What do you call four pints of Guinness in Ireland? A square meal. The black gold of the Irish beverage industry has been brewed in Dublin since 1759 and the hearty, dark liquid is used in Irish cooking from stews to cakes. The Colonial Tavern along the railroad tracks in downtown Fredericksburg is about as traditional and authentic in their pub grub offerings touting eight dishes made with the stout.
One of those dishes that Owner’s Terri Hubbell and Dave Wilson like to tout is their Stout Burger, a half pound of ground sirloin that has been marinated in Guinness Stout, grilled and served atop a potato pancake.
In search of Colonial Tavern’s Awesome Eats, Chef Michael Wagner starts off with an appetizer that is called "Tavern’s Cheddar Ale Dip." Nothing pairs better than beer and cheddar. This beer is no stateside brew; it’s a russet brew from Kilkenny spelled Smithwicks but pronounced “Smitticks” (the Irish ignore w’s in the middle of the words) and it is a bitter ale/larger. When sharp cheddar cheese, onions, honey, Dijon mustard and sea salt are married with this ale, it produces a thick, rich, creamy, gooey, addicting dip that you could eat with a spoon when no one is looking. Spoons aside, they serve it up with fried-pretzel bites, which are soft pretzels cut into pieces then deep fried for 30 seconds, making the outside sealed and slightly crisp and the inside soft. Bionn blas ar an mbeagan is Gaelic which mena "though a small amount, it’s tasty."
The menu consisted of Irish fare like I had eaten when I was in Ireland in those dark, woodsy, small pubs with fireplaces crackling and Celtic music playing. Fighting Irish Fish and Chips, Guinness Beef BBQ, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Guinness Pot Roast, Guinness Beef Stew and the Guinness Stout Burger all brought back memories of my trip.
Ireland grub is known for its meat, potatoes and cabbage dishes, but few think of fish dishes with the exception of Fish and Chips. Salmon from the Shannon is wildly used, and often smoked and served in sandwiches in Ireland. Colonial Tavern’s Chef prepared one of the best Salmon fillets I have ever eaten in the world. Four words that say it all are "melt in your mouth." Michael starts with an 8 ounce fresh Atlantic Salmon fillet, coating it in a dry rub of brown sugar, dried chili skins, pepper seeds, cumin and garlic. The fillet is sauteed in clarified butter until it forms a shiny caramelized crust and then finished (this part is most important) medium-rare in the oven. The fish is slightly sweet and slightly spicy, cooked perfectly and a taste-bud winner. Chef also prepares it two other ways: potato-crusted with pesto cream and pan-seared with Guinness and honey glaze.
Shepherd’s Pie is Colonial Tavern’s proud dish and can be ordered with or without meat. The large ramekin had a covering of creamy white mashed potatoes and melted cheese and when you break through the top you find carrots, onions, peas and ground sirloin smothered in homemade gravy. Every bite was a complete meal on a spoon.
Dave Wilson informs me that The Colonial Tavern prepares an Irish dessert dish called "French Toast Sundae." It is in-house-made Irish soda bread, sautéed in butter until it is toasted and has a golden crust. Sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry top off the dish that Wilson exclaims is the best French toast he has ever eaten. He warns to bring a friend to share it with because it is just way too sweet, rich and big to be eaten alone.
When you go to Colonial Tavern home to the Irish Brigade, tell Chef Michael you have come a long way for his Awesome Irish Eats, and maybe a pint or two. You will find Colonial Tavern at 406 Lafayette Blvd., in Fredericksburg.