O’Niell’s Irish Pub – Albuquerque, New Mexico

O’Niell’s Irish Pub on Juan Tabo

Despite several efforts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make it more user-friendly, the Food Pyramid has never been that easy to understand. Could confusion be one of the reasons 73.6% of American adults are either overweight or obese (according to the Centers for Disease Control)? Based on that alarming percentage, you’d think the pyramidal nutritional guide has chocolate as its base topped with pizza, burgers and cheesecake tapering to a whipped cream covered point.

O’Niell’s Has an Expansive Outdoor Patio

Perhaps to alleviate confusion, in June, 2011, the USDA replaced the ubiquitous food pyramid with a graphic depiction of a plate which (ostensibly) should make it easier for us to determine if we’re balancing our meals nutritionally. Hopefully the size of the plates at the typical family home aren’t platter-sized (or that the pie-wedge shaped components of the plate–fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins–won’t have a subliminal effect).

O’Niell’s Capacious Dining Room

The Food Pyramid is not a uniquely American way of depicting nutrition. Throughout the world there are many ways used to present nutritional recommendations graphically (the Japanese use a spinning top model) even though the basics of nutrition have remained fairly static over time and across borders–with a few country specific differences based on local diet. In Japan, for example, a glass of tea forms the axis of the top.

O’Niell’s Bar

Another commonality among most food pyramids is confusion. It seems no matter what governments throughout the world do to clarify nutritional recommendations, the more confusion arises–primarily because graphics alone don’t tell the whole story. The most simple and straight-forward food pyramid to be found on the internet is the jocular stereotype-based Irish Food Pyramid. At its base are potatoes topped by meat then whiskey, ales, stouts and lagers. “Everything else” occupies the top of the pyramid.

The Dude Decided We Should Sit Next to This Portrait of a Dachshund

If stereotypes have at least some basis in truth, this stereotype is embraced by my Irish colleagues who retire to their favorite pub for a pint (or six) after every hard (or easy) work week. You’ll find them sporting the Irish food pyramid on tee-shirts and jumpers (sweaters) and doing their best to adhere to its nutritional recommendations–often to the point of over-achievement (especially on the ales, stouts and lagers).

There is also a historical basis for the stereotyped Irish food pyramid, particularly at its base which is occupied by the potato. Potatoes didn’t arrive in Ireland until the second half of the 16th century, but it quickly ascended to the main food crop of the poor–primarily because great yields could be cultivated in a small acreage. Sustenance for the gentry and nobility included beef, obtained from herds of cattle raised on the verdant Irish fields.

Irish Spring Rolls

The Irish pub concept has caught on like wildfire throughout America. It, too, is a concept based on stereotypes which some Europeans have denounced as “the McDonald’s of the pub trade” courtesy of “their pseudo-Irish names, tacky green paint and super-cooled Guiness.” Not surprisingly, the Irish pub template also includes fun, the free flow of pint after pint and of course, Irish food.

The Seanathair (old Irish word for grandfather) of Irish pubs in Albuquerque is O’Niell’s Irish Pub which first launched in 1994 and was immediately embraced by the Nob Hill community. Alas, after nearly a decade on the north side of Central Avenue, O’Niell’s lost its lease and was forced to closed. Three years later–in 2006–O’Niell’s found a new home on Central just a few blocks and across the street from its original home. Its rebirth was welcomed with the enthusiasm of a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Lamb Stew, part of the quintessential Irish meal

A second instantiation of O’Niell’s opened in 2010 on Juan Tabo. It’s a sprawling complex almost as large as the Defined Fitness Gym nearby.  From the outside, O’Niell’s even resembles a gym. The Juan Tabo restaurant includes a large dog-friendly patio where a backdrop of shrubbery and young trees helps make it one of the more attractive patios in the Duke City. It’s easy to forget you’re only a few feet away from the bustling Juan Tabo traffic.

The interior is also quite attractive with a long mirrored bar as its cynosure. The intricate interlacing patterns of Celtic art can be seen throughout the restaurant, a sophisticated tribute to one of the great civilizations in world history. One wall is dedicated to supporting the community art program with a monthly artists rotation. Seating is more functional than it is esthetic.

Sirloin and Boxty

The formula for O’Niell’s popularity is “good food, honest drink.” Honest drink is described on the restaurant’s Web site as “the perfect pint and the perfect pour, all delivered with perfect service.” Good food means “top quality versions of the lunches, dinners and appetizers that you know and love, fun alternatives, and some classic Celtic favorites.” Sounds good to me!  Even the “Weird of the Day” item on the menu sounds good.  It’s described as “Always delicious, always different, always vegetarian.”

