**sigh** Oh, Hooley House, we had such high hopes for you. I mean, really – you specialize in Irish food, bar food and beer. How hard is that to screw up?
Read on, my friends, and you shall see.
So the Hooley House is relatively new to the Fairlawn area, and located in the area just west of Rt 77 that we all seem to forget exists. That highway is like a moat.
Regardless, we were all pretty excited for an excuse to continue celebrating St. Patrick’s Day when Amanda announced this place as her pick for the week. We arrived at HH and noticed an open table in what we thought was the bar area – I mean, it had a large bar, and we all know that’s our usual gravitation point in any restaurant – to the left as soon as we walked in, so we asked to be sat there. It wasn’t until we were seated that we realized there was actually a giant dining room on the right side of the hostess station that had at least one more bar, and far more activity. Translation: we chose poorly, and were actually on the “quiet” side of the place. Also known as the “invisible” side, but we’ll get to that later.
I will say that things got off to a decent start. HH has great drink specials – Wednesdays are $4 Guinness and martinis, so that’s pretty much custom made for three out of four members of our group. Although Ted did save his Guinness for round two of the evening, starting out the night with a (very dark) vanilla porter. Maybe they should re-think that name. After much scouring of the martini list – because, let’s face it, they all sounded absolutely delicious – Amanda started with a birthday cake martini, while I went with the apple pie.
Not one to jump on a bandwagon, Shane went with a rum and diet. Drink specials be damned.
So we got our first round of drinks, and took a few minutes to check out the rather large menu. Seriously, this thing was like a small novel. And while I appreciate a good selection, sometimes by the time you get to page 8 it just seems rather overwhelming. Where was the sandwich page? How many different pastas do they offer? What sides come with those? It’s like studying for the freaking SAT’s just to be prepared when they come back to take your order.
We finally passed the test and put in our orders, and sat back to enjoy our drinks while we waited for our appetizers to arrive. And that’s when things started go downhill. And also when we learned the number one cardinal rule of dining at Hooley House: order a drink anytime you see your waitress. Any. Time. If she walks past the table. Or you catch a quick glimpse of her seven tables away. Or you run into her in the restroom. I don’t care where you see her, if your paths cross you need to take advantage of it. Because you never know when you might see her again.
Had we known this, we would’ve put in our order for our second round of drinks when we ordered our food – which was about two sips into our first round, just FYI. Instead, our first round of drink glasses sat empty for at least 15 minutes, with no sign of our servers whatsoever and despite Shane making loud slurpy noises with his straw in the empty glass like a 5-year old. Our apps were delivered by someone who was clearly not our server and who also scurried away immediately after dropping off the plates as if she knew we would ask for more drinks and she wasn’t able to get them for us.
So, OK, strike one.
But let’s just talk for a minute about the appetizers, which were so good they almost made us forget that we didn’t have any liquids remaining at our table to wash them down with. We had ordered the onion rings, which were hand battered but not so much so that they weighed 10 tons and dropped like a ball of grease into your stomach. Delicious.
We also got an order of the Irish Egg Rolls, which quite frankly may be the best item on the menu. The corned beef was sliced just right, and even though they were deep fried it wasn’t like they just dipped them in grease and threw them on a plate. They were less like egg rolls and more like little mini deep-fried corned beef sandwiches. Or pockets of heaven, whatever. Tomato, tomahto.
Plus if you order anything there and it says it comes with “hooley sauce,” consider yourself lucky because it’s to die for. Seriously. I think I could eat a bowl of that stuff by itself with a spoon.
Speaking of spoons, it’s a good thing we didn’t need an extra one for anything. Or any condiments. Or anything, really, to go with our appetizers (I mean, aside from the obvious drinks – we’re well past that at this point), because we were finished with our apps by the time we saw our servers again. And yes, I did mean to use the plural there, as our table was the lucky recipient of a “shadowing trainee” for the evening. Who was apparently learning the fine art of avoidance, but whatevs. In any case, the next time we saw our waitress(es) was when our meals were delivered. I’m pretty sure we all burst out laughing when she asked us if there was anything else she could get us at that point. Oh, yes, please, a little more air for my empty glass would be perfection. Thank you.
