'Craic' flows with abundance at Egan & Sons Irish pub
Deidre Schipani – Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Egan & Sons
Cuisine: Irish pub with a Southern accentRepresentative Dish: Toad in the hole; potpies; boardsAddress: 5 Cumberland St.Phone: 641-0131Web: eganscharleston.comBar: Full-service barsHours: Daily 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Food: 3Service: 3Atmosphere: 4Price: $-$$Costs: Appetizers $6-$15; cheese and meat boards $12-$13; soup and salads $6-$10; entrees $12-$20; sides $4-$6; desserts $6; daily specials MP; lunch menu $10-$16; bar menu $10-$15; "starving artist" drink menu $3-$5Vegetarian Options: Limited unless one eats seafoodWheelchair Accessible: YesParking: City lots Other: Happy Hour Monday-Friday 4-7 p.m. with reduced drink prices and food specials, dedicated bar menu, daily specials, craft beer of the week
Yes, there really is an Egan and yes, there are sons.
Egan & Sons opened this fall in the location of the former Moe's Downtown. Owners Chris and Sharon Egan are partners in two Egans in Essex County, N.J.: Montclair and West Orange. They also operate a brasserie called Halcyon and have the publican gene in fine measure.
Chris Egan's father established a pub in Dublin where his brother continues its operation. Husband and wife have been part of the food and beverage scene in Dublin, Boston, New Jersey and, now, Charleston.
Charleston happened by chance, or maybe Accasbel (credited with creating the first public house or pub in Ireland) had a hand in redirecting Chris Egan from Savannah to Charleston. This veteran restaurateur has a keen sense of winnowing down the attributes that make a pub ring true. As Egan himself has said, "a good Irish bar has nuances," and he and business partner Sharon are meticulous in their abilities to translate that to a positive pub experience.
The transformation of the former Moe's into Egan's is remarkable. Jockey for a seat at the bar tuned into the latest soccer match and before the bartender has pulled your Imperial pint, your conversation is off and running.
If you prefer your Bushmills neat with a side of quiet, grab a seat at the entry bar where "locals" have already declared their preference for this Irish local.
Five booths with high backs for privacy and pillows for comfort line the perimeter wall along Cumberland Street. Wooden banquettes divide the bar side from the dining room proper. Tables are topped with Mason jars filled with seasonal blooms and topiaries add a touch of sculptured ivy throughout the dining area. There also is a cozy snug for small groups or intimate dining. Every detail at Egan's is deeply rooted in Irish culture, where the quality of the conversation is as important as the content of your mug.
Kyle Yarborough was brought on board as executive chef and his experience at the now-closed La Fourchette imprints those classic measures of French cookery on the duck fat-fried "chips"; the puff pastry-topped pot pies; the well-reduced stocks that sauce braised pork shanks; veal hanger steak; and ham and chicken pot pie. He has balanced well the assimilation and integration of two food cultures and their ingredients.
The "mushy" peas that accompany most fish and chips across the pond are tendered here with butter beans and served as a classic side to the veiled and crackly golden cod and "chips," the French fries of the Emerald Isle.
Egan's has a well- constructed menu that works whether you are stopping in for happy hour or settling in for dinner. Lunch also is served.
The "boards" menu - think Irish charcuterie with a Lowcountry accent - features cheeses, pates, house-made (spicy) mustard and tart pickles lavishly spread on rustic carving boards. Southern Benton's ham plays with Dubliner pimiento cheese and Cashel blue cheese is partnered with hexagons of honeycomb. Risks are taken with venison pate and confit of rabbit, but have no fears because a competent hand anchors the kitchen at Egan & Sons.
Sharon Egan studied at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. There, under the energetic and enthusiastic Darina Allen, the principals of local and seasonal ingredients were mastered. The Egans are committed to purchasing hormone-free and pasture-raised meat, seasonal produce and fish and shellfish not too long out of the water.
Yarborough has managed to bridge the canons of Irish pub parlance and marry that with the ingredients and dining customs of the Lowcountry. Mussels are steamed in Palmetto Lager, a classic colcannon of mashed potatoes and cabbage is made with collards, and a substantial selection of vegetable sides celebrates a population that values its meat and three.
Toad in the hole lies in a groundswell of Yorkshire pudding batter and the slow-simmered onion gravy layered over the top is a sweet lacquer of generosity and comfort.
Do try it with the house-made mustard, guaranteed to bring your sinus to attention.
The kitchen skills penetrate the menu with balanced seasoning, stratified sauces and soups reflective of core ingredients.
They are having fun here. Take note of their cocktail menu where an Irish Doonbeg Donkey plays off a Moscow Mule or a tongue-in-cheek Bless Your Heart cocktail is fashioned with "honeysuckle" vodka.
Beer drinkers will find bottles, mugs, draughts and cans. And everyone will find the prices fair.
And though there was not a trace of brogue in any of the servers we encountered, you would think these lads and lasses are working via green cards from County Cork. Clad in Henley's with long black aprons, the cheerful greetings and attentive service infuse Egan's with a genuine polished pub experience.
Egan & Sons bring a refreshing human touch to old-school social media where the culture of Joyce, Beckett, Wilde and Behan are revered. Where a public house speaks to community permanence and craic, where the Gaelic concept of good times, good food and good drink is served with equal measure.
To that, we raise our mugs, our pints or our flutes and say, slainte.