It wouldn’t be New Mexico if the starters section of the menu of a restaurant–any restaurant maybe with the exception of Asian eateries–didn’t have salsa and chips. O’Niell’s offers what the state legislature may someday consider New Mexico’s official state appetizer. Land of Enchantment inspired starters also include chile con queso, a black bean quesadilla, chile cheese fries and O’Nachos. If you’re wondering if this is a misplaced paragraph intended for a review of a New Mexican restaurant, read on.

Boxty Reuben

22 October 2022: St. Patrick must have been part Chinese, too with a little Swiss thrown in for good measure. O’Niell’s also offers a very Irish twist on an Asian favorite in crispy corned beef and cabbage egg rolls. Julienne carrots, red and green cabbage and corn beef and Swiss cheese are stuffed into egg roll skins then deep-fried. They are sliced diagonally and served six pieces per order along with three sauces redolent with personality–a honey Dijon sauce, horseradish and hot mustard.

Along with the duck confit egg rolls at Zinc, these are some of the Duke City’s most unique and delicious egg rolls, a terrific and unexpected surprise that showcases the versatility and possibilities of egg rolls (if only the city’s Chinese restaurants figured this out). It’s a given that the thinly-sliced corned beef would go so well with the cabbage, but the egg roll wrappers and deep-frying bring out unexpected qualities. Each of the dipping sauces complement the egg rolls beautifully and none, not even the hot mustard, will water your eyes.

Bangers and Mash

6 June 2011: O’Niell’s Web site calls lamb “the core of the quintessential Irish meal.” One of the ways in which lamb is commonly served is as a thick and hearty stew. If you’ve ever visited Ireland in the winter you’ll understand why. O’Niell’s lamb stew is very much reminiscent of the lamb stew you’ll find at many a Dublin pub. Succulent lamb as tender as carne adovada, is served with vegetables and potatoes (of course) and is seasoned with a hint of rosemary and thyme. It’s a thick stew with lamb chunks a plenty, a true comfort food stew. It’s also quite delicious.

6 June 2011: If lamb is the core of the quintessential Irish meal, the boxty is the true test of Irish womanhood. An old Irish rhyme declares, “Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan; if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.” Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake whose Irish name actually translates to “poor house bread.” At O’Niell’s, the boxy is made with scallions and is flattened like a pancake. It’s worthy accompaniment to a six-ounce, 100 percent USDA choice sirloin steak served with a Guinness demi-glace and vegetable du jour. The sirloin is prepared to your exacting specifications and is quite good, however, the petite cut is hardly man-sized.

Irish Cuban with Waffle Fries

9 August 2014: You’ve got to respect a restaurant with a section on the menu dedicated solely to Reubens. Never mind that there are only three of them on the menu, the fact that they’re singled out is big news. Morgain Davidson, a long-time friend of this blog, turned me on to the Boxty Reuben, a knife-and-fork Reuben sandwich which replaces the traditional rye with two boxty. The rest of the Reuben is pretty standard: grilled corned beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. Only the ingredients are standard. The flavors are superb! The corned beef is nicely seasoned and the sauerkraut offers a nice pickling punch, but it’s the boxty we most appreciated. The scallion-potato boxy make for a great rye substitute even if you can’t pick up this sandwich as you would a traditional Reuben.

6 June 2011: Another traditional Irish favorite done well at O’Niell’s is Bangers and Mash, two char-grilled Irish sausages served on mashed red potatoes and smothered in a rich demi-glace made with Guinness stout, mushrooms and caramelized onions. This is humble cuisine elevated to an art form thanks largely to the demi-glace. Its gravy-like consistency and the marriage of fleshy mushrooms and caramelized onions covers the potatoes and sausage like an Indian blanket.  By the way, the term “bangers and mash” according to Britannica, “supposedly originated during World War I, when meat shortages resulted in sausages’ being made with a number of fillers, notably water, that caused them to explode when cooked.”

Rob’s Reuben with Side Salad

9 August 2014: It’s often said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s Irish. At O’Niell’s, even the Cuban is Irish. The Cuban sandwich, that is. Described on the menu as “Cuban-inspired, but decidedly Irish,” it’s a “flavor-packed mix of corned beef, pulled pork, coleslaw, spicy Southwest aioli, hot mustard and Swiss all topped with grilled pickles.” As with all multi-ingredient sandwiches, the sum is greater than all its parts, but some of those parts stand out very well. The grilled pickles are assertive, the way pickles should be. The corned beef fit in as if it belonged on the Cuban sandwich. This sandwich pairs well with waffle fries.

22 October 2022: I’ve always contended that every Reuben sandwich should be “Rubenesque,” a term used to describe the women often depicted in the paintings of Renaissance artist Peter Paul Rubens.  Defined as  “plump or rounded, usually in an attractive or pleasing way”, Rubens women had some of the attributes I love in a Reuben sandwich, especially “plump,” “attractive,” and “pleasing.”  Rob’s Reuben (corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing perfectly grilled on rye) may not be quite as plump and Rubenesque as I love my Reubens, but it’s quite good.  The grilled rye, in particular, is magnificent.  It doesn’t taste like white bread with caraway seeds.  It tastes like rye, a bit sour with a vibrant, earthy flavor.  The Russian dressing is nuanced with spicy, sweet notes.  The corn beef is lean and tender.

Penne Chicken Carbonara

22 October 2022: Much as we appreciated the fine qualities of the Reuben, we weren’t exactly enamored of the penne chicken carbonara (Fire-braised chicken and penne pasta with bacon, red peppers and mushrooms, in a fennel and peppercorn cream sauce. Topped with parmesan. Served with homemade potato bread.)  On paper it sounds quite delicious.  To paraphrase ESPN anchor Dan Patrick “that’s why we don’t descriptions.”  Reading the menu description above, you’d think this would be one delicious dish.  Alas, it’s not true carbonara, but one of so many inauthentic parodies served throughout restaurants in Albuquerque.  Aside from inauthenticity, the prime reason we didn’t really enjoy it is its lack of personality.  Yes, despite a “fennel and peppercorn cream sauce” it wasn’t especially creamy and those two otherwise delicious spices.

16 June 2011: The dessert menu includes O’Niell’s take on a United Kingdom favorite known as spotted dick. Called “Irish Delight” on the menu, it’s a different bread pudding every season. Alas, it’s one of the more cloying bread pudding offerings we’ve had in the Duke City, a tooth-decaying sweet treat. Perhaps some cold vanilla ice cream would have cut the sweetness a bit.

Irish Delight: O’Niell’s take on favorite with a funny name-Spotted Dick, an Irish bread pudding.

Founder Rob O’Niell lives by the edict “No Sniveling,” an approach to life to which more of us should subscribe. There’s not much to snivel about at O’Niell’s Irish Pub, a fun place to dine even if you’re not Irish.

O’Niell’s Irish Pub
3301 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 22 October 2022
1st VISIT: 16 June 2011
COST: $$
BEST BET: Bangers and Mash, Sirloin and Boxty, Lamb Stew, Crispy Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls, Irish Delight, Boxty Reuben, Irish Cuban, Rob’s Reuben, Spotted Dick

24 thoughts on “O’Niell’s Irish Pub – Albuquerque, New Mexico

    1. Thank you, Lynn for being such a great uncredited and unpaid tester for my experiments with new blog themes. I had forgotten why I discarded that particular theme. Though it’s a responsive theme–fits on any size screen–comments on “pages” don’t display as they do on “posts.”

    1. Restaurants seem to take a lot of latitude with tradition, but the one item I thought for sure you’d take umbrage with is the carbonara. It wasn’t close to what you had during your times in Rome and nothing like your sweet Mary prepares for you at home.

  1. Was in the area of Wan Taaw—bow so thought I’d try the “new” place. Whoa, great job of recreating the Central venue including a covered patio as well as an umbrella patio with a visual buffer from JT. Alas, never been in a pub on The Sod, but envision dark panelling. Nevertheless, warm, albeit lighter, tones; “wooden” floor; tempered lighting; mega bar; yada yada give a sense of welcoming warmth. Speaking of which, so did the cordiality/attentiveness of my WaitGal! For midweek, the inner house was filled and with Q-tips and millennials and lots of Craic.
    Alas, I shoulda re-read Gil’s review and Comments as a second try at their Fish n Chips was….disappointing. While its preparation was indeed an improvement over…OMG…now several years ago when I thought I was experiencing the batter akin to what is otherwise great for a corn dog, it sadly falls short of Fat Squirrel’s and Two Fools! Alas, some might badger “It’s all in the fish and not the batter!” I say, per my youth kinda near coastal MA and thus freshness, it’s in the batter cuz cod is virtually tasteless…or “mild” at best… and thus the need for an exquisitely fried (everything in moderation) batter!!!! LOL The slaw was fine; fries OK as most places, but need to change ketchup brand tho; and serving of PBR attests to O’Neill’s culinary expertise.
    BTAIM, give it a Forks-Up given the physical/personnel ambiance AND the variety of Menu offerings. Alas e.g., had the Boxty Reuben a couple of years ago which I forgot to comment on, as it provides an occasional interesting option…yes, it is a knife n fork YumYum.

  2. Gil, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I see that Larry’s recipe calls for “blackfin (lump) crabmeat. I assume this is not available in ABQ fresh, so do you have a sourcing suggestion for blackfin lump crabmeat in ABQ?

  3. They also have food items that are NOT on the menu. Go in and try the, “Banger on a hanger”! The same “Banger” from bangers and mash but on a roll with sauerkraut green chili and melted cheese! A world class original developed by one of their own chiefs! A#1! an awesome adventure in food!

  4. Yum, yum, yum! What a wonderful meal we had there today! Thank you, Gil! I had the lamb stew with a side of boxty, and the egg roles as an appetizer. Wow! Our waitress was absolutely perfect with the order, timing, and cordiality. I believe that boxty is my favorite way of having potatos. It is so rich and flavorful and elevates potato pancakes to a level of pure pleasure. The corn beef and cabbage egg roles were a fascinating gustatory combination and experience. They were great. The lamb was tender, and the base of the soup was hearty, flavorful, and completely enjoyable. It’s probably better on a cold day, but I was thrilled to eat it and the other Celtic inspired dishes. Thanks again! (The new smiley at the bottom of the blog page is neat too.)

  5. Hello Gil,

    Not trying to toot my own horn, but I’ve been living in Dublin for the last 3 years and have not once seen “bangers and mash” at a restaurant, much less O’Neill’s version of it. Perhaps you could find them in the odd pub, but other dishes such as Irish stews or “coddle” are much more prevalent. Same goes with Boxtys, you can find them in tourist bars, but wouldn’t really find them in pubs the average person drinks in.

    But I really want to find these elusive dishes now, and I’ll keep you updated!

  6. Speaking of Bangers & Mash we were in London for the 1st time in ’98. We were walking by Sherlock Holmes the first day and I suggested to the Child Bride that we drop in for lunch. Being of the korean persuasion she refused any place so dark but spotted a more acceptable chrome and glass place nearby. Koreans love chrome and glass. I had the bangers and mash which I thought was the most awful, horrible, disgusting thing I had ever eaten. I naturally mentioned it to our department Administrative Assistant who was from merry old.. I still remember her comment.

    “Did someone feed you that awful crap? That is what they force on defenseless school kids.”

    1. I lived in the Cotswolds for three years, traveling throughout the United Kingdom and Great Britain and have yet to find fish and chips in America nearly as good as those in the humble little fish and chip shops I frequented in small towns such as Bourton on the Water and Cirencester. The best fish and chips in the Albuquerque area are still an inauthentic facsimile–an Americanized parody. Give me fish wrapped in newspaper any day over fish served in a Styrofoam box or ceramic plate. Give me England’s thick, flaccid chips and freshly deep-fried fish that aren’t uniform in shape or size like America’s overgrown fish stick variety. Give me Sarson’s Malt Vinegar instead of ketchup. Give me real fish and chips! Though you won’t find the real deal in New Mexico, the fish and chips at the Fat Squirrel and O’Hare’s in Rio Rancho and those at the Two Fools Tavern are good, albeit still fairly Americanized.

      1. I second that opinion, Gil! I lived in New Zealand for three years in the Bay of Islands (north tip of the North Island) area and had wonderful fish & chips prepared from fish caught the same morning. The key to fish & chips is fresh fish, and, of course, the right batter recipe (lighter than heavier). Fish & Chips suck everywhere I have tried them in New Mexico. An utter waste of money. The other utter waste of money in NM are crab cakes. Just can’t get them right for my taste. Those two dishes are my culinary pet peeves in NM. Gil, what’s up – do you think the problem is fresh fish or terrible recipes in NM?

      2. There are a number of reasons for which fish and chips in America just don’t measure up.

        People living in coastal England (the fish and chips snobs) go so far as advising never to eat fish and chips if you can’t see the sea. The closer to the water, the higher the chances of getting freshly caught fish. Being a landlocked state some 800 miles from the ocean speaks for itself as to the quality and freshness of our seafood. Some restaurateurs have it shipped on ice daily. It’s about as fresh as you can get it in the Land of Enchantment.

