THE WILD ROVER PUB, tucked away in downtown Manchester, is well-known among college students, journalists and locals for its large microbrew selection. It's often a stop on an informal pub crawl through the city. But as many times as we've stopped in for a beer, we had never eaten in the dining room — or even tasted the food.
So on a recent sojourn to the Queen City on a snowy night we stopped by "The Only Irish Pub On A Polish Street In A French City," to give their food a try.The Wild Rover Pub is off the north end of Elm Street, away from the fray, and conveniently located across the street from a parking garage, which comes in handy on a cold night. Since we had never been to the pub before 10 p.m. before, we were surprised to see that the action was in the dining room, away from the bar area. While brighter, illuminated in part by a few TVs scattered about the dining room so you won't miss any of the game, it's just as cozy as the bar. The brick walls and dark wood make it a welcoming, warm place to walk into.
The menu features Irish favorites among many offerings you would typically see in a pub like burgers, chili and chicken wings. But we found a few surprises as well, including Fish Tacos, Asian Nachos, Sloppy Joe, Nacho-crusted Chicken and Lobster Mac and Cheese.
I decided to start by trying one of their offbeat menu items: the Asian Nachos ($6.99) comprised of crispy won tons, grilled chicken, jack cheese, sesame peanut sauce, wasabi sour cream and radish sprouts.
When they were delivered to the table, I really appreciated the colorful presentation, courtesy of red and green peppers that were not among the ingredients that were listed. The peppers, along with the deep-fried won tons, gave the dish a great crunch, and they contrasted nicely with the tender, well-seasoned chicken. The peanut sauce and wasabi sour cream were great additions. The only thing that detracted from the overall dish is that the won tons were greasy, leaving a bit of a bad mouthfeel.
The Dining Companion ordered the masculine sounding Meat on a Stick ($2.25 each). He liked the freedom that this appetizer allows because you can order as many or as few sticks of meat as you wish — he ordered two. The beef sirloin tips, pierced with a wooden skewer, were marinated then grilled. The marinade was a blend of herbs and spices and had a sweet taste. They were cooked medium well, but the marinade penetrated deep, making the beef satisfyingly tender.It seems a crime to eat at an Irish pub without trying one of the house dishes, so I chose Bangers and Mashed ($9.99), a plate of grilled Irish sausage, crispy onions, mashed potatoes and gravy. The hazard in ordering a simple dish is that if every element isn't just right, it can go wrong quick. No worries, here. The sausage was grilled perfectly and had a great snap. It wasn't greasy and was very flavorful. I figured out that if you speared a piece of sausage and use it to scoop up some creamy potatoes and onions you got the best bite. I've had this dish at many establishments throughout the years, but this was the best by far.TDC ordered the Fish 'N Chips ($11.99). He generally has good luck with this dish at Irish pubs and this time was no exception. The beer batter was thin with varying levels of crispness throughout, which he enjoyed. The haddock was flaky and moist. For his side he was able to substitute onion rings for the fries for a $2 upcharge. The onion rings were thin, but not too thin, and had a medium crispy batter. The Fish 'N Chips made a quick disappearance from his plate.
Dessert was an easy choice for both of us as there were only two options. TDC opted for the brownie sundae ($4.99), a large brownie served with two scoops of chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, with everything covered in chocolate sauce. The brownie was good sized with a crispy crust and chewy inside. The chocolate ice cream seemed to lack some richness but TDC admitted he's partial to vanilla for brownie sundaes anyway. All in all he thought it was a gratifying treat to cap off a very enjoyable meal.I was more than happy to take the second choice, a slice of apple pie ($4.99) served with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce, served warm. There were apples aplenty and the serving was generous, but the pie was a bit on the sweet side for me.
While some pubs have a hard time balancing the atmosphere, food quality and variety of beers, the Wild Rover Pub seems to have discovered the formula for a fun evening out that covers all the bases. While we wouldn't have stopped by here before for a meal, we'll certainly stop by again. With its location, food, menu and service, it's more than the luck of the Irish that makes this a place that should be on your list of places to try.