The 1080 block of Peachtree is bustling with new life. In the past few months, we’ve seen Noon Midtown start to serve up gourmet sandwiches and RA slice up some “progressive” sushi. Now, the latest entry to the Crescent Avenue strip is Rí Rá Irish Pub.
Armed with all the fixins of what everyone expects out of a snazzy Irish pub, Rí Rá has subtly announced their lofty standards. I must admit that this chain was unknown to me until word hit that they were opening here in town. Even then, I didn’t spend a lot of time reading up on the place. It turns out that our recent dinner there was a bit more informative than I anticipated.
As we learned, the purveyors of the concept put A LOT of thought into the atmosphere. While the back story sounds a bit like overkill to me, I will tell you that they did a solid job. As with all the Rí Rá locations, the Atlanta edition is chock-full of Irish imports. Rí Rá finds old pub salvage (think like 200-year-old stuff) back in Ireland. Then, they have some local artisans shine the stuff up; after which, the goods are shipped over to the States and installed post haste.
Since you can’t walk into any Irish Home Depot and order up some old pub material, the company searches the country side for usable goods. As we might expect, this means that each location has a bit of a unique flavor. Keep in mind, I’ve never walked into another one of these joints, so take that as supposition and nothing more.
Most interesting to me is the source of the tiles. The parquet floor, roughly 10,000 pieces strong, comes from the famed Harland & Wolff Shipyard. Don’t be surprised if that rings a bell – that shipyard was the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. Consider that another group you can blame for Kate and Leo!
Walking in to Ri Ra, there is nothing that immediately tells you that you’ve just entered one massive pub. The ceilings are low, and the deep colors help shrink the space. Turns out, if you take a gander toward the bathrooms, you’ll notice how the place goes on … and on … and ON! It’s seriously huge.
Meanwhile, for anyone who has ever walked into Fadó in Buckhead, Ri Ra will seem like second nature. The one big difference is that Fadó is anything but intimate. Both places rely on imported interiors and seem interchangeable in that respect. So while I’m not going to say that walking into Ri Ra transports me to Ireland any more than walking into Royal China makes me feel like I’m in Beijing, I will say that the decor here is a success.
For our meal, we found the weather ideal for some patio time. A small area, the flavor of the pub is lost outside. This patio could just as well be any given restaurant on any given corner. Oh well, that’s neither here nor there.
Like their Buckhead brethren, the menu at Ri Ra teeters back and forth between traditional Irish grub and standard pub fare. The menu is a little more succinct than it is at Fadó, not quite as Americanized, and a little more expensive. You’ll find the necessary options of Boxty (stuffed potato pancake), Shepherds’ pie, and Banger’s & Mash. Meanwhile, trout, haddock, and corned beef are all there as well.
For starters, we sampled the mussels. A rather straightforward serving (garlic and white wine), I had no real problems with the dish. I wasn’t expecting exquisite seafood, only something that tasted like it should. In that respect, the dish was a success.
Initially driven toward the chicken penne, I gathered my senses and opted for a more traditional dish – the Shepherds’ pie. While far from earth shattering, this was vastly superior to the version served up at The Grange in Decatur. The ground beef did it’s job, as did the base (which tasted as if the primary ingredients were vegetable broth, Worcestershire sauce, and butter). Served up in a little white bowl, the portion was ample. While my inner foodie wants me to rely on technical terms to communicate my experience – I’m not sure the food here warrants it. That’s not a detractor, just an explanation. For $12.00, I’d say the dish was priced appropriately.
Though I did not sample any of the food from my step-father’s plate, he was lukewarm to the Guinness BBQ Chop. As he communicated, the chop itself was cooked properly, but the sauce didn’t do it for him. When I poked for more, he thought it was a bit too salty. With no frame of reference, take that as face value.
As far as the food here goes, I not opposed to going back. One experience with one or two dishes does little to really give me an understanding of what’s going on. There was little about my experience that leads me to believe there is some hidden delight on the menu. Meanwhile, it seems that what you have at the restaurant is simply just “food.” You go, you order, you eat, and you say – okay. They might have a failure or two, but I suspect most of the dishes here will suffice.
What I suspect Ri Ra is really here for, and what I am least qualified to asses, is the beer. I didn’t even take a gander at the beer options, but I did peek at the cocktail list. Though nothing that pushes the envelope, you’ll see familiar options like the Moscow Mule. I ordered one, and found it to be full of ginger ale and light on the bitters. I think it was executed as intended and thus, I got no real quarrels. By comparison, the version at Abattoir seems more “artsy” and little more “sour.” Both versions quench my thirst.
I guess there isn’t a great deal more to say. I don’t think I’ll ever crave the food at Rí Rá, and the absence of TVs means that you won’t find me enjoying any World Cup soccer, but I wouldn’t mind going back here to knock down a few or even grab some grub. When staring at the “Like”/”Don’t Lie” button on UrbanSpoon … I found myself unwilling to commit to either answer.