County Clare - A Different Take on Brunch

A hidden jewel of Milwaukee, County Clare is one of my favorite restaurants in this city. Coming from an Irish background, the menu items remind me of family gatherings, holiday meals and home-cooked dinners. This hotel restaurant has close ties with the Emerald Isle with Irish movie night, live-bands and offering week-long tours of Ireland at various times of the year. And who better than to come with me for this brunch review than my friend, Liz, who grew up in Ireland for a part of her childhood, and her husband Paul. We were looking forward to this brunch for a long time. It was on my list of brunch spots to check out since I started this blog. However, since it is right in my neighborhood, I wanted to get a good bearing of what the rest of the city had to offer before I registered my review.

Sitting in the neighborhood just west of Juneau Park and north of the beginning of Kilbourn Avenue in Easttown, County Clare sits nestled into a historic neighborhood. This quaint hotel sits on the corners of Astor and Knapp streets and has at least one sister hotel in Green Bay. The pub takes up half of the first floor. The bar is made of gorgeous wood and has several import beers on tap (Guinness, of course). The restaurant section has a sweeping wall of windows which are sometimes decorated for the different times of the year. Even some common Irish family names can be found above these windows. My favorite part of the pub is the Saint's snug—a small seating area around the woo burning fireplace. If you just want to sit with some friends and tip back a few pints, or have a quick bite to eat, think about sitting here.

I made plans with Paul and Liz to meet them around 11 a.m. at the County Clare. Since it's just a short walk for me, I left right at 11 to meet them. I walked into the restaurant and was quickly seated to a table by the hostess/server of the morning, Keely. Paul and Liz arrived a short time later, and we looked over the menu. To our amazement, there was no brunch menu. We asked Keely when she came to take our drink order if the County Clare offered brunch. She told us that it was not a formal brunch menu, but they did have an Irish breakfast special that was not on the menu. Also, they did offer blood marys and mimosas. We asked for a couple more minutes, and Paul, Liz and I decided we were going to still make this a brunch experience. Because what is brunch really? As Paul put it, "brunch is simply a state of mind. Relax and just enjoy the meal."

This was our thinking, so I ordered my usual (coffee, mimosa ($6.50) and water). Paul ordered a bloody mary ($7), while Liz also ordered a mimosa. Paul said that his bloody mary was delicious. He could not figure out if it was from a mix or if it was made from scratch. Either way it had an amazing blend of flavor, spice and heat. My mimosa was also very good—not too sweet nor pulpy.

We looked over the menu and decided on what to order. Liz ordered, after much deliberation, the shepherd's pie ($12.95). This hearty meal in a bowl was delivered with the potatoes piped on top looking like whipped cream. Under the mashed potatoes was seasoned shredded beef that is described to be slow-cooked with peas, carrots,
and onions. Liz let me try some of this delectable treat. With the small bite I took, it took me back to my childhood of family meals around the table and warm happy memories. When it is said that good food warms the soul, it must be referencing this dish.

Paul had decided to the try the Bunratty burger ($11.95). This massive half pound burger sits on a Sciortino's hard roll, and that's just the beginning. Upon the burger is placed a slice of provolone and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, a crispy onion ring and a slice of Irish rasher (or Irish bacon). The inside of the bun is smeared with a garlic-basil aioli that just adds more complexity to the flavor of the burger. This large sandwich was so large that Paul had to flatten it down just to be able to take a bite. Severed with a side of fries and his bloody mary, needless to say, Paul left feeling stuffed.

I wanted to check out the Irish breakfast special ($10.95). I was in for a real treat, because most everything that was on my plate was authentically Irish, even down to the side of brown bread. The scrabbled eggs were fluffy and went well with the roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. Sitting to the side of the eggs was a piece of Irish rashers (Irish bacon), and hidden beneath that was Irish sausage. I knew it was something different, because the flavor and texture are completely different than what I know of as breakfast sausage. Rather than dense, anise-flavored sticks, these were meatier and had a slight sweetness to them. Along side of those were two pieces of black and white pudding, to which Liz exclaimed, "Don't eat those." I took her advice after hearing her explanation. The only disappointment to the plate was the three potato hash browns that looked processed and deep-fried. I only wished for this plate to have authentic potatoes to make it truly remarkable.

If you are looking for a brunch, lunch or dinner spot, definitely think about stopping buy County Clare. Located in Easttown, be prepared for street parking, and weekend nights are a busy time for the pub. For this brunch experience it was about $18 per person. But, as said before, we wanted an just take some time to have a great meal at the County Clare and were able to make it into a brunch with great friends, food and atmosphere.

Until next weekend, I hope you take any dining experience and make it to what you want. Happy brunching!

What have been your experiences at County Clare? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

County Clare (****)
1234 North Astor St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-5273

County Clare on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Saturday and Sunday: Beginning at 11 a.m.

Atmosphere: ***** (awesome)
Authentic Irish pub with nice restaurant seating, bar and snug

Food: **** (very good)
Great Irish food like grandma used to make

Service: *** (pretty good)
A little rough in the beginning, but overall friendly and knowledgeable about the menu

Drinks: ****
Mimosa - **** (very good)
Bloody Mary - **** (very good)

Price: **** (pretty good)
A little more than $15 per person with no one leaving hungry