Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Molly Malones - Venue Review

A suggestion for those looking for a great meal and Gaelic-inspired ambiance this holiday season- stop in to Molly Malone’s on a Thursday evening and experience their weekly “Irish Sessions.” While warming yourself within spitting distance of the crisp, stone fireplace, scan the authentic Irish pub’s tasteful holiday décor and warm, dark-wood interior. Perhaps order something from the extensive beer menu and dine on some authentic Irish cuisine (Shepherd’s Pie? Maybe some flank steak draped in blue cheese?). Just after eight o’clock, the loose ensemble of local musicians will take their places in the centerpiece of the room, violins and fiddles in hand.
Now you’re ready.
The self-proclaimed “Irish heart of Madison Ave,” Franklin Park’s Molly Malone’s manages to offer a tasteful, mannered take on the “authentic” Irish pub theme without the overwhelming characteristics (garish American-chain-restaurant décor, overwhelmingly loud music) that plague many a Chicagoland alehouse. The food is extremely satisfying (particularly when topped off with a mixed-berry sundae for a finale), the walls are mercifully devoid of twaddle and the ambience feels genuine and unforced.
A large part of that inspired atmosphere is the aforementioned “Irish Sessions,” a (seemingly) loose collection of local musicians that gather every Thursday evening at Molly Malone’s to serenade diners and drinkers alike in understated, yet resonant renditions of Irish standards. Seated in the full view of both the bar and restaurant, the “Irish Sessions” players sit facing one another in a half-circle, with an age-range of early teens well into adult-hood.
Aiding to the laid-back, relaxed ambience is the loose structure of the performance itself. There’s nary an introduction, the music (quite remarkably) does not interfere with dinner conversation and songs don’t really stop and start as much as they gently cascade throughout the entire establishment. It’s quite a joy, surprisingly even for those (such as this reviewer) who normally don’t care for Irish music. The instrumentation of violins, fiddles and acoustic guitars is a perfect serenade for a great meal and try as they might to give off the impression that this is a loosely organized affair, this seemingly rag-tag group of local musicians seem much more rehearsed than they may let on; a characteristic that only adds to their charm.
Luckily, the live music extends all the way from Thursday to Sunday nights, ranging from local groups to open mic nights. The kitchen is conveniently open from 3pm to 1am every night.
All in all, a holiday surprise to be sure, and one that likely continues throughout the rest of the year.

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