OK, Phantom Phans, that might surprise you.
Because March is a month in which we, or at least many of us, celebrate Ireland, the wearing of green (not so much the Irish song, but the actual wearing) and St. Patrick’s Day, I had craving for foods related to the same thing and, because I heard good things, ended up (gasping!) eating hotel food even though I wasn’t traveling.
I know, I know, the food in the hotel is almost exclusively for people on business trips with little free time, maybe in an unfamiliar place, and the best and the easiest for dinner is whatever the hotel you are staying in offers.
But those experiential bookings can be put aside when it comes time to go to O’Reilly’s Taproom located in the Best Western Central Hotel & Conference Center off Union Deposit Road on Harrisburg’s east side.
Stay with me.
First of all the bar / restaurant looks like an upgraded version of an old fashioned Irish pub. There is a lot of wood and brass, a large wraparound bar in the middle of the room, Irish flags, hanging lamps, a fireplace, shelves, high seats, banquettes, ordinary tables, booths and the very wide choice of beer and alcohol.
There are a few dozen beers on tap, including the impeccable Guinness Stout and its delicious and rarely seen sister, Smithwicks’ Irish red ale. The list, both on tap and in the bottle, also features plenty of craft beers, as well as old standards.
Prefer cocktails or something to sip after dinner? O’Reilly’s offers many single malt scotches, including Glenmoragie Highland and the iconic 16-year-old Lagavulin.
The same goes for Irish whiskey, with choices such as Green Spot and Redbreast.
Second, the staff are about as friendly as any restaurant. And the bright and open place is warm and welcoming. You won’t feel like you’re in a restaurant or hotel bar.
The menu includes small plates, soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers and regular entrees. But I went there for the “Classic O’Reilly’s” section.
Granted, a small list of “Irish nachos” ($ 10) caught my eye. But the menu description made it seem like they were just regular nachos that someone decided to call ‘Irish’.
And I was tempted by the “Pot O ‘Gold”, homemade smoked wings valued at $ 16, cheese logs, potato peels, spinach and a crab dip. But it looked like a meal for five.
Instead, I gave in to my fondness for potato skins, which pair well with beer or almost any appetizer. They were delicious. Four to order ($ 9), easy to share, made with cheddar cheese, bacon bits and green onions and perfectly crispy.
A catering partner liked them as well, but made the comment “Too much bacon”, to which I replied, “An impossibility”.
We passed on salads because we were in a bar. And we thought of the “Irish Burger” served with thick sliced bacon, cheese sauce, Swiss cheese, onions, mushrooms and a fried potato pancake ($ 13). But we stuck with the original intention of becoming “classic”.
For my partner that meant a flame grilled meatloaf with vegetables and mashed potatoes served with a slice of Irish soda bread which our server said was from a bakery in Philadelphia and which I believe , tasted like a dessert.
My choice? The signature “St. Patrick’s Pot Roast” ($ 17). And I’m not even a huge fan of the rotisserie fan, which too often can be flat, dry, and tasteless. But this pot roast, served with root vegetables and delicious mashed potatoes, was chewy, full of flavor and accompanied by a slice of this delicious “dessert” bread.
Other “classic” dishes include fish n ‘chips, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and more, priced between $ 15 and $ 18.
And, as mentioned, there are regular appetizer options like the grilled rib eye steak, crab cakes, house smoked ribs, and salmon, although the latter is glazed with Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. These entries from low to high- $ 20s.
O’Reilly’s has been around for a long time and is rightly known among local beer enthusiasts for having one of the best beer menus in the area.
But it’s more than that. It is also good comfort food at reasonable prices in a pleasant and well-being environment.
Try it out this month. And if you’re at the bar, don’t forget to have a toast, kill (slaan-sha), Old Irish for “health”, as in “to your health”. You might surprise someone.
800 East Park Dr., Harrisburg; Best Western Premier Hotel
Open all day everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Takes major maps, lots of parking; separate exterior entrance; 717-564-2700.