Last chance to tip a glass to Tampa's O'Brien's Irish Pub and Grill

O'Brien's Irish Pub & Grill will be packed for St. Paddy's Day.

To get technical, O’Brien’s Irish Pub & Grill feels more pub than grill.

It’s Irish in name and theme with shamrock-painted windows out front. Find it in the back corner of a Disney-esque “Main Street’’ strip center (where you also find the excellent, Michael’s Grill). But singing “For auld lang syne” may be more appropriate than Danny Boy, as it appears O’Brien’s Carrollwood location faces the wrecking ball this month, due to a cinema pub moving in next door.

While the pub atmosphere and Irish dishes bring in a strong following, this should be a memorable St. Paddy’s Day for the sons of Ireland. O’Brien’s draws a cacophonous crowd of thirsty patrons that translates to hefty sales for beer and spirits. Loads of sales.

As St. Patrick’s Day nears, bagpipers and Irish dancers will help draw in more revelers for Gaelic craziness. O’Brien’s will also be packed; one employee called the expected crowd, “stupid nuts.’’“You may not be able to get close enough to the bar to get a drink,’’ he warns the ladies at the bar. He says, “bring cash for getting any service.’’ Yup, expect bedlam.

O’Brien’s aspires to a Cheers atmosphere: “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met,’’ says the menu, quoting W.B. Yeats. While an exterior tiki bar loses ambiance points by sharing space with the parking lot, its thatched roof gives one a little feel of the Emerald Isle. Rattan bar stools, bare table tops, and loads of beer signs make it look like a tiki taki beach bar greeting James Joyce.

Spicy chicken wings join cheese sticks, tenders and fries in a combo basket.

Televisions are a’ plenty, darts matches can be heated, and the menu boasts almost a dozen tap choices solid with imports and craft beers. The menu list doesn’t always match what is coming out of the taps. The help can be quite distracted. When she was helping us, our server proved she can properly pour a Guinness and steer one to respectable entrees.

O’Brien’s Combo Basket, for instance, is simple pub grub with plenty of spicy hot wings, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders and fat fries. Creamy potato cheese soup is rounded out by bits of bacon. The Shepherd’s Pie ($10.99) has a Cheddar Jack cheese blanket atop a mashed, red bliss potato, ground beef and vegetable casserole. Just as a buzzer-beating basketball shot won a heated contest on the overhead tube, this was our winner for the night. Irish sausage sandwich is bathed in melted Swiss with texture from grilled onions. The menu includes Emerald Isle corned beef with sauerkraut, beer battered-fish and chips, bangers and mash (with Irish sausage), and Guinness-marinated prime rib (Friday nights).

A number of burgers carry the usual cheese, bacon and ‘shroom toppings, while a Heart Attack burger would earn a scolding from any cardiologist. For $11, it is a pound and a half of meat patties, with the warning to “eat at your own risk.’’ Dare you join others on this last chance to tip a glass to O’Brien’s on St. Pat’s?

O’Brien’s Irish Pub
Pub grub: Locations in Carrollwood, Brandon and Plant City
Hours: Mon-Thu, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sun: 1 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Find it: 11744 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa
Pay for it: Discover, MC, V
Reach them: (813) 961-4092
Website

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Irish Cream One Better:
St. Petersburg Times’ Janet Keeler concocts tasty brownies with spirited whipped cream.

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Save a barrel of money and impress others with your mixology with a faux Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur made from heavy cream, chocolate syrup and whiskey. I adjust this recipe and use Irish whiskey instead of Scotch.

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A Bon Jovi tribute band plays at 8 p.m. at the 3rd Annual “Dyeing the Channel Green” at Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa. Iron your green shirt and become Irish for the day when the Garrison Channel goes emerald green. Read about this and more St. Paddy’s events.

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