I entered the West Dublin Pub at 507 Court St. Wednesday afternoon a little before 4:30. The pub opened June 22 by Pekin native and military veteran Tom West. I walked through the immediate dining area, where the pub’s big, front, hinged windows were opened up toward the ceiling, the hot summer air being let in to create an uncomfortable temperature. I was greeted by a server who happily held the door open for me before she continued into the main, thankfully air conditioned pub area.
The business wasn’t quite finished unpacking, a few boxes placed neatly out of the way here and there. There were only a few occupied tables, some in the first dining area and some in the main eating area. Another server greeted me at the “Please wait here to be seated” sign. I could sit anywhere, he said in a welcoming, easygoing manner.
Sitting at a table near the employee washroom, I could see the muted flatscreen TVs behind the bar, one playing ESPN News and the other Fox News. The place was filled with the sounds of customers conversing, servers moving about, noises from the kitchen, and music like “Stressed Out” from Twenty One Pilots and “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. Even after a parade of customers began coming in around 5 p.m., the noise levels never overwhelmed or became annoying.
My waiter suggested a few dishes. After being given a bit too much time to decide what I wanted, I picked three of them: The cheese curds, an appetizer; the Highlander, a burger; and chicken cottage pie, an entree. First up was the curds, which arrived without too much wait. They had a subtle taste on their own, but the taste of Wisconsin cheese curds is certainly there, if a little underpronounced. The cheese was encased in perfectly cooked bread that was just as advertised, crisp and hot. The real way to eat the cheese curds, however, is by dipping them in the pub’s cumin scented tomato sauce. The red side ingredient was also subtle in flavor but good. Mixed with the cheese curds, it made every delicious bite taste like a piece of cheese pizza.
Before I could finish the curds, the Highlander burger was promptly brought out on a brown cutting board, a knife sticking straight up out of the burger’s center and a side of potato wedges in a small metal bucket on the side. The wedges were standard. They weren’t bad. They get the job done, but you won’t remember them after you leave. The Highlander was...disappointing. Again, not awful, but I was hoping for more, especially after such a genuine recommendation from my server. The problem comes back to flavor. The cheddar and swiss cheese are strong; the dill pickle is noticeable. But the caramelized onions, the bacon, Dublin sauce, lettuce and tomato were all indiscernible from each other besides the bacon’s crunchiness and the juiciness of the tomato. With so many ingredients being lost in the shuffle, The Highlander will fill you up, but it won’t make you go, “Wow. That’s a good burger.”
While I was eating, I noticed my server speaking to a long table of people who looked to be in their 60s or 70s.
“I don’t drink,” one of the women at the table said as the server took drink orders.
“You don’t?” the server said in a teasing manner that led me to believe the two knew each other a little or, if they didn’t, that the server was still treating her like a friend even if they were complete strangers.
The chicken cottage pie was brought out before I could finish the burger, but the server spaced everything out fine, I’m just a slow eater. The cottage pie looked fantastic with chicken, country vegetables such as carrots and peas, and pieces of potato swimming in creamy chicken broth contained in a round pastry shell. The shell was plugged with a piece of the pastry that could easy be taken out when you’re ready to dive into the meat and various vegetables. The shell was hot and tasty but a little too chewy. When it comes to the pie’s innards, the taste of the broth is present but concentration is needed to fully detect it. There’s some pleasant seasoning that pops out from time to time, giving extra flavor to the tasty chicken and unfortunately bland vegetables — well, okay, the potatoes were good. The best method of eating this dish is breaking off a piece of the pastry shell and dipping it into the broth.
The chicken cottage pie is large and is worth the $12 for its presentation, the broth, the pastry shell and how much it will fill you up — FYI, bring an empty stomach or prepare to have leftovers.
My server was the opposite of pushy and let me eat at my leisure. I wish he had checked in with me a couple more times throughout the meal, but otherwise, there were no complaints.
I finished up what I could of my food and packed the rest up into to-go containers. My bill was served with a pleasant smile from my server, and I left full and ultimately satisfied, if a little underwhelmed.
West Dublin Pub sometimes lacks food with the proper flavor, but it slightly makes up for it with employees who want you to be there and a relaxed atmosphere that’s the perfect ingredient after a long day.