How loud is the live music at Sláinte Irish Pub and Kitchen? So loud that even after moving to an outside table, we couldn't hear each other speak when the front door of the restaurant opened.
Maybe it's growing pains. Let me explain.
Named for an Irish toast to good health, Sláinte, pronounced "Slahn-che," will celebrate its sixth anniversary on St. Patrick's Day. Until a few months ago, it was simply known as Sláinte Irish Pub. No "Kitchen."
Owner Francis Feeney hired chef Christopher Palmer, whose resume includes Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and a stint at Allen Susser's former Taste Gastropub in Delray Beach. He was the private chef to Celine Dion.
Palmer's job? Bring the kitchen to the pub.
My job? Don't eat here Thursday through Saturday when there's live music. Come to party!
Noise level aside, Palmer has brought some very good ideas to Sláinte. His presentation is spot on, serving many things in small pots and baskets. The menu includes such Irish/English classics as shepherd's pie ($14.95) and bangers and mash ($13.95), but also features a hangover burger ($11.95) with salami, provolone and a sunny-side-up egg.
Balancing American bar food and authentic Irish pub fare is no easy feat. At this point, the place still feels more like a bar than a restaurant. Service was friendly and efficient.
I loved the fish-and-chips sliders ($7.95), with house-made tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion. Made with cod, they're presented like no other fish and chips on a long slim white plate. Corned-beef sliders ($8.95) are also on the menu, but wouldn't they be better with a bit of cooked cabbage? Very good deviled eggs with pesto, bacon, red peppers and celery are called green eggs and ham ($3.95).
A sports-bar-worthy spinach-and-artichoke dip ($8.25) is served in a cute, metal-handled dish. It's too bad the Guinness chicken wings ($12.95 for 10/$6.95 for six) were dry.
I wasn't in the mood for one of the pub's many burgers ($9.25-$11.95), which start with short-rib, brisket and chuck patties. Prime-rib ciabatta ($9.95) called my name. Slices of beef, Swiss cheese, crisp onion and horseradish cream are served between almost too-thick slices of bread. The accompanying ramekin of au jus was just what the sandwich needed.
The menu isn't all bar food and burgers. Cedar-roasted salmon ($16.95) is a satisfying rendition of a classic that's served simply with broccoli, roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted tomato-butter sauce. Green-herb-grilled chicken breast ($13.95) combines sliced boneless chicken with barley, wild mushrooms and pan-roasted squash. Nice. The barley gives it an almost old-country flavor.
Shepherd's pie ($14.95) is made with beef, lamb, bacon, vegetables and cheddar, which is then topped with mashed potatoes. Like so much here, presentation — served in its own baking dish — is far above most pub fare.
For dessert, there's a wonderful Granny McSmith apple-cinnamon crumble with crunchy brown-butter ice cream ($5.95). I was told the mint-chocolate cake ($6.95) was also a nice ending to the meal, although I'm not fond of this combination.
As you'd expect, Sláinte has one of the best draft beer selections around. It includes some of my all-time favorites: Smithwick's ale, Newcastle brown and Magic Hat. Drinks are two-for-one between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and then again from 11 p.m. to close. No wonder that music was so loud.
It will no doubt get louder during Sláinte's anniversary party on March 15, followed by the pub's annual St. Baldrick's Day fundraiser and, then, the big day. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Renaissance Commons Plaza, 1500 Gateway Blvd., Boynton Beach