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At least once a year, on St. Patrick's Day, many Americans take to the streets in search of an Irish way to celebrate. There's no reason to settle for fake green beer at chain outlets when there are wee mom-and-pop pubs that can dish out the real deal, like Claddagh Cottage, on Curry Ford Road, of all places. Keep your eyes open as you drive east from Semoran Boulevard past the blur of shopping strips to spot the sliver storefront and shamrocked sign.

Inside Claddagh (pronounced KLA-dah) Cottage, it's like a scene from "The Quiet Man." Faded lace curtains hang in the windows, wooden beams crisscross on the ceiling. Dusty black-and-white photos of the old country fill the walls, and the whistles of Irish folk music fill the air. Instead of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, you'll find proprietors Jimmy and Kathy Mulvaney, formerly of Dublin and Limerick, respectively. They keep the ale flowing, fortified by traditional Irish stick-to-your-ribs meat-and-potatoes fare.

Inside Claddagh (pronounced KLA-dah) Cottage, it's like a scene from "The Quiet Man." Faded lace curtains hang in the windows, wooden beams crisscross on the ceiling. Dusty black-and-white photos of the old country fill the walls, and the whistles of Irish folk music fill the air. Instead of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, you'll find proprietors Jimmy and Kathy Mulvaney, formerly of Dublin and Limerick, respectively. They keep the ale flowing, fortified by traditional Irish stick-to-your-ribs meat-and-potatoes fare.

Jimmy Mulvaney claims to serve the best pint of Guinness in town, using a "double-pour" method that's been approved by the brewery: He fills the glass three-fourths of the way, then allows time for settling before topping off with a smooth, creamy head ($3.50). He refined his art at Mulvaney's Irish Pub on Church Street, which he co-founded with his brothers before branching off. The two pubs are different as night and day. Where Mulvaney's is a polished club that attracts a business crowd by day and barflies by night, Claddagh Cottage is a neighborhood draw, where the beer splatters on the wall only add to the character.

Jimmy Mulvaney claims to serve the best pint of Guinness in town, using a "double-pour" method that's been approved by the brewery: He fills the glass three-fourths of the way, then allows time for settling before topping off with a smooth, creamy head ($3.50). He refined his art at Mulvaney's Irish Pub on Church Street, which he co-founded with his brothers before branching off. The two pubs are different as night and day. Where Mulvaney's is a polished club that attracts a business crowd by day and barflies by night, Claddagh Cottage is a neighborhood draw, where the beer splatters on the wall only add to the character.

We visited on a Sunday, and some menu items weren't available, like "Cottage pie" ($5.25), a beefy stew crowned with mashed potatoes. So we started with a "country sausage roll" ($4.25). It was a glorified pig-in-a-blanket, but good, with two links of mild Irish pork sausage baked in puff pastry. We tried a steak and mushroom pastry pie, and another with chicken and mushrooms ($5.25 each). Both were filled with savory, meaty gravy inside buttery crusts. We also enjoyed a steamy "Dubliner" sandwich ($5.50), stuffed with shredded roast beef, sautéed onions and melted Swiss cheese.

We visited on a Sunday, and some menu items weren't available, like "Cottage pie" ($5.25), a beefy stew crowned with mashed potatoes. So we started with a "country sausage roll" ($4.25). It was a glorified pig-in-a-blanket, but good, with two links of mild Irish pork sausage baked in puff pastry. We tried a steak and mushroom pastry pie, and another with chicken and mushrooms ($5.25 each). Both were filled with savory, meaty gravy inside buttery crusts. We also enjoyed a steamy "Dubliner" sandwich ($5.50), stuffed with shredded roast beef, sautéed onions and melted Swiss cheese.

Claddagh Cottage is laid-back, so don't expect speedy service or get in a twist if some items aren't available. Expect a friendly crowd that includes genuine Irish expatriates lined up at the bar, as well as others trying to soak in that world-famous Irish charm.

I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of eating an entire meal at a pub. Past experiences with pub grub – here and abroad – led me to believe that "authentic" doesn't necessarily mean "great." But the proprietors of Fiddler's Green prove that a focus on flavor, presentation and service can spell "gourmet" for traditional Irish cuisine.

The restaurant retains the cozy atmosphere of its predecessors, Mulvaney's and Prince of Wales. It's got the same ornate woodwork, dart boards, Irish-themed knickknacks and entertainment stage. Now, there's a separate dining room that's upscale and intimate in a country-inn sort of way.

Fiddler's Green offers a full selection of draft ales, lagers and stouts, which you can order by the pint or half-pint. While my guest and I waited, our server brought us a basket of thick, crumbly scones, which nicely offset the beer.

We split an order of lightly browned potato pancakes with grated cheddar and scallions ($6.50; $5.95) topped with smoked salmon or sour cream and chives. Other appetizers include steamed mussels ($7.50) and smoked fish spread ($5.50). Dieters will be glad to know that the menu also includes your basic salad assortment.

Along with a variety of sandwiches and burgers ($5.25-$8.95), Fiddler's entrees include standbys like corned beef and cabbage ($9.95); fish and chips, and "bangers and mash" (both $8.95). Among the more gourmet fare: grilled salmon with champagne sauce ($14.95) and roast duck ($15.95).

