The Bad Luck of the Irish

The Celtic Tavern may be a great bar. Unfortunately, it wants to be a restaurant, too.

Haggis is a Scottish dish, a sort of meat pudding made by stuffing liver or kidney and various other animal parts along with onions, suet (the heavy layer of white fat around an animal's kidney) and oatmeal into a sheep's stomach lining; the pouch is then simmered until its contents are all puffy and soft. Although the haggis I encountered in Scotland was always an unappetizing bloody color, Giljohn's looked and tasted like an upscale meatloaf, smooth and rich, with lamb and kidney at the forefront. Still, if you're not a fan of organ meat (if, for instance, the taste of liver makes you gag), haggis is not for you.

Fortunately, the Celtic Tavern cooks up traditional dishes that are less adventuresome, too. We slurped up every drop of a peppery, chunky-textured potato and leek soup. The fancy Jeremiah's steak and Murphy's pie brought melt-in-your-mouth tender pieces of tenderloin swimming in a beefy "brown sauce" and topped by a beautiful puff pastry that was golden on the outside and perfectly cooked all the way through (even if it was embellished with a pastry shamrock). The shepherd's pie was another hearty classic: a rich, long-simmered stew of ground lamb and beef enriched with onions and carrots, with mashed potatoes (we would have liked more) piped around the rim of the platter. And since the Celtic Tavern prides itself on being an authentic pub, of course we had to sample the fish-n-chips -- moist, slippery cod thickly coated in a crunchy beer batter with thick-cut fries -- as well as corned beef cabbage, with thinly sliced tasty corned beef sided by a thick wedge of buttery cabbage and three fingerling potatoes.

Although dessert in Ireland, Scotland and Wales often involves some kind of cakey, bready, pudding substance, the Celtic wisely avoids strict authenticity for that course. So instead we dug into an innovative crème brûlée cheesecake, oh-so-light but still rich and creamy, and a decadent chocolate cake that seemed to be made of nothing but chocolate.

The Celtic Tavern's "authentic" fare lost something in the translation to this country.
Q Crutchfield
The Celtic Tavern's "authentic" fare lost something in the translation to this country.

Location Info


Celtic Tavern

1801 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80202

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown Denver


Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-midnight Monday-Friday
5 p.m.-midnight Saturday-Sunday

Smoked salmon: $10
Prawn cocktail: $10
Welsh rarebit: $5
Baby haggis: $7
Irish potato and leek soup: $4
Jeremiah’s steak and Murphy’s pie: $9
Shepherd’s pie: $10
Fish-n-chips: $10
Corned beef and cabbage: $10
Crème brûlée cheesecake: $5
Chocolate cake: $5

1801 Blake Street

All in all, our two meals at the Celtic Tavern were satisfying -- but not nearly as satisfying as simply sitting at the bar for a pint of Murphy's. The sad reality is that as good as the food may be here, it's still Celtic food -- and that's not necessarily a good thing. "We think Denver is in need of a true pub that does true Celtic cooking in a direct-from-Ireland type of setting," Schaetzle says. "This is just the kind of warm, welcoming place that Denver lacks."

Get real.

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