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Good Food!

MacCool's — NOT the Place for Breakfast

Restaurant: MacCool's Public House
Cuisines: Irish Cuisine
Location: Brickyard, 1400 Foothill Dr #166, Salt Lake City (Map)
Price Range: $3.99–$17.99
Grade: C+ — See Foodie Report

I had heard about MacCool's from several people, but had never gone. Then, one Sunday, I decided that it's time had come. I heard they served Brunch, and that was what I was in the mood for.

I knew they were in Brickyard, and had a little trouble finding it, because it's a bit tucked away in the complex. But that was nothing compared to my experience when I first entered.  The place is amazingly beautiful. The décor is unlike anything else in Salt Lake, with three different eating areas designed to give three different types of Irish eating experiences. I was asked if I had a preference where to sit, and didn't, so I was seated in the Celtic area, with heavy wood furnishings and gorgeous chairs made from huge pieces of wood. The tables were mostly round, and the whole look and feel made me wonder if there were going to be some druids coming out to join me. I would love to live in that sort of ambiance, surrounded by such Gaelic beauty.

When I got looking at the menu, I was disappointed, though, in the brunch selection. I had hoped for more options.  What I finally ordered was a breakfast sandwich and a soda.  The menu said it was three eggs, apple-wood smoked bacon and provolone cheese on a ciabatta roll. Sounded good!  I would have liked a Guinness, but it was a bit early, and I was driving. While waiting for my food, I was entranced by the surroundings, and walked around to read Irish proverbs and expressions on the walls and furniture. Gaelic pipe music was playing overhead, and it was absolutely beautiful. Even the bathrooms were amazing, with sinks made from molded stone. I can't say enough about it.

When my sandwich arrived, I was a little surprised at how it was put together. The bread was toasted and cut in half from corner to corner, but the center of the sandwich was mounded thick, (almost too thick to fit my mouth around) while the edges were so thin that my first bite was nothing but bread.  (I remedied this by smashing it with the palm of my hand.)

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "Where's the good stuff?"

I had gotten nothing but dry bread. Second bite … a little egg, and I needed a drink — stat! Third bite, I finally got to the egg, bacon and cheese. And it was good.  Nothing to write home about, but good. There was also nothing to go with it. It was there in the center of a medium-sized plate with potatoes. And it cost $6. To be honest, the Moons Over My Hammy at Denny's would have satisfied me more, in terms quantity of food and not tasting like I was eating something in the Sahara Desert. I definitely did not leave there with that life-is-good feeling. I left feeling like I was still hungry and that I could've spent $3 at Carl's Jr. and been happier.

I really tried to look for something more positive about it, but there was nothing special about it at all. It was pretty plain, and it was overpriced. And there wasn't a lot more on the Brunch Menu to choose from. Which was so disappointing, because the place is absolutely beautiful, but lacks in any sort of way in serving a satisfying brunch.

Best thing about the visit: the décor. Without question. Hands down. Wow.

Worst thing about the visit: the food. And that's not what you want in a restaurant.

I heard about MacCool's opening another location at the District in South Jordan and was sort of excited, but it never quite worked out to go there. When it did, I wasn't planning on brunch, because that had turned out to be such a lackluster experience.

Then Mother's Day rolled around, and my mom wanted to go to MacCool's.

The location is certainly easier to access, in its own building there across from the Megaplex 20. People were waiting outside, but not too many, so I figured that it wouldn't be much more than a 15-20 minute wait. The girl at the front desk told me it would be about 20 minutes, took my name, and I sat in their waiting area. Problem was, as I walked back to sit down, I saw open tables through every walkway. I was seated near the kitchen, and could hear the girls waiting tables complaining that food was not being prepared and that they had another woman who was supposed to be waiting tables, but she was in the kitchen, "Telling everyone what to do!" I then turned to watch the counter under the heat lamps. It was full of plates, stuffed so closely together that there was not one bit of open space for another. And there were five servers standing around in front of it, not taking food out. After a while, a gentleman with a shaved head came out and started yelling at the servers to serve. (I could not hear him, so I'm taking a little poetic license with the word yelling, but his violent hand gestures and facial expression support the "yelling" theory.)

Twenty minutes came and went, and not a single party had been seated in that entire time. So I stood up and walked around. My intention was to see if it was as amazingly beautiful as the location in Brickyard, but I could not focus on that, because I could not believe how many unoccupied tables there were. On my count, there were sixteen not in use.

In the lobby, they had the radio playing a rock station a bit too loudly. In my right ear, however, I could hear the woman who was playing the harp and Irish flute. The mix was annoying, particularly as the wait extended to 45 minutes. At one point, my dad asked the guy at the bar if we could get something to drink as we waited, and were told, "No, not until you're seated." All this, while he had empty tables directly in front of him.

