The freestanding building on the corner of Edgewater Drive and West Winter Park Street in College Park that was for a very short time Thai Farm Kitchen and for a longer period RusTeak is now the Castle Irish Pub and Restaurant.
Celtic airs are not new to the space. Before RusTeak it was Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub. (Prior to that it was O-Town Pizza – for about the same amount of time it was Thai Farm – and Alfonso’s Sports Lounge before that. And that’s just going back barely 10 years.)
The new pub is owned by a family, the Hoynes, from southeast Ireland’s Kilkenny County. Kilkenny Castle is the fortress referenced in the name.
The space has been decorated with bits of authenticity, with dark wood trim, a ceiling resembling pressed tin, channel glass dividers and wood slat and tile flooring.
The menu wafts between traditional fare and items served with artistic license. One of the more creative – and tastier – items was the Kitty Hoynes Reuben Fritters starter, which looked like croquettes you’d find in a Latin American restaurant but with a filling of chopped corned beef, served with tangy grain mustard.
The Shepherds Pie Bites also had a Spanish flair, with the lamb, beef, peas and carrots presented as an empanada. Points for creativity, but the result wasn’t as satisfying as the fritters.
My guests and I went mostly for conventional pub grub with our entrees. I had the Bangers and Mash. I never expect much from this simple presentation of sausages and mashed potatoes but I just like saying bangers and mash, please. The two tubular pork packages were plump and well seasoned. The potatoes, traditional Irish champ mash with chopped scallions, were creamy and surrounded by a moat of gravy (in keeping with the castle theme, no doubt).
The Hoynes Fish & Chips featured two haddock fillets in beer batter jackets nicely fried and served atop a stack of crispy potatoes. Loosely mashed peas – not exactly mushy – accompanied.
Irish Stew, a special on the night I visited, was distinctive in that it lacked any stewlike properties. There were ample chunks of meat, beef instead of lamb, carrots and onions but no liquid. The meat was dry in another sense, as well. And a slice of brown bread for a hattrick.
The Blarney Burger ordered by another of my guests was quite good. It was a half-pound patty, cooked to the requested medium rare and topped with melted Irish cheddar cheese. Lettuce, tomato and pickles were served on the side to be placed under the brioche bun or not. More of the Castle’s good fries were nearby.
The young serving staff seemed eager. I’m sure they’d appreciate any training that might help them be better at their jobs.
It was trivia night when I visited, which wasn’t too disruptive. On other nights, the restaurant features musicians playing Irish music. That could liven things up a bit. But the atmosphere is just right, and the food right enough, even without fiddles.