Bar review: Dan Kelly's

Dan Kelly's Bar and Grill
212 S 7th St
Minneapolis, MN 55402

THE FIRST THING I CHECK when I walk into an Irish bar is their selection of Irish whiskys, and Dan Kelly's comes up a short. They have Black Bush, which I ordered, but our server looked confused when I asked about Red Breast. "We're owned by a Jewish guy," she explained, "so we don't have much of a selection." To their credit, though, the Black Bush came with a large pour -- about five fingers of the whisky, when the best you can expect is three fingers elsewhere, and only came to about $5 per glass, which is quite reasonable for a whisky that retails for about $40 per bottle.

Dan Kelley's Bar and GrillTruth be told, despite the generic four-leaf clover they use as their logo, there's not much about Dan Kelly's that's Irish -- it belong to a category of bar I've begun calling "Irishish," in that the biggest concession these bars make toward their faux-Hiberian identity is to serve a few Irish-styled beers (it's Killian's Irish Red from Colorado at this one, which, thanks to tonight's special, was only $3 per pint), and a few generalized bits of decoration from the Emerald Isle. In truth, Dan Kelly's is about as Irish as a Swedish girl in a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirt on St. Patrick's day, and, while I know that everybody gets to claim to be Irish on St. Pat's, they just ain't.

That being said, Dan Kelly's is the sort of downtown neighborhood bar that does brisk business with the afternoon lunch and after work dinner crowds from the nearby business and government buildings (many of their menu items are named after nearby buildings) -- there's some concessions to upscale dining, such as a surprisingly diverse wine list, including Tempranillo and Manyana, as well as a selection of frou frou cocktails, including one called The Green Hornet, consisting of Absolut Vodka and Midori Melon Liqueur. They also offer a lunchtime club, offering certain discounts for patrons who regular swing by for lunch. The menu is diverse, including a surprising number of Walleye dishes, but mostly consisting of typical pub food: Buffalo wings, burgers, cold sandwiches, nachos, etc. I suppose they figure that if you're really desperate for British food, you're just a few blocks down from Kieran's; while you're at Dan Kelly's, you're going to eat like an American.

The pub itself is rather lovely, featuring a long wooden bar decorated with Tiffany-styled stained glass opposite a row of intimate booths. The night I was there, they were playing a fine selection of classic blues, including Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, which generated a much mellower atmosphere than you usually find in a downtown bar, although, as Dan Kelly's is a popular pre- and post-sporting events hangout, it can get quite full and noisy. The bar plays to this sort of crowd well -- they offer free parking if you spend $20, which isn't hard to do in a bar, and they offer a broad assortment of specials on popular beer brands, such as Budweiser and Leinenkugel's. It's not a beer snob's paradise, and it's not much of an Irish pub, but as an unshowy American businessman's bar, Dan Kelly's is friendly and comfortable. Some folks just ain't looking to indulge their ethnic identity or raise their pinky fingers while sipping sophisticated cocktails during their lunch break, I guess. (SPARBER)

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