Amidst the technological clatter of Apple launching the iTunes Music Store, while Alan Jackson and Norah Jones each earned honors for vocalist of the year, while Tampa Bay soundly defeated Los Angeles making Super Bowl history, and five full years before the gleam of the Bank of Oklahoma Center ricocheted around downtown office buildings, a quiet revolution was taking place for Tulsa dining.
The year was 2003 and McNellie’s Irish Pub was just an idea for a class project and its proposed site was still a sagging building among a neglected part of downtown Tulsa. Despite the gloomy predictions of family, friends – and even his banker – Elliot Nelson opened McNellie’s Irish Pub on March 11, 2004. Stumbling through its first two years, McNellie’s made it through the Great Recession, and its success was parlayed into other restaurants that have captured the imagination of diners in Tulsa, OKC and Norman, Oklahoma.
Since then they have revamped their menu and have added beer pairings to each of their entrees. Our first entree was a delightfully presented Cheese Plate that we paired with a Farmhouse Ale Boulevard “Tank 7” beer. Along with fruit, the cheese board featured Chevre, Cranberry Stilton, Moody Bleu and La Gruyere cheeses. Great portion sizes— and dollops of a creole mustard and orange marmalade– make this a wonderfully light lunch or dinner. My personal favorite? I have to say the Cranberry Stilton captured my attention with just the right mix of cheesy wonderfulness and a hint of sweetness.
For seafood lovers, McNellie’s 8 ounce Salmon, seasoned with lemon pepper and drizzled with citrus crema is a nice alternative to McNellie’s signature hamburgers. All entrees now include a choice of one side from hand cut fries, tabouli, sweet potato fries, cottage cheese, steamed vegetables or mashed potatoes with optional brown mushroom gravy. I enjoyed steamed vegetables with the salmon and found a tart La Fin du Monde Unibroue paired perfectly with its fresh taste.
Steak Frites, a 10-ounce strip steak, bourbon marinated and chargrilled was a stand out. Now made from Creekstone meat that humanely raises and processes their product, fries and steamed veggies completed the meal. For a beer pairing, Guinness Stout was a natural choice.
Chicken entrees are often overlooked by diners, but don’t miss South City Chicken, now created with Red Bird farms that raise their chickens all naturally, free of antibiotics, hormones and additives. I enjoyed this with McNellie’s Pub Ale from Marshall Brewery.
Chicken Primavera, paired with Haufbrau Hefeweisen, is a lighter dish perfect for diners who want a lightly seasoned entrée. My personal favorite is the Cottage Pie, a casserole of chipped beef, mixed vegetables in a hearty beef sauce, topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. Perfect for cooler, autumn days and delicious with Fuller’s ESB. (I learned on this visit that “ESB” stands for “Extra Special Bitter”).
Keeping to its Irish concept, McNellie’s Pub now offers beer flights. On our visit we sampled Prairie Standard, Dead Armadillo Amber, Lindeman’s Framboise, Avery Ellie’s Brown and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Mcnellie’s also has a South Location on 71st & Yale. While both locations in Tulsa maintain their Irish spunk and welcoming atmosphere, they also have attributes that make each one special. For instance, McNellie’s South has an inviting and spacious outside patio. Accompanied with charming lights, vibrant turquoise benches and hits from the 90s, the outside patio is a perfect setting to unwind after a long days work. If you’re itching for activity, grab a friend to join you in a game of corn hole – whoever loses, pays the bill!
Great beer, great food, great service, what more could you ask for? James E. McNellie’s Public House continues to bring a lively taste of Ireland to Tulsa, no matter what side of town you’re on. Cheers, McNellie’s!