So, OK, on to our meals. As usual we did our pre-meal interrogation of our servers prior to ordering, and were told that the burgers and the “bakes” (essentially specialty mac’n’cheese) were the best things on the menu. I guess maybe I should’ve listened to them and gone that route, as both the Irish bake and the Buffalo Chicken bake had caught my eye. But I was afraid that either of those options would be way too heavy, so I tried to make it a bit healthier and went with the Cajun Chicken Melt sandwich instead. It was billed as a “grilled cheese sandwich with extras.” Um, yeah, no. Typically grilled cheese involves, well, cheese, right? Yeah, that ingredient was basically non-existent. Like so much so that I think even Ted could’ve eaten this sandwich without complaining (gasp!). Conversely, the chicken breast was cut way too thick – to the point that the texture was a bit iffy and even though it looked to be cooked all the way through there just wasn’t enough flavor to it to make you feel comfortable finishing it.
As usual, my love of carbs enabled me to finish off the bread, but that’s about all. Because it’s always best to order “healthy” and then eat only the part of the meal with the worst nutritional value. I should’ve just had a vat of the hooley sauce.
Amanda, Ted and Shane all ordered burgers. So, considering Shane’s pickiness and how this visit is going so far, I’m guessing you probably already realize that’s going to be an issue. Sure enough, despite asking the waitress and being told that they cook to order, Shane’s Jalepeno burger was still well done. And you know how much he loves that.
Meanwhile Amanda’s Mushroom Swiss burger, while ordered medium, was pink inside. Because that seems normal.
Shane said if it had been cooked properly then it probably would’ve been a good burger. But this time around, unfortunately, the pepper jack cheese on his burger was the best part of the sandwich. Which ultimately doesn’t bode well for Ted, who got the same burger, sans cheese. He did say it was decent – he liked the mix of sweet and sour with the honey bun and pickles. But it wasn’t anything to write home about.
We did like the sides we had with our orders, which included chips, fries and tater tots. Amanda and I got the garlic parm seasoning on ours (I had tots and she had fries) and it was delicious. We would both highly recommend it.
But overall I have to say that the service really killed this place for us. We might’ve been more forgiving of the food if we also would’ve seen more of the wait staff. Or at least had full drinks to wash down the over-done burger and questionable chicken. We realized that part of the problem seemed to be that instead of assigning one server to just our section – which seemed to be further removed from the kitchen and the main bar area – they had at least four or five different servers working the eight or so tables in our area, in addition to holding down tables in the main section. No wonder they forgot to check on us. Our section was the Alaska to the rest of the bar’s Lower 48.
Several times we almost walked up to the bar near us and ordered rounds there, just to see if it would take less time to do it that way than wait for our waitress(es) – but watching the bartender behind the bar take her time with orders she received basically answered that question for us and made us just decide to stay comfortably in our seats instead of jostling for position at the bar. We were told – when we finally did see our waitress(es) and they took our order for a second round – that the main bar was “really backed up” … keep in mind, we were not apologized to, just told that. So hence why we ordered our third round when the second round arrived. Which I think at first the waitress wasn’t sure we were serious about. Clearly she has no idea who we are, or how much we typically drink in one sitting. So thanks for saving us money, I guess?
Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: Good specials and variety. We’d be able to give more of an opinion on them if we were served more of them, though.
Food: The menu is huge, lots of Irish fare but also the typical bar food, too. We really, really wanted to like it. And if we would’ve just stuck to appetizers I have a feeling we would’ve.
Service: Houston, we have a problem. Namely that our entire section of the bar seemed to go invisible for a while.
Overall: In an area where bar and grille esque places – even those with an Irish theme – seem to be a dime a dozen, this place did nothing to make itself stand out.
Next Pick: Ted