Irish Dining in Austin - From Pub Grub to Dublin Lawyer

One of the many things that make Austin an interesting city is that it has always been a melting pot of different cultures, and many of them are reflected in different ways from the architecture to the surprisingly wide array of restaurants available to the present day diner.

One of many thriving cultural heritages in Austin is Irish. More than half a million Texans are descendents of Irish immigrants, many of whom arrived twenty years before the potato famine at the invitation of Mexico. Thinking the shared Catholic faith would make them less troublesome than Anglo colonists, Mexico may have underestimated Irish patriotism; eleven heroes of the Alamo were Irish immigrants, and about 100 fought at the battle of San Jacinto.

Some legacies of Irish immigrants in Austin are St. Mary's Cathedral, founded in 1852 by Father Michael Sheenan as St. Patrick's Catholic Church, and the clay pit bucket towers in Zilker park; remnants of the Elgin-Butler Brick company founded by Irish immigrant Michael Butler in 1873. The hundred-plus year old clay pit towers that go largely unnoticed every day by hundreds of walkers, runners and bikers on the Zilker Hike and Bike Trail are all that remain of the clay mining operation that once sprawled throughout the area. Until 1942, the towers were part of three separate tower structures that suspended a mule-driven cable system across the river. The cables were used to transport clay mined on the south shore of the Colorado River (around the present day Zilker Preserve) to a brick making plant that resided above what is now Austin High School. A more unconventional use of the buckets was to carry workers back and forth across the river.

The brick making plant may be gone, but St. Mary's Cathedral is still home to many Irish descendents along with many more that have arrived since it was built. Two popular venues for a Guinness fix and Irish food are Mother Egan's Irish Pub and BD Riley's Irish Pub. With the proprietors straight from the mother land (along with most of the furnishings) you can't get much more authentic without leaving Texas. The Irish tune session every Sunday night at BD Riley's is like a trip across the ocean - Irish musicians come from all over Central Texas to jam playing everything from bouzoukis to bodhrans while patrons enjoy traditional Irish fare such as Bangers and Mash, Shepherd's Pie, and Fish and Chips. Other local pubs include Fado Irish Pub, Bull McCabes, and Opal Divine's Freehouse.

A more elegant but just as authentic taste of Ireland is Emerald Restaurant. This wee bit of the homeland located just outside of town in the village of Bee Cave offers specialties such as "Ireland's 32 Mixed Grill" which includes black puddings imported from County Cork, sausages, rashers, a lamb chop, small steak and an egg all served together on fine Irish china. Wild game and Dublin Lawyer (lobster simmered in a heavy cream and Irish whiskey sauce, served in puff pastry) are among the other uniquely Irish offerings from the menu. Reservations are accepted every day except St. Patrick's Day, when the restaurant opens early with a special tented venue and entertainment.

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About The Author, Tymon Hytem