At about that time, they started seating people. There were plenty of complaints about the wait, people pointing out the open tables, etc. I was seated at 12:24 p.m., when I had put my name on the list at 11:35 a.m. We were seated in the pub section, where the amazing furniture I loved at the Brickyard location was not in place. There was some, in another part of the restaurant, but not for us. Disappointing.

When I got looking at the menu (during our 50-minute wait), I was pleased to see that they had some special items added to the Brunch Menu for Mother's Day. I thought, "Let's see if they can make up for their Sahara breakfast sandwich." So we were all ready to order when the waitress came up and declared, "I know you've had to wait! Please don't yell at me!" My folks and I exchanged a glance, then my dad said in his mildest tone (to not further agitate out waitress), "We're ready to order." They ordered, and my mom asked for decaf coffee, if it's fresh. She said, "Oh, it's fresh all right. I just got yelled at, so I brewed a new pot myself!" Again, this sort of thing should be transparent.  The customer should not be privy to this sort of information.  Then I told her that I wanted the Breakfast Pie, but that I wanted the egg scrambled. She said, "Absolutely no substitutions." I said, "That's not a substitution —" and before I could finish with "that's a preparation instruction," she said, "The owner didn't teach the cooks how to make any of the new things on the Brunch Menu. We have two of our servers in the kitchen cooking. So don't kill the messenger!" At this point, I was pretty annoyed.  If my mom didn't want to eat there, I would have walked out.  But, instead, I said, "I won't kill anybody, this is just going to be published." So then she had to stand there for another five minutes while I decided what else to order. I settled on the Buffalo Sheppard's Pie, which was noted as one of their signature dishes. Service was slow — not surprisingly — although they did manage to seat everyone, which still left plenty of empty tables. Our food arrived at 12:45 p.m. So, an hour and 10 minutes after arrival, we were served.

The Buffalo Sheppard's Pie was described on the menu as being layered with buffalo, venison and sausage, corn, potatoes and cheese, and beer is also in the preparation. Which sounded like an exciting combination.  And it was.

First words out of my mouth when I took the first bite: "Ow!" 

It was hot. And, out of self-defense, I swallowed it down without really being able to taste it.  The potatoes were mashed, completely covering the top, then that was covered with a layer of melted cheese, crusted around the edges from being put in the oven. So I blew on my next bite quite a bit longer and got my first taste that didn't scald my tongue.

It was excellent. The flavors of the meats were amazing, with a smokiness coming from the beer that was perfectly complimented by the Irish cheddar, and a quality to the sauce that was almost like a good wine sauce in an Italian restaurant. I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing with it — not even a wedge of their beer-batter bread.  But the pie was filling on its own.  So I was left with that life-is-good feeling.

What soured the meal, though, was that, as I ate, I noticed that someone else ordered the Breakfast Pie.  The fried eggs were just laid on the top. So claiming that they couldn't scramble an egg because the cooks were not taught how to make the new dishes was ridiculous. It just put a huge exclamation point on the poor service and a big underline on how MacCool's is not the place for breakfast.

Also, it was cold in there. It had been cold in the lobby, but the front door was open.  So, when I was seated by a window, with the sun shining across half my body, I thought I'd warm up.  I didn't.  It was cold enough that my nose started to run.  And I'm not like that. I'm usually the one complaining about how a place is too hot. I guess that was why my mom never took her jacket off ….

Best thing about the visit: Buffalo Sheppard's Pie. What a great dish.  Truly excellent.

Worst thing about the visit: the service. It's a great place to be … unless you're a customer. Foodie Report

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Comments on Review

My name is Scott Schlisman and I am one of the two owners of MacCools Public House. I am writing you to say how truly sorry I am for the experience you had at MacCools on Sunday. I was notified of your table's presence, and our difficulties endured during Sunday's morning shift a few hours after you left.

I am also writing because I appreciated the professional manner in which you approached your review. Under the circumstances, it would have been very easy for you to focus on all the negatives and not be as open minded as you seem to be. I will use our experience on Sunday to learn from, find the positives from the situation we were in, and use them to get smarter as we grow.

Thank you for the compliments on our décor and Buffalo Sheppard's Pie. I have often found in my restaurant life that the people who care are the ones that are willing to speak up. When I came in and read your note, I was thankful for your honesty and your willingness to say what was on your mind. Many people do not, so I read the review. Upon further investigation, and from what I could ascertain, your observations were spot on.

At MacCools our focus truly is on food and service.  It is what we are all about. We make every single thing in here from scratch and always strive to put out a great product at a fair price. If you ever feel the urge to venture into a MacCool's again, please ask for me. I would enjoy the opportunity to meet you.

A fellow foodie,
Scott Schlisman

     food·ie (fd)
     noun. Slang.  A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet.