“We’ve been here before,” my most frequent dining companion said as we walked through the door at McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon.
“Nope,” I assured. “No, we haven’t.” My memory may not be as sharp as it used to be, but when it comes to food and restaurants, there aren’t many things I’m likely to forget. But then I reconsidered.
“Well,” I said, “we may have eaten in this room. But we haven’t eaten in this restaurant.”
Yes, it’s entirely possible we had dined in the room before, in one — or maybe two or three — of the forerunners of McFadden’s. It’s in Town Square, and the ongoing status of restaurants in that plaza is an enduring mystery to me. McFadden’s is on the second level, across from the movie theaters and right next to Blue Martini. Yet while a number of the complex’s restaurants have been in business since it opened in 2007, some spaces have seen a constant turnover. The fact that most of the opening-day survivors tend to be chains — such as Blue Martini, Brio Tuscan Grille and Tommy Bahama Restaurant &Bar — may be a sad commentary on the state of dining in 2016, or a factor of the number of tourists Town Square gets, or maybe a testimony that independent owners haven’t figured out how to make the plaza work. But the dichotomy between the established spaces and those with nearly constant churn is undeniable.
McFadden’s, an offshoot of the established New York original and the apparent successor to a location in the Rio, is, as you might expect, the quintessential Irish bar, with dark ceilings and Irish signboards and lots of beer, and a menu that mixes Irish classics (or at least what Americans think of as Irish classics) with popular bar food.
We did see a bit of creativity in the menu, in the roasted Brussels sprouts ($12 normally, which is on the high side, but only $6 because it was happy hour). As unlikely as it may have seemed just a year or two ago, a lot of chefs are having fun with Brussels sprouts these days, and this was one of the best versions we’ve encountered. Not only were the sprouts nicely caramelized, but they’d been tossed with a balsamic glaze and plenty of bacon and blue-cheese crumbles.
Corned beef and cabbage ($16) was as meh as corned beef and cabbage tends to be (but doesn’t have to). The meat itself was deeply flavored, with lots of garlic and spices, but it had been cooked just to the chewy side of tender. The boiled potatoes were nice and creamy, but we actually added salt to the cabbage, and adding salt to restaurant food is something we pretty much never feel a need for.
Somewhat better was the beer-battered fish and chips ($16), an oversized slab of mild and meaty cod in a crisp golden coating. The accompanying cup of dill sauce was much better than we would’ve expected, but the big pile of fries didn’t add anything to the plate.
Service throughout was good, our server clearly making every effort to be accommodating. In addition to being pubby, the atmosphere was sporty, with games on big flat-screens all over the place.
With the exception of those Brussels sprouts, McFadden’s doesn’t break any new culinary ground. But the fact that it’s a good Irish-American pub, where the beer is reliably cold, may make it a Town Square survivor.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon, Town Square, 6593 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-834-4400
The essence: Your basic Irish-American pub, not breaking any new culinary ground.