Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mackey's Irish Pub and Restaurant - Commitment To Excellence

A couple months ago while I was attending the High Desert Motorcycle Rally in Ontario, OR I stumbled across a place run by Shawn Grove and his wife Angie called Mackey's. As I rumbled by on the Harley I heard live music and swung in. Sean made a point of introducing himself and we had some conversation revealing that he'd grown up in my home town and we knew people and places in common. I was struck that Shawn greeted each customer by name or introduced himself and remembered the names. I asked him about that and he said that in order to justify the amount of work and capital invested in his place he had to have a commitment to excellence, something I understand.

I have visited several times since, deepening our acquaintance and trying out the menu. My last visit was this weekend with riding buddy George and I got some pictures as well as some more experience with the menu. I caught Shawn and Angie outside setting up for a wedding reception and they gave a pose.

****Click Pics for full size****

The place has three elements, a formal dining area, pub, and a wrought iron enclosed patio. The patio and restaurant are both at ground level with stairs leading from each down to the basement pub. The pub is a comfortable mixture of vinyl and carpeted flooring with wood and stucco walls broken into three sections, the bar area, a pool table area and a living room themed area. The bar/lounge is well stocked with liquor and beers and expert barkeeps.

All three pub areas are equipped with TV screens generally tuned to sports. The essence of the place is reflected by the living room themed area, comfort and amiability. The aim is clear, the customer can relax in a friendly well appointed place and spend time enjoying it.

The formal restaurant is broken into several separated dining areas each containing around four or five tables. Once again the comfort level of the customer is the concern, you are never in a large area surrounded by many strangers, rather a level of intimacy is struck, with the comfortable surroundings of wood, plaster, and carpeting. There is no intention of moving customers in and out, there is, rather, every attempt to encourage staying and enjoying your time.

The wait station is central to the dining areas, a second one pictured behind. Again wood and glass dominate, making it a decorative statement as well as the functional station that it is.

Since I am not a drinker, I can only comment that the iced tea is quite good with frequent refills. They do have an extensive library of drink menus in case someone decides to play stump the bartender.

While I make no pretense to write for ratings services, I have eaten at quite a few four and five star restaurants and food is one of my favorite things in life. Yes, I can cook and yes I have worked, in my younger years, in a four star restaurant so I'm not an ignoramus on the subject of good food. This is really the point of this article, Mackey's has good food. I have not eaten every item on the menu, it is extensive. I have had two of their sandwiches, including an absolutely excellent steak sandwich and their prime rib dinner, half rack dinner, and a taste of George's chicken dinner. The prime rib has a dry rub of primarily rosemary and garlic rather than the traditional pepper run, the ribs are glazed with an in-house Guiness rib sauce, and the chicken breasts are stuffed and glazed with another in-house Guiness light sauce. All the beef is aged and of top quality, the prime rib was very nearly fork 'cut-able' while remaining firm and while the ribs had a nice crust the meat was quite tender and juicy. The light sauce crust on the chicken preserved its moisture while creating a nice contrasting texture. All the rubs and sauces are unique in flavor and subtle enough to not overpower the quality of the cuts. The vegetables were at the right level of crisp and cooked. At each dinner I have had the salads which are a nice mixture of lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheeses, and croutons. I only use Italian dressing on salads and over the years I have had a lot of opportunities to have various types and brands, Mackey's is a traditional Italian of real quality.

With the world of advertising exaggeration it would be pretty easy to take Shawn's comment about a Commitment to Excellence with a pretty large grain of salt. If decor and service were the extent of that, he'd have something; but in the end the food and drink are the real measure - that is the real expense and effort in an eating establishment. What you have at Mackey's is the real expression of such a statement, the complete package combining friendliness, comfort, and unique and excellent food. What a great find out in Eastern Oregon on the Idaho border.

You can find them at Mackey's Steakhouse and Pub. Ontario, OR is on I-84 about 70 miles west of Boise, ID and Mackey's is only a handful of blocks off the Interstate with both off street and on street parking. You will find Shawn and Angie and their employees warm and friendly hosts to a great eating experience. If you happen to bring an interesting bike or hotrod, Shawn is an enthusiast so mention it to him. Live music is presented on select weekends, see their site.

(If you think I'm exaggerating, it was worth a 150 mile round trip ride for this last visit) ((OK, I love to ride and all...))


Dusty said...

It's the middle of the night and I am now hungry thanks to you!

Beautifully written review Chuck. Thank you. ;)

Chuck Butcher said...

Um, sorry ... I guess...

Good to see you Dusty.

Anonymous said...

Mackey's has the worst food and warm beer around!!