Posted by: wrmcnutt | April 20, 2009

Restaurant Review – Durty Nellie’s – San Antonio, Texas

Before you can appreciate my experience, you must have some background.  I am, shall we say, a conisseur of Irish pubs.  The first thing I do when I hit town on business travel is see if I can find a pub with emerald green paint, Guiness on tap, and Irish tunes on the bandstand.  You’d be surprised how hard it is to find such an animal in the United States.  Irish pubs provide a comforting, relaxing sense of home, no matter how far I travel. 

But the San Antonio experience was unique.  I’d been in San Antonio for three days.  Now, San Antonio is a friendly city.  Like everything else in Texas, it’s, um, large.  And as a culture, San Antonio has bought into a “brand.” And that brand is Southwestern.  Now, I like Mexican food as much as the next guy, and I’ve got nothing against FiestaWare.  But after three solid days of it, I was ready for food that was not wrapped in a corn tortilla or painted sunny pastel colors.  I was ready for a break from Tex-Mex.  And my fallback to find a little bit of home was, of course, and Irish bar. 

I shuffled through the “thanks for coming to our meeting”stuff that you always get handed at one of these things, and found Durty Nellies.  And it’s on the River Walk.  Bonus!  So I got my directions and away I went.  The River Walk is a sort of specialized mall and recreation area, carefully designed to separate adults looking for entertainment from thier money.  The River Walk is recessed.  The pedestrian walk is about 15 feet below ground level.  I was in San Antonio in March, and it was only beginnging to get warm then. I’ll bet that the perpetual shade is a real crowd pleaser when San Antonio turns into giant frying pan in the summer.  But I digress.

I found Durty Nellie’s without much difficulty.  And they got the interior right.  I stepped off of the River Walk into dark grotto.  The ceiling was white, but broken up with massive wooden beams.  The floor, what little of it you could see through the peanut shells, was dark wood.  There was a massive hearth with a fake peat fire burning in it.  (But it was a good fake peat fire.  I only knew it was fake because a) twasn’t hot and b) there was no smell of burning peat.)  The hearth was faced in emerald green tile, and above it was an antique harp on the mantelpiece.  Rounding everything out were reproduction turn of the 19th century Guiness ads, a must for any Irish pub in America.

But then things began to go horribly, horribly awry.  To begin, somewhere in Key West, Jimmy Buffet must have been singing Finnigan’s Wake.  He surely must have, because the piano player in Durty Nellies was playing Margaritaville.  Mind you, I’m a Parrot Head,  for God’s sake.  But there’s a time and a place for everything, and this was neither the time nor the place.  Then I ordered a black and tan and looked at them menu.

Suddenly, the homey feeling of comfort I get from an Irish pub evaporated like tequila at a frat party. It was as though I had landed on the dark side of the moon.  The menu was full of American bar standards (fried jalapeno’s stuffed with cheese, for example).  And the rest of it was tex-mex.  For the love of St. Patrick!  What planet am I on?  Not a plate of irish stew or shepard’s pie to be found for love or money.

To add insult to injury, my Black and Tan came out blended.  I drank up and got out.

Ok – to be fair, if you want a tourist bar with an Irish theme, Durty Nellies of San Antonio is just fine.  The bar food is bar food, fairly priced, and deep fried as custom declares.  The waiters are neither surly nor particularly attentive.  But that wasn’t what I wanted, needed, or asked for.

I give Durty Nellies of San Antonio

One pint of five for atmosphere.

Two pints of five for cuisine.

Two pints of five for service.

That comes to 1.7 pints.  I will not be returning; I was bitterly disappointed.

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  1. Sounds a lot like the Durty Nellie’s in Chattanooga, except, IIRC, they actually had some Irish music on.

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