Among the Oscar Wilde quotes which line the back of the new “Wilde Hours” menu at Muldoon’s is this surprisingly apropos gem: “I love talking about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”
I for one don’t know anything about Irish pubs, but that’s okay, since this is California and suggestion here is the name of the game. Newport Beach – just across the street from Fashion Island, off the 73 freeway where they filmed scenes for The Hangover Part III, and less than 30 minutes from both Disneyland and Universal Studios, depending on what time of day it is and how lucky you are – is a far cry from Ireland’s green rolling hills. But throw in a 40 year history and some carefully-curated set pieces (not to mention a few pints of Guinness), and you might just find enough Irish spirit to convince yourself otherwise.
There’s the tall old Sycamore growing through the center courtyard, that’s been there since the place first opened in 1974. There’s the smattering of authentic Irish heirlooms, handpicked by the owners, that festoon the fully-licensed establishment’s three separate rooms. And let’s not forget the crooning voices of Bono and Marcus Mumford, carefully chosen to help guests hearken back to simpler days on the Emerald Isle. It certainly feels authentic, and for anyone seeking a slice of Ireland amidst all the sunshine and silicone, maybe that’s enough.
When I visited Muldoon’s earlier this month, I came on a Thursday during lunchtime, so I can’t say much for the happy hour ambience, except that it’s a homey scene and I hear they feature live bands on Friday and Saturday nights. But if I had to give my not-so-expert Foodbeast recommendation based solely on the menu, I think, nay believe, that I should.
First up was the Wilde Irish Julep: a fresh, sweet, not-at-all-syrupy thing I tried on the suggestion of Mary Murphy, the general manager – which, while delicious, nevertheless made me fear my hosts thought I was under 21. If there was alcohol in there, the light taste and my lack of buzz certainly didn’t betray it.
Next were the Banger Bites and Warm Dijon Sauce, which were snappy and savory and best of all, easy to eat. I was finished with my first “bite” and was about to snatch up a second before remembering I needed to photograph them, so I can only imagine how quickly these would go during a normal, after-hours setting. Though rich and hearty, they’re also not too filling, so it’s probably best just to order a plate for yourself.
The Whiskey Wings, Sindi Rae Sliders and Smoked Salmon with Chive Mascarpone on Flatbread were all solid, though nothing revolutionary. That title would have to go to the Homemade Corned Beef Tacos: an innocuous if bizarre mash-up which – if nothing else – helped prove why ground seasoned beef has remained the go-to filling for so many centuries. The corned beef was lean, almost melty, and held up well beneath the dressing of tomatoes and sour cream. But even after being drizzled in lime, the dish lacked the zest of a good, well-spiced ground beef or beer-battered fish. I would recommend you try them at least once for the novelty, and then see if the chef wouldn’t mind whipping up a fish and chips taco as an alternative twist on a popular Irish staple.
For drinks, the Wilde Hour offers an Irish Red Ale, a Honey Blonde and a Lusty Wheat Hefeweizen; three wines; and a handful of Irish-inspired cocktails including the Wilde Julep and Emerald Drop, each priced at between 20 – 30% less than dinner price.
Like any culturally-themed watering hole, Muldoon’s takes pride in the stories it tells, those it tells its guests and those it tells itself. As the website reads, the new Oscar Wilde-themed happy hour took its name from a legendary author “known for his love of enjoyment and the pursuit of pleasure,” and offers guests the chance to unwind while delighting in a bit of Irish history.
So will dropping by Muldoon’s after work and ordering third-off priced brews while enjoying the witticisms of Oscar Wilde be enough to transport you to Dublin in the 1800s? Probably not, but it’s a damn good place to pretend.
Wilde Hours @ Muldoon’s Irish Pub
4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
$3 – $9 plates, $4.50 – $9 drinks
202 Newport Ctr Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660