726 Main Street, Ouray
Slainte. The word is Irish Gaelic, meaning health. In a bar, Slainte means “cheers.” Doesn’t it seem a lot like “slake”?
That is what you should visit O’Brien’s to do.
The bummer is that there is no actual O’Brien associated with this bar and pub, a Ouray fixture since 2007. The founders are Jen and Rick Smith, of Ridgway; present owners are Shawn and Robin Dill. But the spirit — as it were — of O’Brien’s remains strong. The restaurant’s website, for example, remains frozen on March 17 of last year, where it advertises “$3 pints of Guinness and $5 Irish Car Bombs served all day.” It’s as if the place still has a hangover from so much merrymaking. There’ll be no cure for that metaphorical partying this weekend, when O’Brien’s will surely be mobbed by throngs from the Ice Festival. How could it not be? Twenty Irish whiskies — from Connemara to Tullamore Dew — are available for your sipping pleasure, along with five whiskies from Colorado and 10 varieties of Scotch. A dozen beers are on tap, including, naturally, Guinness.
If you keep your expectations modest, the menu delivers, as well. You might start with a plate of Irish Nachos — corned beef and cabbage atop a pile of cross-cut fries, smothered with cheese — or Leprechaun Balls, “actual testicles harvested from Ireland’s little green people, battered and fried” — this according to a wag on Yelp, who recommended them. (The “balls” are actually crispy new potatoes, tossed in a spicy Buffalo wing sauce and sprinkled with cheese.)
There are numerous sandwiches here, including a classic Reuben, French dip and Corned Beef and Slaw. According to our waiter, who used to eat lunch here every day before coming to work at O’Brien’s, “you can’t go wrong with any of them.” Burgers are also on offer, both “classic” (available with cheese, mushrooms, and a Guinness barbecue sauce) and vegetarian black bean. “Pub specialties” include Fish & Chips, fried cod served with French fries or (a recommended substitution) terrifically lumpy-and red-skinned mashed potatoes; Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Bangers and Mash, spicy sausage with more of those good potatoes.
For dessert, go with O’Brien’s pretty-much-universally popular Bread Pudding.
But food is not the main reason to choose O’Brien’s (you might note the word Pub in front of the word Grill in the restaurant’s title). The place really shines on holidays, particularly St. Patrick’s Day; during big sports events, such as the Winter Olympics (which my husband and I enjoyed on three wide-screen TVs, packed in with dozens of others at the restaurant’s sparkling bar) and on holidays. It is the sort of warm, welcoming place you repair to to rehash the day’s exploits on a canyon wall; to host a fundraiser, which the Ouray Public Librarians have done for two years running; to hear live music. Indeed, where was a key member of the Ouray Brewery this past New Year’s Eve, but playing in a band at O’Brien’s? Which should tell you something.
Slainte to that.
O’Brien’s is open from 11 a.m. daily. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m.; the bar is open until 2 a.m.