Kells Irish Pub offers up Celtic comfort foods

By Ethan M. Rogers

I’m not a bar guy. Never have been. Something about an establishment dedicated entirely to drinking leaves something to be desired. Pubs, on the other hand, are more comfortable with the added benefit of having some of the headiest, and best tasting, food on the planet. Having been around the globe I say that from experience. Whether in Australia, Dubai, England or California, pubs bring a little of that Irish flair for life to their patrons. Kells Irish Pub in downtown Portland is no exception.

Kells, conveniently split down the middle with the restaurant on one side and pub on the other, is warm and welcoming in the spirit of similar establishments around the world. Wood plank flooring and a high wood plank ceiling with the occasional greenback miraculously stuck to its surface. Brick on the walls, booths for conversation and tables to see and be seen. Irish coats of arms, soccer jerseys and shelves with trophies adorn the walls.

Table traffic was light for a Saturday afternoon and service was fast and as friendly as one would expect from an Irish establishment. We took a booth against the wall and settled in for our gastronomic adventure.

The menu at Kells is a who’s who of pub classics: bangers and mash, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and Irish lamb stew, just to name the most obvious. I opted for a burger, having had a Kells burger before and knowing the ultimate goodness that was in store for me. Erik, a friend I dragged along with me, opted for the chicken curry & chips – chicken breast, apples, cranberries, green onions, spicy coconut curry sauce over fries. Prices run about $25 per person when you include a drink and a tip. This could climb rather quickly if you start ordering drinks for the bar.   

The food, as it always is when I go to Kells, was outstanding. There is just something about a Kells hamburger that sends me: the natural ground beef patty cooked to perfection, the Dubliner cheddar (which costs an extra $3 but is totally worth it) and the bun which is more than a bun. Kells calls it a French roll but it seems to me more brioche bun than French roll.

Erik devoured the chicken curry & chips. I know the guy was hungry but I started to think he was going to lick the dish once all the food was gone. It’s odd to think of curry as an Irish dish but, trust me, if you like curry you’ll enjoy this Irish take on a classic Indian spice.

If Kells only served food, they’d still be one of the best spots around. But Kells offers more than food and libations, they offer a welcoming atmosphere that shines just as bright as the fare. 

To be fair, we were in for a meal and itching to get back out of the city so we ordered none of their delectable appetizers like their Ballycastle rolls and Irish nachos which are definitely worth the trip. The Kells dessert menu is small but mighty with bread pudding, seasonal crisps (rolled oat crumble mixed with seasonal fruit and baked), New York style cheesecake and molten chocolate cake on the menu; you can’t go wrong. Honestly, they had me at molten chocolate.

The pub (and restaurant), located in the historic Glisan building and boasting a bright blue door surrounded by large windows and white woodwork, is only one part of the experience. It’s also only one of two Kells locations – the other being on 2nd Street.

If you’re just looking for some great food and a welcome environment – Kells has got you covered.

 

Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub
112 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204
Wed / Thu 4 – 10 PM
Fri / Sat 12 PM – 12 AM
Closed all other days
kellsportland.com

Ethan M. Rogers

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