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>> THE BLARNEY STONE RESTAURANT TRANSPORTS DINERS TO THE EMERALD ISLE GET YOUR IRISH ON AT CITY'S BLARNEY STONE
Blarney Stone features traditional Irish dishes, such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and corned beef and cabbage, and many ingredients are imported straight from the Emerald Isle

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Date published: 3/15/2007

By NANCY DEARING ROSSBACHER AND STEPHEN W. SYLVIA

for the free lance-star

She: One day a year--in this case, this Saturday--the melting pot that is America isn't merely melting. It's fully liquefied, for we all become Irish.

At the Blarney Stone, that genetic homogeneity goes on year 'round.

He: Located in Fredericksburg at the site of the former Merriman's, the Blarney Stone marks another Irish-themed venture for co-owner Bernadette Esler, who with husband Mike runs Irish Eyes gift shop . Her restaurant partner is Bridget Parker.

The interior has been revamped, and now features Disneyesque murals of distant castles. Padded chairs and booths, and linen-laid tables snuggle around the smallish dining room. More space is available in the room between the dining area and the back pub.

She: The menu is jocular and sprinkled with references to the Emerald Isle, such as Wicklow Lamb Loin Chops and the Blarney Burger.

But while the menu is lighthearted, the fare is hearty.

A lunch order of the Seamus' Shepherd's Pie ($8.99) had a base of ground beef with tender peas and mushrooms with bits of carrot, onion and mushroom in a rich brown gravy. Atop were peppery, garlicky mashed potatoes crested with melted cheddar and crunchy fried onions.

I'd describe the portion as lordly, but it's apparently bested by the dinner version, Lord Blarney's Favorite Shepherd's Pie ($13.95).

He: The corned beef sandwich ($8.99) also was generous, with tender beef, sauteed cabbage, and Swiss cheese mounded between fresh slices of rye. Served on the side were thick, perfectly browned fries, along with an intriguing curry-laced dipping sauce.

The praiseworthy fries also made an appearance on the Celtic Chicken Club platter ($7.25), with a centerpiece of grilled rosemary chicken with cheese and Galtee bacon (Blarney Stone features a number of ingredients imported from Ireland). Lettuce, tomato and onion completed the offering.

She: Numerous other traditional dishes appear on the menu, among them fish and chips (lunch, $8.99), bangers and mash (lunch, $6.95), and corned beef and cabbage (dinner, $14.95). Dinner entrees come with soda bread .

A note about service is in order. I found it cheerful but forgetful, which may have been a product of our arriving during a busy Saturday lunch crush.

He: Last thoughts. Generous, flavorful fare in a genial setting.

She: Anyone who says "Irish cuisine" is a contradiction in terms hasn't been to the Blarney Stone.

Nancy Dearing Rossbacher and Stephen W. Sylvia publish a Civil War magazine together. She likes to cook. He likes to eat. To reach Rossbacher and Sylvia, e-mail them at
Email: editor@nstcivilwar.com. Or call 540/374-5448 with comments about today's restaurant review.


BLARNEY STONE

Address: 715 Caroline St., Fredericksburg

Phone: 540/371-PINT

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner, 5:30- 9 p.m.; "pub grub" selections available 11:30 a.m.-closing. Pub in back open till 2 a.m.

Prices: Soups, salads and appetizers: $2.50-$8

Lunch selections: $6-$9

Dinner entrees: $14-$20

Desserts: $5

Children's menu: $4-$6

Full bar available, beer on tap, wines by glass/bottle.

Atmosphere: Whimsical murals and tongue-in-cheek street signs set the upbeat, casual tone. Dining room nonsmoking. Entranceway step may make wheelchair access a challenge.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted.