MacNiven’s Pub

The sting has worn off since MacNiven’s took over the space previously occupied by Brother Juniper’s, and how lovely to discover that pub food can, in fact, be tasty and not heinously overpriced!

We went on a whim with two out-of-town friends on a beautiful afternoon, so the atmosphere was open, breezy and (understandably) not crowded. We were given our choice of seats, and the waitress was quick to grab drinks. Sadly, no one opted for beer (though if I wasn’t pregnant at the time, I so would have picked something out of the 120+ options they offer.

I went for the grilled chicken sandwich with schezuan sauce and steak fries. Typical, nothing special, but tasty. If anything, I would say it was even a wee bit on the greasy side, but consider the source of that comment: any oil is too much oil, when you’re me. I think most normal people would find it just right. The fries in particular were chunky and crisp on the outside…just the way I like them.

Chris ordered the roast beef MacHatten, which was a slice of thick white bread topped with about half a pound of mashed potatoes (anyone for carbs?!) and a heap of thinly-sliced, lean roast beef. The entire plate was covered in brown gravy, something that just doesn’t get made at our house. I can vouch for how good it was (I helped), and it just right. Not too salty, just enough zip.

Jaysun went all traditional and ordered the fish n chips. A little one the greasy side, but what do you expect? He seemed pleased with his food, except for the fact the was charged extra for an additional dish of tartar sauce.

Louisa’s veggie club sandwich was probably the hit of the table, and the spicy aioli, she said, was excellent. Avocado, sprouts, bell peppers, red onions, and more all topped white toast and came with a side. She tried the sweet peppered neeps (mashed turnips) and enjoyed them a lot. They gave her a very hearty portion and she wasn’t able to finish, but she gave her approval.

One of my favorite parts of the meal was visiting the ladies room. Who are the two sexiest Scottish (or played a Scot) men you can think of? Yep…the walls were covered with photos of Mel Gibson as Braveheart and Sean Connery as 007. Chris said the men’s room also had Bond photos, but in there it was more about the cars and the picture of Halle Berry. To each his own.

All in all, I’m glad we tried MacNiven’s and sorry we waited so long to do so. For a pub, they also offer a surprising number of vegetarian dishes, and I came thisclose to trying the vegetarian haggis. Maybe next time, as I’m certain there will be a next time. Well done!

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Thanks to a gift certificate from Chris’ work, we were able to enjoy our 2nd anniversary dinner, compliments of someone else. We probably wouldn’t have gone to Sullivan’s otherwise, but it was fun and every bit as “old boy’s club” as they make themselves out to be.

We started with the iceberg wedge (and yes, there was lettuce underneath the gallon of bleu cheese dressing), which, surprisingly, had some flavor. The sourdough bread was, as Chris would say “good nasty”. Chris ordered the 16oz strip steak (melt-in-your-mouth goodness), and I committed the cardinal sin of steakhouses: I ordered fish. My mahi-mahi was excellent with avocado-jalapeno salsa on the side. We probably could have passed on the broccoli with ©arnaise sauce (nothing memorable) but the horseradish mashed potatoes were awesome…made with all sorts of things we don’t usually eat at our house (like butter and real sour cream). We put in our dessert order early so we could enjoy the Grand Marnier souffle, and thank goodness we saved room…excellent, orange‑y, and creamy.

All in all, this was a fun evening and a good excuse to get dressed up (and wear the new sparkly jewelry I received…thanks, hon). The service was attentive (four people asked us how we were doing with our food before we even had a chance to taste any of it) and friendly. I don’t know if we’d visit again (without a gift certificate) but it was a pleasant way to spend an evening with the one you love.

Update: We returned about a year later on a Wednesday evening to find the atmosphere a lot less smarmy than last year, and not nearly as bad as, say, The Oceanaire, another expense-account competitor downtown. Our server stayed out of the way, but he was friendly and helpful in guiding us to selections that would fit our tastes that night exceptionally well.

Emily ordered a filet which made her do that thing where she rolls her eyes back in enjoyment. I had the Cajun rib-eye, and oh my lord was it char-licious… absolutely awesome char and so perfectly melty-tender inside. It was a lot salty and not so peppery at all, but absolutely delicious, let’s be clear on that. At our waiter’s counsel, we forewent the hash browns (probably more greasy than we wanted) in favor of the potatoes au gratin (greasy, but with the added bonus of cheesiness). Lumpy shards of potatoes in oozy, creamy, cheesy—you get the point. Delicious, of course. The creamed spinach was just what you’d expect: it was good, but didn’t exactly stand out. Dessert tipped me into slightly-uncomfortably-overstuffed territory, but the deep-dish apple pie was worth it. Sweet, tangy, buttery crust falling over the rim of the soufflé dish, and cinnamon ice cream. Delightful.

The “anything goes” bar, as described by our waiter, did not have Harp lager. I’ve been trying to get a Harp at a restaurant for months around this city! Help! The next restaurant that has a Harp for me might just get an extra star or something.