The parsnip, sweet and earthy, is given the respect it deserves by Jonathan Chevlin, chef at O'Hara's Ale House. Chevlin uses warm cubes of roasted parsnips, along with beets and sweet potatoes, in an arugula salad that's dressed with lemon and thyme. It's a clever juxtaposition of temperatures and flavors -- and it tastes of serious gastronomy. Hardly what you'd expect to find at a little strip mall bar where loud music and raucous conversation can make the room reverberate.
So what if your ears are ringing? Order a craft beer and dig into some long-braised corned beef sliders. They're irresistible, as are Chevlin's sliders with pulled pork glossed with an Irish whiskey BBQ glaze. Roasted wings with lemon pepper are meaty, well-burnished, zingy. Ideal for everyone at the table to share: a massive casserole of mac and cheese that's made with Irish Cheddar. Hard to stop going back for another helping.
At lunch, a hefty burger, ordered rare, comes out way overcooked. When told, the waiter whisks it away, returning shortly with a replacement that's rich, juicy, knowingly seasoned. On the side are exemplary hand-cut fries. A bit of a letdown is a turkey burger that's dense and somewhat dry.
You want better from Chevlin. And, at dinner, he shows he can deliver -- over and over again. Consider a big bowl of gnocchi with soft shards of braised short rib, carrots and, yes, parsnips. Shepherd's pie, made with ground beef, peas, carrots and mashed potatoes, is every bit as comforting as one would hope. There's also an impressive chicken potpie capped with puff pastry that, admittedly, is not house-made. (It seldom is.) A requisite at any Irish pub is fish and chips. The version here is first-rate, starring Guinness-battered cod that's sweet and crunchy, plated with fries and a lively slaw.
Chevlin, who trained as a pastry chef, is not yet making his own desserts. In addition to items brought in from an outside bakery, there's a big sundae featuring Häagen-Dasz ice cream and plenty of booze-soaked bananas.
Bear in mind that O'Hara's is small and doesn't accept reservations.