Foley’s Irish Pub3655 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502
Irish blood runs thick in my family—or so we like to think—and we’ve all traveled extensively in the Old Country sampling whiskey, traditional music and local blarney. It was in anticipation of perhaps recapturing some of that Celtic romance that we decided to finally try Foley’s, located across from the Atlantis on South Virginia Street.
About three years ago, Foley’s moved from a more northerly location to the current one, which was formerly occupied by a Hooters. The new interior is slick, with hardwood flooring and a huge bar and dining area. Our cheerful server didn’t waste any time getting us situated with menus at one of the high tables.
An interesting quirk is the listing of prices on the menu in fractions instead of decimals. Thus the Bangers and Mash are “9 3/4” instead of $9.75. Subsequent prices will be noted in the establishment’s parlance.
I tried the crab and avocado with melted Swiss on sourdough (10 3/4). This is one of the items clover-leafed on the menu to indicate a “Foley’s Favorite.” I doubt my Irish ancestors routinely ate anything like this unwieldy and crumbly sandwich under their sod roofs, although it was an acceptable blend of flavors that benefited from a good salting. Mom went with the Pastrami and Swiss (9 3/4; no clover leaf), which the menu amusingly indicates is “Made especially for pastrami and Swiss lovers” (as opposed to Bologna and Provolone lovers?).
The men tried to stay within the spirit of the thing by ordering from the “Foley’s Traditions” menu. Dad’s shepherd’s pie (9 3/4; clover), with salad, vanished in a whirlwind of silverware and praise. My husband’s beer battered fish and chips (10 3/4; no clover) had the thick crunchy breading we both prefer, although the homemade tartar was runnier than I would hope or expect. He washed it down with a traditional pint of Guinness ($5 3/4) served below room temperature but not frigid, properly slow-poured, and presented with the mandatory head of creamy froth, so “A” for effort on that. (The indefinite and pointless subject of whether the Guinness we have in the states is comparable to that of Ireland is one I won’t even touch.) All of us except Dad enjoyed a pile of respectable fries with our main courses.
The influences of modernity in general and the need to appeal to guests from the Atlantis in particular are everywhere. We didn’t see any James Joyce types discussing literature in a corner booth, the flat screen TVs above the bar blared football—not the Gaelic variety—fellow patrons were more likely to wear baseball hats than scally caps, and the only discernible accent emanated from an Aussie playing video poker at the bar. There is no weekly fiddle and elbow pipe jam or any other live music—we asked—so if you want to see the Chieftans, you’ll have to head elsewhere.
Nonetheless, just as we were finishing, up to the bar ambled a venerable gent with the stereotypical Irish look: Donegal cap, tweed jacket, weathered face. He seemed like the type of Jameson-swilling, British-loathing, stone-fence-and-barley country Gael my Irish-American husband romanticizes as “my kind of people.” It was when he started composing an email on his Blackberry —which no doubt plenty of farmers in Galway do nowadays—that his iconic appeal somehow faded. But maybe that’s more a problem with me than with Foley’s, which provides OK pub grub at reasonable prices and with good service, and which is no more Americanized than I am.