Paddy Coyne's Irish Pub
(South Lake Union)
1190 Thomas St, 405-1548
11 am-2 am, every day.

"Here's to your enemies' enemies!" toasted Shannon and Beth, two members of the Gaelic Gays, a group of fine Irish (and one Scottish) lassies who get together once a month or so in various Irish pubs to dork out over Celtic culture. In their case, that largely means telling jokes and, of course, drinking whiskey.

We were drinking--and eating--at Paddy Coyne's, a young Irish pub, in South Lake Union. The place is still a little too fresh scrubbed to seem quite like a real pub; it needs a few more St. Patrick's Day blowouts to properly encrust the floor with spilled Guinness and Harp. The atmosphere at Coyne's was too brightly lit and chilly, but once we got our whiskeys, everything smoothed out. Until my night out with the Gaelic Gays, I'd only ever had Jameson and Bushmills Irish whiskeys, and I'd always gone scurrying back to my richer, sweeter bourbon. But as with any booze, there's always a fancier option if you're willing to pay. Irish whiskey is a little lighter in color and taste than scotch or bourbon, but because of that it can take on a really lilting, floral quality. I had a Connemara ($6.50), which has some of the peaty backbone that you find in scotch, but I really dug the Redbreast ($8) whiskey ordered by curly-headed Shannon. It was downright meadowy in taste, if meadows were made of booze.

Coyne's menu features a lot of American bar food--burgers and BLTs, even a low-carb bunless patty melt (to offset all the Guinness, I guess); but there are a few Irish standbys to pick from. Shannon, whose grandparents were born in Ireland, bounced up and down in her seat when she saw there was corned beef and cabbage as a special. "That's my birthday dish. I love corned beef and cabbage." Seeing her excitement Beth told Shannon, "You really are more Irish than me…" (Unfortunately for Shannon, she didn't quite realize that the special in question was colcannon ($8.95), so the corned beef and cabbage weren't discreet elements, but rather chopped up and mashed together with potatoes. Her face fell tragically when her dinner arrived and she realized she could eat it with a spoon. "This is not my birthday meal," pouted Shannon at her lukewarm mush.

The rest of us didn't do much better. I got a shepherd's pie ($7.95), a ragout of ground beef and vegetables topped with a broiled brown crown of mashed potatoes. It was just passable--too salty with a distinct whiff of the cafeteria about it. Beth's beef stew, braised in Guinness ($8.50), was purplish and grim to look at, gluey and quite salty to taste. Each dish did come with slices of yummy soda bread (brown and white), which I hoarded and scarfed down, particularly enjoying the sweet humidity of the white version.

As we picked at our meal, we talked about St. Patrick's Day. Shannon made the surprising claim that Butte, Montana hosted the wildest celebration she'd ever seen. "It was out of control." And Beth remembered asserting her Irishness one St. Patrick's Day in high school by carrying around a bottle of green food coloring and dying everything she ate.

We wanted something sweet, and our server's eyes lit up when she described the chocolate cake ($7.20, with ice cream); sometimes it's dinner for her. No wonder: We got a piece of it as big as a barn's door. It was agreeably moist and chewy, with a thin mortar of chocolate frosting between each layer. The Irish whiskey ice cream that came with it was even better, made for the restaurant with a heavy hand on the booze and a caramel praline swirl.

As we nursed the remains of our whiskeys we talked about possible future plans for the ladies of the limericks--a trip to West Seattle's new Irish bar, the Celtic Swell, Gaelic lessons, perhaps, or a trip to the Highland games to watch kilted competitors throw logs end over end, but most importantly, the upcoming St. Patrick's Day party, at which there will be much toasting and T-shirts designed by the one Scottish member of the group. After all, what's the point in putting together a club if you don't make T-shirts?

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