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Photo by: Ellen Descisciolo

Dublin on the Hudson
By B.A. Nilsson

Kielty’s Emerald Isle
41 Broad St., Waterford, 237-2829. Serving Tue-Sun 11-9. AE, MC, V.
Cuisine: dictionary-definition pub fare
Entrée price range: $5.50 (your basic burger) to $13 (broiled seafood platter)
Ambience: Céad Míle Fáilte!
Clientele: locals and pub-seekers

As dotage ambles my way, I’m more and more persuaded that life’s annoyances are best fought—or at least postponed—by a pint of dark, foamy beer freshly drawn from the tap.

You have to admit that some of these recent cold nights are the stuff of Adirondack legend, wherein your very words freeze and aren’t heard until the spring thaw. On one such night, having finished a long day in a rehearsal hall, I was slouched in a comfortable chair near a crackling fireplace draining a mug of Kielty’s Irish Ale, a Joycean setting just right for a Joycean epiphany: This is the right place to be right now.

That’s what Jimmy Kielty wants to hear. A longtime Waterford resident, he was born in Dublin and managed, three years ago, to recapture some of the spirit of his natal city with an eponymous pub that’s just about as friendly a hangout as you can imagine.

Which is a state of well-being not easily obtained in these parts. We’ve got saloons a-plenty, but the demographics range from noisy kid hangouts to weltschmerz-heavy dipso bars. Kielty’s, located on Waterford’s main street, has a smiling, eager look on the inside. Barstool patrons don’t appear to be stitched to their seats, and the nearby tables are taken by parties of different ages and attitudes. It looks like a neighborhood cross section.

We’re not talking about gourmet dining. Chef John Morse has no illusions about the fare he’s putting out; on the other hand, he does more than able service within the limited realm. You can see his skill best realized in such fare as the corned beef and cabbage that’s a Thursday special. Mind you, it’s not a difficult dish to make, but it’s an easy dish to let slide when you’re offering it in quantity.

When we sampled the $8.50 entrée, the meat was a generous, flavorful portion not too striated with fat, served with a killer mustard that I need to stockpile in my own house. Cabbage, potatoes and carrots would seem to complete the dish, but you really do need a flagon of ale to really bring it all together.

Good thing there’s a specialty brew on hand. Kielty’s Irish Ale is custom made for the pub by Davidson Bros. in Glens Falls, one of the best breweries in our area. And it’s a good pairing for the fish and chips, too ($7.50), which was named an area favorite in a Times Union poll. With a juicy piece of haddock at the center, it’s got the right fish and the right batter and a perfect golden crunchiness to it; sides of cole slaw and tartar sauce are ably prepared. My only quarrel is with the fries, too reminiscent of the fast-food-chain product.

I hadn’t noticed that beer-battered steak fries were available (a $3.50 appetizer); it would be worth it to pay extra for them.

The menu is brief and functional, abetted by a blackboard listing of specials. Order the $10.75 sampler platter and you get an overview of the starters, most of which are breaded and fried. This includes onion rings and mozzarella sticks, both of them beer battered, as well as jalapeño poppers, popcorn chicken and chicken tenders. Roasted garlic mushrooms offer a flavor and texture variety. All of these items are available separately, priced from $3.50 to $6, and while they proved to be predictable, they were reassuring in that predictability.

During one visit, I was in the company of folks with dietary obsessions, and endured the inevitable sneers about so much breading, so much fat. Interesting to note how easily they allowed themselves a bite . . . then another . . . and then one more. And another.

We also tried an order of Buffalo chicken wings ($6), which are available in four temperature settings. The wimps at our table prevailed and we ordered the least- threatening sauce, but the server kindly slipped me a taste of the fiery stuff, which was excellent.

Chicken, turkey, roast beef and ham, all cooked on the premises, are available for the $7 club sandwich that’s served with a pickle and chips. A selection of deli sandwiches also is available, most of them $5.50, with the addition of tuna or corned beef as a filling. And there’s a $4.75 bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for a culinary nostalgia trip (it was a staple of my childhood, at least).

Hungarian goulash was a special one recent evening, and it was a huge portion of not-too-exciting stuff; then again, it was exactly what you would expect from a pub kitchen. Meat and macaroni with an easygoing sauce. Likewise, the broiled seafood platter ($13), with a generous array of shrimp, scallops and haddock on display, was under the heat a little longer than I prefer. The crab cakes, also a component, were terrific and warrant their own place as an entrée.

What sold me on Kielty’s, however, is the half-pound burger I sampled on a later visit. The atmosphere was just as friendly, the beer just as good—and the burger was a seething mass of tasty ground beef poking out the sides of the bun like a fat guy in old clothes. They range from $5.50 to $6.75, the latter the price of the smokehouse burger, which adds onions and barbecue sauce to a cheeseburger with fries. This is pub grub at its best, and it’s why I’ll be returning.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.

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