So, a couple days back, I ventured into the Irish pub, Bobby Mckee’s, to meet The Pulse’s fearless editor, Bracken Mayo, for lunch and some rousing conversation.
Armed only with a Jethro-esque appetite and a powerful thirst, brought on by the unrelenting humidity of Middle Tennessee’s so-called “mild climate,” I drove to the Stones River Mall, where the pub is located. Upon entering Bobby McKee’s I was immediately struck by the size of the place—high ceilings, lots of floor space, plenty of seating and a huge stage. I noticed all this, and I haven’t even spotted the bar yet . . . the bar is important to me. The bar, along with more dining space, including some outside, was located through the big opening along the back wall. I went straight there; as I said before, the bar is important to me, not just for the nectar that resides behind it, but also for its look and attitude. Some bars are small and dark or upscale or (to avoid any offensive vernacular) . . . rustic, all of which have their place, but an Irish bar should have, of course, Irish whiskey and lots of good beer. It should be made of old wood with a big mirror so you can stare at yourself while you drink. And last but not least, there should be a large and proudly displayed Irish flag.
Bobby McKee’s has nailed this image down nicely. All of the quaint Irish pub touches are there and they even managed to do it on a big scale. They have a full bar, including several very respectable Irish whiskeys, 60 beers on tap and 67 different bottled beers; like I said, the place is huge.
When I parked myself at the bar, I imagined a comely young lass, squeezed into a corset, laughing in a heavy Irish accent, sliding a glass of beer down the bar at me. Well, there were no corsets. I get carried away sometimes. But there were plenty of comely young lasses, sporting black T-shirts with Bobby McKee’s logo and the slogan “Pub, Grub & Club,” and that was just as good.
Now, I’m not Irish, but I can certainly eat like I am. Manager Sean Nystul suggested I try the corned beef and cabbage. He had me at corned; I love me some corned beef and cabbage! I’m getting ahead of myself. Mr. Mayo and I began this epicurious journey with crab cake sliders and cheddar cheese soup. The crab cakes came with a citrus mayo, diced onion, tomatoes and they’re on little buns, thus the apt name, sliders. Personally, I preferred to eat the crab cakes separately. I just prefer them that way, but, I consumed the buns (made at Nashville’s Provence Breads) too. To each his own, six to one person is half a dozen to someone else.
Next was the cheddar cheese soup. Now, I’ve had cheddar cheese soup before . . . it’s OK. But, oh faithful reader, stand by for news: that’s the best damn cheddar cheese soup I’ve ever had. Sean proudly explained to me that they make the soup with Yazoo Pale Ale and that he’s even had patrons request it poured over their nachos instead of the traditional nacho cheese. I had to fight the urge to lick the bowl.
Next came the corned beef and cabbage, slow-cooked corned beef in a beer broth over cabbage with mashed potatoes. It didn’t take long for this to disappear. It even caused a brief hiatus in the stimulating conversation Bracken and I were engaged in.
Now this was enough food to last me well into the evening, but no trip to an Irish pub could be complete without fish and chips. I opened my menu and there it was, North Atlantic Cod in a Guinness batter, served with your choice of sweet potato fries (another fav of mine) or waffle fries, slaw and Irish tartar sauce. Ohh yes, bring me that, all that! Well, by the time we finished this good pub grub, the old diet was completely shot for the day, so we got the cheesecake too, fresh made with a graham cracker crust, the way cheese cake was made to be. Those store-bought cheesecakes without the crust are nothing more than pudding in a pan.
As I was unbuckling my belt to breathe, the owner of Bobby McKee’s, Luke McKee, sat down at the table with us. My first query to Luke was who the pub was named after. He told me that Bobby McKee is his father. With the reverence of a loving son he told me of a hard working family man of proud Irish ancestry. Growing up, dinner was a big thing around the McKee home and most of the traditional foods in the restaurant are from family recipes. Throughout the bar, there are pictures of the elder McKee, including a wall mural of the movie Caddyshack, featuring him. The mural was hand-painted by Dusty Johnakin.
Luke explained that in order for the pub to open on St. Patrick’s Day, it had to be taken from bare concrete floors and blank walls in 68 days. General contractor Richard Greene brought the project in on time, including importing the bar and all the wood that backs the bar from Ireland. If you get the chance, you should ask Luke exactly were the wood came from.
Bobby McKee’s runs regular specials including Sunday brunch, dueling pianos on Sunday nights, two daily happy hours (from 3-7 p.m. and midnight to close), live music on Saturdays and trivia on Tuesdays. I have already made plans to check out the dueling pianos. And, you know, since I’m there, I might as well have some corned beef and cabbage, cheddar cheese soup and a beer.
1720 Old Fort Pkwy.
Fish & chips: $12; grilled steak sandwich: $9; Irish nachos: $8; bangers and mash: $12