The new O’Reilly’s Cure on Rt. 1 in Scarborough is a place I’d been hearing whispers about lately. Opening a little over month ago, some friends had been discussing the idea of going to try it. For a few weeks, that thought stayed in the back of my mind like a barnacle, but since I’m always up for trying an Irish pub, it went on my short list and we finally got there on a Friday for some food and a beverage so I could erase it from the list of local joints I had yet to visit.
A spot in the parking lot was not easy to come by, but we found a space a short walk away and made our way inside. My first impression of the restaurant was that it was quite large. The bar was moderate in size, but the table seating was vast. When we entered, there were only one or two tables available and the place was packed. I couldn’t help but notice that there were a lot of people with stew in front of them as we were guided to the far end of the room to be seated. Once at our final destination, we took hold of the menus and started to scan for a beverage befitting the evening.
I was looking for something light to drink since it wasn’t going to be a party night. Mrs. Portlandeater quickly decided on a Downeast Cider and I spied the Allagash 16 Counties. I’d never had one and I’m a huge fan of Allagash, so I thought that might be a good selection. We waited a while for the waitress to show up, and when she finally did, we placed our orders. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I was informed that they were out of the 16 Counties. I had to make a quick decision on a new refreshment and ended up with an Oxbow Cuppolo.
We continued to look at the menu as we debated between Irish inspired dishes. I was thinking app and entree as the wife was considering salads and sandwiches. Within a few minutes, we were ready to order, but it again took a long time for the server’s return. After a pretty lengthy stretch, we got our drinks and were able to put in some food requests. I went with the Mac n’ Cheese Bites with cheese sauce and Guinness Beef Stew – sirloin, potatoes, vegetables, soda biscuit – since so many people seemed to have that. She ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad – garlic, parmesan, olive oil, croutons.
Our drinks were pleasing and we were happy to have them in hand. I observed what was happening around us as we made husband and wife, end-of-week, small talk. The wait staff seemed to be very busy and management was assisting as much as possible. They were definitely trying hard, but appeared to be somewhat shorthanded. Seats were filling as quickly as people were leaving and, just based upon what we were experiencing, it was clear that they were struggling to keep up. As the table next to us was getting up to head out, the waitress returned to let me know that they were out of the Mac n’ Cheese bites. I again made a game-time change and asked for the Pretzel Bites with cheese sauce.
After another lengthy wait, the pretzel bites came out. They were sitting in the cheese sauce in a pan on top of a plate, presumably because the pan was hot. They didn’t look like pretzel, but more like standard rolls; there was no deep brown outer shell or any salt on top. I took a bite and confirmed just that. These were rolls in cheese. It was odd to say the least, but I was hungry and continued eating. My wife confirmed my thoughts, asking “if those are pretzel, shouldn’t they have salt?”
My app went down the hatch even though it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I was actually working on the last few bites as I saw our meals making their way toward me. I finished and moved to the stew. The soupy beef mixture was visually typical with the standard main components. The broth turned out to be pretty good and the Guinness added a nice twang to it. I’m not sure I have ever had that version of beef stew, but I found it enjoyable. A bite of the soda bread with the accompanying molasses butter turned out to be excellent. I didn’t know it previously, but apparently I really like molasses butter.
As I worked on my stew I ran into a piece of beef that was all fat. It was unpleasant, but I moved past it and continued pressing forward. Once I was done, I checked in with my table mate who gave me an “it’s alright” regarding her salad. I had to try it to see what was doing. It had plenty of chicken, but one sample immediately gave me the picture. The dressing was weak. The central part of a salad’s flavoring is the dressing, and a Caesar, in particular, has to achieve a certain strength from it. This one looked the part, but fell short.
With our food done, we asked about dessert, but nothing stood out to us and we asked to settle up. The meal came to 52 bucks before tax and tip. That didn’t sound too bad, but the food, as it appeared on the menu, seemed pricey. My wife’s salad was $16 – the chicken itself was $6. My stew was $15. The portion sizes were large, so that was good, but the initial shock of the prices – Nachos for $18 if ordered with chicken, for example – might turn people away. I didn’t see the nachos, but for that price, I hope they’re enormous.
Aside from the prices, O’Rielly’s Cure has a lot to work on. Though it’s only fair to give them a bit of a pass since they’re so new, they’ll have to make some adjustments soon. Running out of a beer and an app wasn’t that crazy, but those were two items out of a total of three I tried to order, so I wonder how many more they were out of. Also, the wait staff should be aware if they’re out in order to minimize delays. More concerning is that their food leaves something to be desired. The pretzel bites simply weren’t that at all and the Caesar dressing needed a complete rework. The stew was good, and I probably could get past my fatty piece of beef had everything else delivered, but that just wasn’t the case. The service was fine once I received my app, but unfortunately, it took a long time to get to that point. O’Rielly’s Cure is, as the restaurant claims, “Food, Drink, and Social Remedy”, but I think they’ll need to improve in all areas before I agree. I hope they do. Rt. 1 needs a good restaurant, but there’s work to be done before they get there.
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