The road may not rise up to meet you at O’Shea’s Irish Pub, but the Guinness is creamy and very drinkable, and the corned beef on pumpernickel is designed to make your taste buds do an Irish jig for joy.
Ashland’s newest restaurant and pub opened about a month ago at 14 Calle Guanajuato, the creekside pedestrian walkway near the Ashland Plaza. Owners are Tim Hulbert and Victoria McBerty of Grants Pass.
Chef Michael Lenihan, 24, is in charge of the kitchen. But he’s just as much at home behind the bar, where he can deliver an artful pour of Guinness.
What’s the most Irish thing about O’Shea’s? Lenihan sums it up this way:
“It’s all about the beer, meat and potatoes,” he says, grinning.
O’Shea’s has two Backside Brewing Co. brews on draft — a stout and a Scottish ale. But the star of the bar is the American Guinness on draft, comprising three out of every four pours.
“It’s on nitrogen instead of CO2,” Lenihan says. “The pour is opaque and cloudy, and when the nitro slowly floats to the top of the glass, it’s a great visual effect. It makes a great head that allows you to smell the beer as well as taste it.”
O’Shea’s has a full-service bar, also offering cocktails.
“We serve the classics, but one of our more popular cocktails is an O’Shea’s specialty,” Lenihan says. “It’s made with Bailey’s, Kahlua, amaretto and vodka. We call it an Irish White Russian.”
The pub’s food offerings include small plates, salads, entrees, soups and desserts.
“One of our most popular items is the corned beef and fontina sandwich,” Lenihan says.
The chef starts with corned beef that’s been slow-roasted for 24 hours in a 185-degree oven. The juicy meat is paired with fontina cheese and pickled cumin cucumbers between slices of pumpernickel rye from Ashland’s Village Bakery, grilled to a golden brown.
Lenihan says the fontina has a nice nutty flavor and melts well. The cold-pickled cucumbers add piquant, crunchy notes. The sandwich is served with a salad of mixed greens, red wine-soaked onions, and fontina morsels, dressed with an apple paprika vinaigrette and topped with candied walnuts.
You’ll find potatoes throughout the menu. They’re part of the roasted autumn vegetable salad, served as thin roasted slices with the lemon fish bake, and dished up as a buttermilk, bacon, and cabbage mash with the chicken and colcannon.
The house-made bangers are accompanied by a buttermilk mash, and the cooked-to-order shepherd’s pie wouldn’t be shepherd’s pie without mashed potatoes.
The featured spud concoction is Victoria’s Stuffed Baked Potato.
“It’s twice baked, and is stuffed with roasted asparagus, sour cream, Swiss cheese, bacon, and green onions,” Lenihan says.
According to Lenihan, co-owners Hulbert and McBerty were sitting on their back porch one night and started brainstorming about different directions their lives might take. Hulbert is in the auto service business in Grants Pass.
“They put ideas about restaurants on a chalkboard and most of them had something to do with potatoes,” Lenihan says. “Vicky is notorious for her potato dishes.”
With that realization, an Irish pub seemed like the perfect match.
The owner of the building had originally designed the space with an Irish pub in mind. You can see it in the use of exposed beams and choice of woods and finishes. The previous occupant was Ex Nihilo Patisserie & Gastro Pub with a Latin vibe.
O’Shea’s is community focused.
“We’re really embracing the locals here,” Lenihan says. “We want them to come year around. We already have regulars and are getting to know their favorites.”
He says one of the ways O’Shea’s is letting locals know they are appreciated is by having special promotions with discounts.
Local Night is every Sunday, with $5 well drinks and 10 percent off food items.
Student Night is every Friday. All day, college students are welcome to stop by, bring their books or laptops if they wish, and hang out. Industry Night is every Monday, with the focus on folks in the hospitality business. The same specials are offered both days.
Like most pubs and bars, O’Shea’s has a happy hour. Every day between 2 and 5 p.m., discounts are offered on well drinks and food, plus 20 percent off small plates.
The pub is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Monday. Plans are to extend hours in the spring, opening at 11 a.m. and operating seven days a week.
O’Shea’s features live music about twice a month. For information about special themed dinners, menu items, and to make reservations, go to its website at osheasirishpubashland.com, visit its Facebook page, or call at 541-234-4020.
Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.
Correction: Chef Michael Lenihan's name has been corrected from a previous version.