Ryan’s Corner House Irish Pub, Kennebunk

There are few things more satisfying than the warming qualities of superlative Irish whiskey on a cold, rainy Monday night. An interesting fact about this breed of spirit is that compared to Scotland, which operates over 90 distilleries, Ireland has only four, each producing many varying styles of whiskey. For me, the solid go-to in any pub situation is the smooth, easy drinking qualities of Jameson. I must admit, though, that there is truly no substitute for more refined, single pot whiskeys like the rich and spicy Red Breast 12 year—when my coin-purse permits.

Ryan’s Corner House Irish Pub is the proud home of Maine’s largest selection of Irish Whiskeys, which dominate a substantial portion of the bar shelves in this cozy, no frills bar. There are, of course, the pre-requisite posters and paraphernalia adorning the walls, shouting the praises of popular Irish brands such as Guinness, Bushmills, and Murphys. Owners Joe and Tracy Ryan moved here from Ireland just over three years ago, and are moving into their second season of business in Kennebunkport. I especially enjoy the low ceilings, which help contribute to the warm, casual feel of the place.

On this particular evening the bar is quiet, and though I generally adopt the policy of “when in Rome,” all I am really craving is tequila on the rocks. The selection of beers is fairly standard, with the usual suspects such as Harp, Smithwicks, Guiness, and Stella Artois. All make fine accompaniments to the selection of whiskey that is truly the focus. There is also an extensive “black list,” which features several variations on the black and tan, most notably the “black velvet,” a mix of Guinness and prosecco, and the “Irish American,” which boldly pairs stout with Coors Light.

As the bartender and a lone patron take in the hockey game on the TV, I look the menu over. Because of the weather, I am gravitating toward pub fare, though entree choices cover an unexpectedly extensive range of food.

We begin with the seafood chowder, which arrives in a small, steaming crock. The texture is velvety and pleasing; with an underlying smokiness that complements the flavor of the plump mussels. It also requires no additional seasoning, and actually leaves me wanting another bowl.

We chat with the bartender for a few minutes, who informs us of plans to open a second location in Ogunquit at the end of May.

For entrees we choose Chef Phil’s Infused Burger and a plate of bangers and mash. The burger arrives, situated on a thick, buttery bun and accompanied by fries that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside—as they should be. The burger patty has been cooked perfectly and infused with salty, applewood bacon , and smoked cheddar, resulting in an intense flavor and juicy texture. It’s slathered with a tangy, brandy barbecue sauce, which is quite tasty, though it begins to make short work of the bun by the last few bites.

The peppery bangers are also delicious; complementing the stick-to-your ribs baked beans and equally hardy gravy. I enjoy the presence of skins as an added texture to the buttery mashed potatoes as well. This is exactly what I wanted and expected when I ordered this dish, and it does the job of filling me right up.

Crème Brulee for dessert adds an interesting contrast to the foods up until now, and it’s very well executed, with a flavorful custard intermingling with the sweet, crunchy shards of burnt sugar.

Ryan’s Corner House Irish Pub is an ideal spot to belly up to the bar, work your way through some mind-numbingly great whiskeys, and, in order to maintain balance, fill your belly with thoughtfully prepared comfort foods.

I’m sure I will return to do just that.

17 Western Ave. | Kennebunkport | 207.967.3564 | Ryan’s Corner House Irish Pub

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