Food: McGuire's Irish Pub
McGuire's Irish Pub, a restaurant in Pensacola, Florida, is one of those rare local institutions that survives national prominence and incessant commercialization.
What do I mean by "incessant commercialization"? Well, there's a McGuire's gift shop, a second McGuire's restaurant (in the vacation haven of Destin, Florida, no less), and McGuire's brochures in the tourist racks of area hotel lobbies. McGuire's has been featured on the "Today" show, and has even been visited by celebs and politicans like John McCain.
With all that mainstreaming, most places feel free to dumb down the quality of the food. That is not the case with McGuire's, which still delivers a whole ton of great food at a reasonable price. The place gets so crowded in the evenings, someone opened up an "Outback Steakhouse" across the street to catch the people who don't want to wait.
That's because the focus at McGuire's is on the steaks, which are all around the $30 mark. It sounds like a lot of money, until you consider that the steak comes with your choice of side, a stuffed tomato, a salad, McGuire's hearty "Senate bean soup" (for an added 18 cents, the same price it was back in the old days), and some delicious black bread. When you add in the fact that the steaks are well-marbled and succulent, then you have a meal to remember.
Lamb and seafood dishes round out the assortment of juicy steaks, and most of it is quite tasty. There's a brewery, here, too, serving a full-bodied "better than Guinness" stout that matches well with pretty much anything on the menu (I found it had a sweeter, cleaner finish than typical draft Guinness, but YMMV). I finished my meal with a scrumptious root beer float, made from McGuire's own root beer.
The atmosphere and service was still more like a hometown favorite than a well-heeled conglomerate - dollar bills still line the walls and ceilings, signed by thousands of first-time patrons. If you're in Pensacola and you want to see how to hit the bigtime without losing your soul, stop by McGuire's and sink your teeth in the ribeye.