By Nancy Brumback Contributing Writer
Northborough – A touch of the Olde Sod livens up the restaurant scene on Route 9 in Northborough. The Celtic Tavern has both the look and feel of a traditional Irish pub, although the lunch and dinner menus are skewed toward American.
From the green sign out front to the warm, dark wood tones and deep red walls, the Celtic Tavern invites customers to linger a while.
An immense lounge area features a rectangular bar with granite top, a perfect spot to watch a game on the overhead flat-screen televisions. While dinner is served until 10 or 11 p.m., depending on the night, the lounge stays open until 1 a.m. daily.
To one side is the stage area; the Celtic Tavern features live music most Friday and Saturday nights. There's a small dining area near the stage if you want to have dinner while you listen and prefer a table to perching on a bar stool.
In addition, there are two or three separate dining rooms that are closed off from the lounge, so diners can still hear the music in the background, but can also enjoy their own conversation. Then they might want to move to the lounge for the music and perhaps the Irish coffee the tavern claims to have perfected.
My husband and I stopped in early one Saturday evening, and opted for one of the front dining rooms, where we had our choice of a table or cozy booth.
While the menu features a few traditional Irish dishes like shepherd's pie, most of the choices were more typical of an American restaurant, such as a fried seafood platter, grilled steak, chicken parmesan, or ravioli and meatballs. Entrees are reasonably priced, most between $12 and $17, and usually include a choice of two side dishes.
Appetizers, $6 to $9, are hearty offerings that seem geared to the crowd at the bar. Most would be perfect with a beer and be easy to share, such as Thai chili wings, potato skins, Irish potato cakes, nachos or pub cheese and crackers.
For a lighter appetizer choice, the Celtic Tavern offers soups, including its specialty, a Celtic Ruben soup, and salads.
My husband decided to try the beef tenderloin tips ($17) with a side salad and onion rings, while I picked beer-battered fish and chips ($13).
The menu describes the tenderloin tips as “sizzling” – something of an understatement. The tender chunks of beef, with sautéed mushrooms and onions in a red wine sauce, were served on a hot metal plate set into a wooden tray – the sizzling sound and tangy aroma were as tempting as the taste. The salad he ordered was crisp and fresh, with dressing served on the side.
The fish and chips featured a whole filet of haddock, lightly battered, crisp and golden brown, served over a mound of hot french fries. The accompanying coleslaw was good, and the slice of cornbread made me glad I had resisted the hot rolls our server brought to start.
For lunch or a lighter dinner, the Celtic Tavern offers a variety of burgers and sandwiches, most priced between $7.50 and $9, and pizza. The kitchen seems able to handle the occasional odd request, such as the woman at an adjacent table who ordered a Reuben sandwich – the classic corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing – without the corned beef.
Families with children are welcome at the Celtic Tavern. The kids” menu is priced at $4 to $5 and features such favorites as mini burgers, chicken fingers, fish and chips, grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese.
The Celtic Tavern is located at 45 Belmont St. (Route 9 westbound) in Northborough. It's open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. weekdays and noon on weekends. Dinner is served Monday through Wednesday until 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday until 11 p.m., and the bar is open until 1 a.m. daily. For more information, visit the website at www.celtictav.com or call 508-366-6277.