Pubs are for burgers, well drinks and watching the game.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Mulligan’s is just a few months old, the reincarnation of the former Bully III, a long-time Carmel institution. Once inside that massive set of wooden doors adorned with just-as-enormous utensils posing as handles, it’s hard to believe you’re still in Carmel. The outdoorsy-ness gets left behind but for a couple of Dolores-facing windows on one side of the bar. Aside from that, it’s deep, dark wood all around with the occasional flicker of a couple of wall-mounted TVs.
I was nearly 30 minutes early for dinner with friends, so table selection was my decision alone. I dig avoiding the “ I don’t know, where do you want to sit? ” repartee. The couple of window-side seats in the place were already snagged, so I plopped down at a table perfect for three (plus handbags) next to the bar on the far side of the room.
Within moments, a friendly woman behind the bar had maneuvered her way around the back and to my table, napkins in hand. I love the pre-after-work-cocktail tease of little white napkins. She scattered a couple or three table-wide and waited while I pursed my lips, scanned the bottles along the bar, and mulled my decision. The wine list, with its respectable representation of local and not-so-local wines, was tempting enough. But this was serious waiting time and a serious get-together, so I strayed and went with a full-blown cocktail instead, a staple even: Stoli Cosmopolitan with a tad extra lime.
I stared in somewhat of a daze at one of the two tellys, enjoying the Cosmo. It’d been a long time since I’d been to such a subdued, mellow bar. It was far from deserted, just quiet. So quiet that at some point, I found myself ditching the upbeat Giants game and turning my attention to a muted woman on an infomercial. I was thinking of picking up my cell and dialing out for the super intergalactic make-up brushes when DC walked in. She saved me something like three easy payments of $39.99.
Shortly after Nina joined us, our server was right back to the table. Nina eyed my drink, asked what it was, then turned to the server and simply said, “Yes.” She’s easy like that. DC went out on a limb and had water, with ice even.
The menu is direct, predictable pub fare: chicken, burgers (DC’s choice), prime rib (that was Nina’s), oxtail stew, pot roast, corned beef and cabbage (how could I not?). There was a good selection of appetizers, and DC chose a steamed artichoke for us to share.
The artichoke arrived at about the time our dinner salads did. They were no-fuss: iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, carrots. “My grandmother’s salad,” Nina remarked. She was right. I pushed mine around the plate a little, avoiding the iceberg at the bottom swimming in the spicy Italian dressing. Nina finished most of hers. I think she likes her grandmother.
The artichoke was quite a chore. I’m a big fan of artichokes and was mildly disappointed that these leaves were almost too tough to pull off and eat. A rich, dressed mayonnaise sat nearby for dipping. The heart was hard, too hard to eat, though DC gave it the old college try. She didn’t care for the dipping sauce—I enjoyed it.
Then our entrees arrived: A heap of bright green cabbage towered castle-like in the center of the plate that appeared in front of me. Neatly sliced corned beef encircled it, while baby red potatoes and thick sliced carrots sat off to one side. The beef was lovely to look at, sweet and oh-so tender with just a hint of spice. The vegetables were nicely done. Both the carrots and the potatoes were firm without being hard and were left to entertain by themselves with little or no seasoning.
Nina sipped the red wine she’d switched to and offered me a slice of her medium-rare prime rib. I chose an outside piece that was more well-done and to my liking. And like it I did. It was tender and well-seasoned on the outside with a peppery rub. Nina’s a prime rib connoisseur from way back; she tagged along for dinner specifically for the beef, and she was definitely in her happy place with it that night.
A heap of sweet sliced red cabbage next to the prime rib was equally gratifying, but the twice-baked-like potato, mixed with bits of sausage and stuffed back in the skin, brought a furrow to her brow. “It doesn’t seem fresh,” she sighed. Instead, she thought perhaps it had been precooked. She reached her potato quota by dabbling in DC’s french fries.
Speaking of DC, she had a burger, fries and a Coke. I didn’t taste her hamburger, but she liked it just fine, finished most of it, and took the rest home. Her thick-cut fries fell victim to all three of us. I snuck one or two while she wasn’t looking. Nina did it openly. Fries can do that, turn otherwise respectable people into common thieves.
The Giants game was nearly over by the time we paid our bill of about $75. The place had a steady stream of diners and bar warmers, but it never got any louder. It’s just a quiet place, and that’s okay.
I don’t know that I’d necessarily make it a first choice for a special dinner with friends, but it’s definitely a place to grab a burger and fries, sip a well-heeled cocktail and watch the telly. Next time, though, I’m buying those brushes.
Dolores and 8th, Carmel
Open daily from 11:30am to 9pm