crowded; this is not a place to come when you hope to have a meaningful conversation. The potatoes are shipped from Ireland, so buying local is obviously a lower priority than authenticity. Many of the servers are here from Ireland on 18-month work visas, so their appealing accents are the real deal — and so is their culture shock, since the population of the Atlanta metro area exceeds that of the whole country of Ireland by more than 1 million.

Bottom line: Authentic Irish Pub experience offers warm/boisterous ambiance, tasty food and beverages, and friendly service.

Rí Rá Irish Pub is located at 1080 Peachtree St. NE. Find other details here.

Ri Ra Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

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