I ordered the "Hen in a Pot" ($7.95), a scrumptious variation on chicken pot pie. Instead of pie crust, the "pot" was topped, hat-like, with a flaky pastry. The stew below was piping hot with big chunks of tender chicken and vegetables, seasoned just right.

My companion stuck with another basic-but-hearty dish, Irish stew ($9.95). Once again, the seasonings – thyme, in this case – made this dish a standout. Presentation of both entrees was excellent, with extras like huge plates, fresh herbs and doilies. Desserts include bread and butter pudding, and blackberry/apple crumble ($3.95-$4.50). We were way too full to sample them.

Great service and excellent food mean Fiddler's Green is not like most Irish pubs; it's better.

Having indulged in my fair share of cottage pies at Jimmy Mulvaney’s charming, unpretentious Irish boozer Claddagh Cottage, I was more than a little intrigued when word came that the pub owner (along with wife Kathy and food-service veterans Lisa and Rick Boyd) had taken over Scruffy Murphy’s once-future home to open an upscale gastropub fronted by a cordon bleu chef. Given Mulvaney’s deft skills as a bar proprietor, I was less concerned about the “pub” than I was the “gastro,” but as it turned out, the kitchen ultimately held up its end of the deal.

The “gastro,” it should be noted, is segregated from the “pub” next door and showcases Mulvaney’s skills as master artisan. Not only did he lay down the hardwood floors and take care of the wiring, Mulvaney junky-to-funkied the wooden desks left behind by the previous tenants and transformed them into beautifully crafted (if slightly upright) seating booths done in a rustic 1900s-era style. The quaint interior, with its low ceiling and exposed piping, is reminiscent of Claddagh Cottage, only decidedly classier and, at least on this Saturday evening, significantly quieter. If it weren’t for the catchy riff of “Day Tripper” and other Beatles classics being piped over the sound system, I’d likely be able to make out conversations in the kitchen. As a result, an unrivaled level of personalized service prevailed which, at times, bordered on intrusive, but it was understandable given the dearth of patrons.

And given chef Cody Patterson’s blue ribbon status, the menu, understandably, leans heavily on French cuisine. I was hoping for Irish soda bread inside the complimentary carb basket, but no such luck. Instead, it was beef and barley soup ($4) that offered a small taste of the Emerald Isle with its generous mélange of carrots, corn, green beans, peas and potatoes. Too bad the beef was lacking, and the few miniature morsels I did manage to sift out were ground, not cubed.

“Stop light prawns” ($9), so named because the trio of accompanying sauces resemble a stoplight, fared a little better. The fried plump curls were a smidgen greasy, but a dip into the olfactory-retarding wasabi mayo sauce proved to be the ultimate redeemer, while sweet mango chutney and zesty cocktail sauce were just as exceptional.

The Harp house salad ($4) left me wanting more – more brie, to be exact. The one negligible piece of warm soft cheese is a cruel addition to the mix of tomatoes, field greens, red onions and croutons. After all, no fromage-lover could eat just one small bite of brie; I’d rather they serve a significant slab of cheese with a berry compote, and let the greens be an adjunct to the dish, even if it meant an increase in price.

The two entrees I sampled were, conversely, flawless. Lamb persillade ($22) featured two racks of two chops each rubbed with honey mustard and rosemary, grilled, then roasted for a crisp finish. Creamy saffron risotto and grilled zucchini were ideal sides, but gnawing the utterly luscious flesh off the bone was what made this dish a truly enjoyable feast. The 10-ounce Angus beef filet ($33) was a tad overdone, but a superbly flavorful and prodigious cut nonetheless.

Desserts aren’t prepared in-house as yet, but don’t let that prevent you from indulging in the fabulous chocolate bombe ($6). The dome-shaped confection envelops airy dark and white chocolate mousse and rich chocolate ganache. Call me picky, but I didn’t care much for the raspberry drizzle, nor did I care much for the key lime pie ($4) which

Paddy McGee's, which is located in the beautiful city of Winter Park, prides itself on upholding Irish tradition with an American flair. Once you experience Paddy McGee's, you will realize why it is referred to as "your neighborhood bar."

I've always considered Irish food to be similar to British food in the sense that it's something you eat because you're already at the pub, have had a few pints and don't feel like driving somewhere else to get a real meal. So it's bangers and mash, maybe a shepherd's pie, to soak up the hooch and settle the stomach; not bad, but not stellar. It'll do.

Now that I have been to Raglan Road, an Irish pub and restaurant at Disney's Pleasure Island, however, I'm going to have to reconsider that assessment. Their Irish fare is tasty enough to entice a teetotaler into a pub, and I now understand that there is no excuse for mediocre Irish food.

My expectations of the place, frankly, were low. Given the location, I assumed they were slinging the same old Emerald Isle standards at the tourists and doubling the prices. Surely the menu would be nothing but boiled this and cabbage that, heavy on the corned beef and a crock of stew on the side.

