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Shepherd's pie — a baked meat dish covered with garlic mashed potatoes — at O'Shea's irish Pub in Ashland. Photo by Maureen Flanagan Battistella

Simple but upscale fare at O'Shea's Irish Pub

O’Shea’s Irish Pub is hidden along Guanajuato Way in Ashland, along the creekside behind the downtown plaza. Look sharp or you’ll miss the small, 10-table spot.

O’Shea’s has plain fare — home cooking that your Irish granny used to make — with an upscale flair.

The seasonal menu at O’Shea’s is limited by design with just a few options each for appetizers, salads and main dishes. The kitchen is upstairs towars the back of the restaurant, so there must not be much room for meal prep or large storage units. The single server who is also bartender and busser runs up the stairs to pick up plates when the cook shouts.

I could have made a meal of the starters, as some sounded really good. The overstuffed baked potato is filled with roasted mushrooms, cheese, onions and garlic; and the roasted Brussel sprouts are tossed with a bourbon and balsamic glaze. Most starters cost between $6 and $8, though the Brisket Nachos — corn tortilla chips with corned beef, a cabbage slaw and beer cheese sauce — are $12.

As is my wont, my appetite was drawn to the corned beef sandwich, a promising selection that was accompanied by a small house salad for $12, though I opted for the more robust warm winter salad at $10. The warm winter salad was exceptional with roasted potatoes on a bed of kale with caramelized onion and a red beet aioli. As for the corned beef sandwich, the cabbage slaw was crisp, crunchy and deliciously vinegary, but on this particular day the corned beef was dry and stringy, shredded in 4-inch lengths rather that sliced against the grain.

My partner opted for the shepherd’s pie, a meat and vegetable favorite baked under a hood of garlic mashed potatoes. The pie filling was tender and savory and the mash, just delicious. The sauce of the pie was a bit thin and could have used a bit of thickening, but no matter, thanks to the accompanying soda bread biscuits that soaked up the juice.

Along with a vegan Irish ratatouille made with squash, fennel, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes vegetarian ratatouille, O’Shea’s also offers a chef’s choice fish du jour and pork sausages served on warm cabbage and fennel salads with sides of mashed potatoes. These run $12 to $16.

There’s also a Guinness stew — slow-cooked beef with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery — served with a side of soda bread ($14) and a weekly chef’s choice stew or soup ($12).

Ordered as a side for $6, the Irish soda bread with rosemary was lovely, a good crusty outside and a moist, open texture within. Served with meltingly soft, sweet cream butter, this item might have been my favorite of the evening.

For those who want to finish their meals with something sweet, there’s a chef’s choice dessert — usually cherry pie or caramel cheesecake — or apple cobbler served with vanilla ice cream. These are each $8.

O’Shea’s has Guinness on tap, a good number of top-shelf Jameson whiskeys and specialty cocktails with intriguing names like the Breakfast Shot (Jameson and butterscotch liqueur with an orange juice back) and a Dark and Stormy (Meyer’s dark rum and ginger beer with a hint of cherry and lemon). For the traditionalists, there’s always an Old Fashioned, an Irish Mule or Irish coffee.

Daniel Engle, Robbie DaCosta, Tom Stamper, Jeff Koetzel, Pat O’Scannell and Simon Parker-Shames have all taken a corner at O’Shea’s Irish Pub. These musicians have a grand local following, so the pub is usually packed when they play from 6 to 8 p.m. on select nights. See osheasirishpubashland.com for a schedule. The upbeat tempo of the old folk songs and often traditional instruments are splendid, reverberating against the walls. Open late, O’Shea’s Irish Pub caters to the hospitality crowd with a place to go after everything else closes down for the night.

Industry trade meal discounts are available on Monday nights, and students receive discounts on meals until 9 p.m. Thursdays.

O’Shea’s Irish Pub is at 14 Calle Guanajauto Way, No. 100. Winter hours are from 5 p.m. to about 2 a.m. (earlier if everyone’s gone home) Thursdays through Mondays. New hours begin March 1. Reservations are not required. Call 541-234-4020 or see osheasirishpubashland.com for information.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com

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