TERRY’S PICKY PALATE / An Irish Breakfast and Fish and Chips at Shanna Key Irish Pub & Grill

BY TERRY SCHMIDA

It may not be St. Paddy’s Day, but Irish eyes – and everyone elses – are always smiling at Shanna Key Irish Pub & Grill.

This neighborhood watering hole, located at 1900 Flagler Ave., has been a locals’ favorite for nearly 14 years for its friendly atmosphere, great selection of Irish beer and whiskeys, and, of course, its mouth-watering pub grub.

Owner Barry Geary is usually on hand to welcome regulars and visitors with a mischievous grin, hearty laugh and a joke or limerick, served up in the Irish brogue born and bred in his native County Cork.

On the day of my visit, Geary sat with me as I enjoyed a feast that would have been unheard of during the potato famine that sent so many of his countrymen to these shores back in the mid-1800s.

My meal started off with a smattering of appetizer specials, including Reuben Egg Rolls, Beer-Boiled Shrimp, Fried Cheese Curds, Corn Fritters, and a bowl of the bar’s signature Potato & Leek Soup, garnished with bacon and scallions. All were delicious, and worth ordering when they appear on the daily specials board. The soup, of course, is always available, and is a favorite of Shanna Key’s loyal customers.

I’ve always been a fan of a full Irish Breakfast, and Geary obliged my preference with a huge platter that served as my lunch and dinner that day.

“We use all the best of the different Irish brands that are available in this country,” Geary said with pride. “Besides the fried eggs, what we use are similar to Denny’s Gold Medal Sausages, Clonakilty Black and White Puddings, and Galtee Irish Bacon, as well as grilled tomatoes, home fries, and your choice of toast.”

This stick-to-the-ribs comfort food plate can also be augmented with baked Beans which, Geary said, most diners order as a matter of course.

I closed my eyes as I ate, and could literally picture myself sitting at Bush’s Bar, in Cork, with each bite becoming steadily tastier than the last. This is the real deal, folks, and, as Geary pointed out, is fabulous as a midday hangover cure, lunch, dinner, or late night treat.

I was pretty full, but the jovial Irishman wasn’t done with me yet.

Before I left Geary insisted that I give Shanna Key’s famed Fish & Chips a whirl. From the fresh-cut, skin-on fries, to the enormous piece of beer-battered Japanese Swai, this dish transported me to a coastal chippy on the Emerald Isle. It was heavenly.

To drink Geary suggested – naturally – a pint of Guinness, which he said his barkeeps make a point of “double-pouring” in the traditional fashion. It takes a few minutes to do it correctly but the taste is worth it, in the end. Being a teetotaler I opted for a Coke, but there’s no better selection of Irish adult beverages on the island.

“Our food is simple, consistently tasty, and reasonably priced,” Geary said, matter-of-factly. “Just like your mum makes for you when you come to visit.”

I couldn’t agree more.

For a true taste of Ireland in Key West, jig on down to Shanna Key where your eyes – and stomach -will be smiling as soon as you walk in the door!

Shanna Key Irish Pub & Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily, with food available until midnight. Take-out is available, and all credit cards (save AmEx) are accepted.

For more information, call 305-295-8880, or visit http://shannakeyirishpub.com/lunch-menu.html.

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