Review: Dan Kelly's Pub

You can hardly spill a green beer in downtown Minneapolis without splashing an Irish pub. And for whatever reason, even though I’ve worked within a block of Dan Kelly’s for the better part of a decade, I’d never set foot in the place. That’s probably due to its tucked-away Seventh-Street locale, around the corner from the Grand Hotel, door marked only by a small sign and a four-leaf clover.

It took Matty O’Reilly and Rick Guntzel’s purchase of the place to catch my attention, as I’ve been impressed by their better-bar concept, Republic. At Dan Kelly’s, chef Kevin Kvalsten’s new menu freshens up the pub staples: Of course there’s fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, but there are also a few deep tracks and smart sourcing from local purveyors. Through deft seasoning, Irish entrées of the plain-Jane, meat-and-starch variety taste nuanced and distinct instead of blending into blandness. The Dublin Coddle riffs on bangers and mash by pairing house-made sausage with onion and potato in a broth infused with sweet-smoky bacon. Chicken potpie arrives in a mini cast-iron skillet wrapped in a towel and has an unexpected lightness from delicate gravy and crust. Lamb stew with root vegetables is as tender as it is restorative, and desserts are a homey affair: trifle, butterscotch pudding, or a big hunk of butter-soaked coffee cake. Of course, there’s always whiskey, too.  

Dan Kelly’s cultivates a cozy intimacy with its dark woodwork, stained glass, snug booths, and pretty bar. It’s a stark contrast to the sheer scale of, say, Kieran’s or the Local, which sometimes can feel as over-the-top as the Epcot World Showcase pavilion. The big pubs are great for minglers looking for a crowd, but for those who would rather share a few pints and close conversation, Dan Kelly’s relaxed atmosphere and serious food make it easy to extend a happy hour into dinner.