But once inside the place, I quickly sensed that it was not a typical Americanized Irish pub, and it turned out that it wasn't. While walking back to our table after a short wait, the chatty hostess informed us that the room we were dining in was actually an Irish estate house, disassembled there and shipped here piece by piece. The furniture is all antique, and the framed photos hanging on the dark wooden walls are authentic. The result is an amazingly cozy atmosphere for such a large restaurant.

We started with an appetizer named "Smokie City" ($10.95) which sounded sketchy ("oven baked layers of smoked cod with mature Wexford cheddar and double cream") but turned out to be brilliant. The smoked cod, dense and lovely, was offset perfectly by the tangy cheddar sauce in which it swam. We lapped up every bite, smearing it like a spread on large slices of crusty sourdough, then turned the crock over to get the last few drops.

Entree No. 1 was "Planxty" ($19.95), a dish that I ordered because I liked the name. What I got was roast pork shank poking up out of a bed of mashed potatoes, with a side of apple chutney. About that roast pork: When the meat falls off the bone before you can get it on the fork, it's tender. And this was tender. The chutney added a note of sweetness, and the potatoes were nice and lumpy, so no complaints at all. It was a very satisfying dish.

Entree No. 2, "It's Not Bleedin' Chowder," was similarly expensive ($19.95) and just as good. The name is supposedly a quote from the chef when he was asked exactly what the dish was, which is a rich mix of scallops, fish, mussels and prawns, mixed in a white wine sauce infused with saffron and finished with cream. At that price it better not be bleedin' chowder, and it better not look like anything that came out of a can. It wasn't, and it didn't. The seafood was fresh, the sauce was tangy and lively, and I can't recall having tasted a better fish stew, if you can call it that.

The only item that disappointed was the bowl of "Down the Middle" ($5.50), a hearty but bland tomato and vegetable broth soup. That was for the vegetarian in the family, because there wasn't much else on the menu she could eat.

Dessert, which took almost 20 minutes to get to the table for some reason, was "Ger's Bread & Butter Pudding" ($7.99). I'm not much of a bread pudding fan, which is exactly why I ordered it. So far the meal had exceeded all my expectations. Would dessert disappoint? Not a chance. Ger, whoever he/she may be, has concocted a heavenly bread pudding. It comes out in a warm crock with tiny pitchers of butter and butterscotch that you add yourself, as much or as little as you like. The sourdough bread soaks it up, and you get a raisin-infused mush that's sweet, rich and cinnamony. Once again I upended the serving dish to coax out the last drop.

This being Disney, there's entertainment in the form of table dancing and an Irish band. But that's just dressing. This is a pub you can come into for dinner, and maybe hang around to grab a Guinness or two or three.

Don't expect the warm, quirky architectural vibes that seem to go along with Irish pubs when you visit newly opened An Tobar (which means "the well" in Gaelic). It's built into the side of the Sheraton Orlando North in the office-complex jungle near the I-4 Maitland exchange. (If you're approaching from Lake Destiny Drive, you'll see the hotel before you see the pub.)

But by no means is this establishment a Bennigan's-style watering hole strung with green paper shamrocks. In fact, two dozen Irish craftsmen were flown in to work on the relatively upscale project. The result is a series of design vignettes that are welcoming and relaxing.

The entrance is inspired by a Dublin streetscape, with mock Victorian shop fronts and a real Irish green "telefon" booth. Inside, the seating areas include a "library" of leather volumes and portraits of Yeats and Wilde. The "Victorian railway" area has old-fashioned luggage and travel paraphernalia; and the "Victorian snug" sanctuary recalls the days when women smoked in secret. An occasional seanachaoi (storyteller) invites people to gather around the fireplace, and the two-story bar is a great spot to sip a Bass ale while listening to acoustic musicians.

Some items on the menu might sound arcane but are actually fairly basic comfort food. "Boxty" ($7.95) is a traditional peasant dish – a fried potato pancake capped with meats and vegetables. The "Irish breakfast" ($8.95) is substantial enough for dinner, with rashers (bacon), sausage and pudding, as well as fried eggs, tomato, baked beans and soda bread. Potato leek soup ($3.50) is served in an Irish soda-bread bowl, and the shepherd's pie ($9.25) is layered with beef, onions and mashed potatoes.

There's nothing particularly Irish about other items except their names: Fried onion rings are dubbed "Tobar oglalla," and "Galway wings" come with familiar blue-cheese dressing.

We started off with "potato skins from Tobar Naomh Sean" ($4.25), which came topped with bacon, corned beef and Swiss cheese. They were enticingly tender beneath their crisp edges. Large wedges of "Gaelic fries" were speckled with herbs and offered with a splash of malt vinegar. "Shannon salmon" ($12.95) is bright and juicy, soaked with lemon-dill butter. It's presented simply with tender "red bliss" potatoes and vegetables. And the "cottage pie" ($9.50) is a homey casserole of chicken, carrots, sweet peas and onions in a rich sauce, topped with mashed potatoes.

The bar offers the usual suspects: Guinness, Harp, shots of Bushmill's whiskey. An Tobar's combination of able service, a full dinner menu and professional setting makes for an ambitious step up from most other local Irish pubs.

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