The first thing you notice when you walk into Meehan’s Irish Pub and Seafood House are the autographed Jameson whiskey bottles that line the rafters of the bar. What started as a casual gesture has turned into a tradition, if the table finishes the bottle. Meehan’s personifies a centuries old Spanish-Irish Catholic alliance that thwarted British attempts to control Florida. It was an Irishman, Joseph Peavett, who’s credited with opening the first tavern at the old Gonzalez-Alvarez house on St. Francis St. in the late 18th century. It made him quite rich. Many St. Augustine families have Irish roots from those days.
Meehan’s Irish Pub’s the only restaurant in the USA, outside of New York city, authorized to serve Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel, an ultra small batch whiskey that rivals fine brandy. If that’s off the budget, there’s an extensive spirits menu for all tastes. Kilkenny cream ale and others in the wide offering of beers, along with good jazz, Irish and rock music playing not too loudly, make for a pleasant pub atmosphere.
Meehan’s is as adept at serving superb traditional beef and stout pie and thin sliced corned beef in a crispy turnover variation as it is smothering a fresh mahi-mahi in a shrimp wine sauce and drawing a pint of Guinness. Under the hands on management of Eric Bremer, the youthful staff are as knowledgeable as they’re friendly. Eric explained the research that goes into recipes from European working trips with owner John Meehan to test kitchen before they’re presented to the customer.
The conch chowder, a mainstay of good Florida menus, was smokey with chunky and tender conch, vegetables and a deep broth with a slight pepper bite. The Irish clam chowder was thick with good seafood and fresh cream. Adding a touch of tabasco blended St. Augustine into the mix. A shredded corned beef appetizer was a tasty fusion of traditional Irish and a crispy hot pocket. Selections from the raw bar elicited audible compliments at a neighboring table.
Several trips to London the past year proved fruitless in trying to recapture the moist robust flavor of traditional steak pies. Dried up and flavorless remnants of this once comfort food exist in too many pubs. Meehan’s steak and stout pie exceeded even student memories in the isles four decades past. A rich herb flavored gravy held chunks of tender beef encased in flaky pastry. Its deep flavors spilled out onto creamy whipped potatoes creating a true pub experience.
St. Augustine is a 450 year mixture of European, Mediterranean, native American and African cultures and its restaurants reflect this melange. Add the abundance of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and dishes of imagination with colorful presentations abound. Meehan’s mahi-mahi fillets were smothered in a sauce of baby shrimp, capers, leeks, grilled tomatoes, diced zucchini and yellow squash, carrots and roasted potatoes. This colorful blanket cover the grilled fillets while they rest on a bed of creamy potatoes.
Outdoor seating is available on two levels as well as on a back brick terrace complete with its own bar. Fronting the Matanzas River, the views take in the Bridge of Lions and the 16th century Castillo de San Marcos. Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House helps explain the 450 year lure of St. Augustine.
Meehan’s Irish Pub & Seafood House, 20 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, Fl 904-810-1923