The Place: Muldoon's Irish Pub, 202 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660;(949) 640-4110.
The Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. at the pub or Celtic Bar.
The Deal: $5 draft pints, including Guinness Stout, Bass Ale, Smithwick's, Muldoon's Honey Blond, Amstel Light, Harp Lager, Stella Artois, Muldoon's Lusty Wheat, Boddington's, or Newcastle Brown Ale; $4 bottled beer and cider (imported & domestic); $6 well drinks; $7 well martinis; $2.50 off regular menu on wine by the glass. $2 for hand-cut pub chips; $2 for kalamata olives or roasted nuts. $4 plates include two mini burgers with special sauce & onion loops; one piece fish and chips (add one more fish for $2); Irish bangers & mustard sauce; or four whiskey wings with bleu cheese dressing. $6 plates include potato pancakes & Scottish smoked salmon with sour cream & herbs; or the pub stew.
The Scene: A stone's throw and several paces from Fashion Island, Muldoon's may just be the nicest looking, most well-appointed, coziest bar outside of those where everybody knows your name. The seats are well-broken in. It feels like it has been around for ages. I could settle in here and never leave. It looks, feels, and smells like an Irish bar should, if there was a formula for such a thing. Dark but not foreboding; cave-like but not divey, if you sit on the outer periphery, you'll feel the breeze from an open window and hear the rustle as trees sway.
There are actually two bars that surround a leafy courtyard like a garland. Each watering spot has its own personality, but U2 seems to be the universal soundtrack of choice and rightfully so. When "Sunday Bloody Sunday" queues up, you feel like it's an anthem the whole bar can pump their fist to, even if you're not Irish and only know of the incident through the song.
The Sauce: If you are going to sip anything but Guinness Stout here (and I find it hard to do otherwise) let it be their Lusty Wheat or Honey Blond. I've rarely if ever see anyone ordering a martini here during Happy Hour, which is surprising given its proximity to Fashion Island.
The Food: Muldoon's is known, nay, famous for their fish and chips, gnarled brown-battered knobs of cod whose crunch coat may involve some sort of beer. They do an all-you-can-eat fish and chips night Wednesdays, the only pub I know of that has enough confidence in their fish and chips to do so. Though the fries are limp despite being made from real potatoes cut in store (or is it because it is?), you'll want to eat your fill of fish on these nights, not during their Happy Hour, which only entitles you to one measly piece of fish and a half handful of fries for the $4.
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The sausage is a better deal, even though you get a portion equal the amount of a foot-long, cut up and speared on toothpicks. If your intent is to fortify your stomach with food before you booze up, skip the anemic wings and opt for the sliders, which are surprisingly juicy and buried under a heaping pile of onion strings that could constitute a dish unto itself. You should also order the chips (American defition this time). Their crunch silences any complaints that linger on the shortcomings of the fries.
The Verdict: Guinness, superlative fried fish and a good vibe make up for fries with an In-N-Out kind of floppiness and the too early ending time.
The Grade: B+