        The fish shipped to New Mexico for fish and chips has a “processed” flavor. In England, fewer preservatives are used, allowing natural flavors to shine through. Worse, American restaurants tend to be very heavy-handed with batter, so much so that the batter overwhelms the delicate fish.

        In England, the batter (water (or great British beer), flour and baking soda) is used lightly. When you bite into the fish, you’re actually tasting fish and not batter (or worse, air). We’ve had fish here which remind us of breakfast cereal where half the box is air.

        In deference to healthier lifestyles, many English chippys (places which serve fish and chips) are now using vegetable or corn oil. Old-timers in England will tell you both the fish and chips should be fried in lard for a crispier, tastier batter. It’s not likely persnickety Americans would go for using lard to fry fish.

        As for the “chips,” there’s a significant difference between chips and the French fries most American restaurants serve. That’s a discussion for another place and time.

        Insofar as crab cakes, you’ve got to try Larry McGoldrick’s recipe: http://www.abqtopten.com/blog/maryland-crabcakes/. Larry is a Baltimore native who was weaned on crab cakes. He’s selflessly shared his recipe with several restaurants which have garnered rave reviews for them.

      3. I hate to break such lovely memories but serving fish & chips whipped in a newspaper has been very illegal for over 30-years. Too many tourists & locals alike were dying from ink & filth contaminated newsprint.

        1. Aaha…so those are the missing ingredients, possibly, that impede me from finding that special flavoring of the frying batter that I so lusted after for so many years which made the meatlessness of Friday night suppaahs so well worth the sacrifice!!! Indeed, the holy internet confirms the barring of newsprint in the ’80s, but I did not see a reference to a scientific journal where hard-data was presented using the scientific method. Another notation purported the heat from the FnC (Fish n Chips, not FOXNewsChannel) actually melted the newsprint which contaminated the batter. On the other hand, some readers may recall having a need to wash their hands after finding their fingers besmirched with black newsprint, ink, after reading a newspaper. A major opinion was that newpapers were cheap to wrap in and an especial manner…cone shaped… was created whereby folks could amble and eat out of the cone at the same time without worry the grease or ingredients would fall out.
          As an aside, last week I stumbled across the apparent resumption…i.e. after “ending”…of Doc Martin on the free TUBI channel. It had been a modern-day series set in seaside England featuring a pre-aged, curmudgeony physician. Anyway, there are a couple of scenes where he (despite being somewhat finicky in addition to erudite) is seen carrying a fresh fish as well as a fileted piece, whereby they were wrapped in newspaper!!! This whole situation today has apparently squirmed over to comedic fare whereby a cartoon can be found of a fresh fish, clearly wrapped in the NYT whereby the fish is seen to say “The New York Times?!? How degrading!”
          Lastly, in today’s world of chic, dining venues, one might find eco-friendly Folks who wish to keep a bit of nostalgia alive by using specially made paper being a lookalike news on one side while being plain/waxed on the side next to the food.

          1. Roberto, I had a colleague in Jolly Ol’ who swears every time he had fish and chips, the fish was wrapped in newspaper featuring a Page 3 girl. Page 3, or Page Three, was a British newspaper convention of publishing a large image of a topless female glamour model (known as a Page 3 girl) on the third page of mainstream red-top tabloids. He gained about fifty pounds during his tour of England.

            1. Blimey! Hope that poor fellow was able to shake those pounds off once he got home from his tour. Indeed, some of those yellow journals can be abominable! Of course, if he had a pint or two with his FnC, the problem could be
              compounded for sure, for sure.

              BTW, I just noted, as is often the case elsewhere, if one clicks on, e.g. my, attachment herein, that it will expand in size.

  7. FYI Bangers and mash is an English dish, not an Irish one. In fact, it’s not really found in Ireland. Even boxtys aren’t really eaten in Ireland anymore.

    1. Hello LC

      I referred to bangers and mash as an “Irish favorite” not as a dish which originated in Ireland. Admittedly it’s been more than 30 years since I last set foot in the United Kingdom, but I recall bangers and mash being quite popular not only in England, but in Ireland and Scotland, too. I contacted a few of my colleagues in Ireland and they confirm bangers and mash are still quite popular in Ireland. The cuisine in Ireland is evolving significantly with much emphasis being placed on local seafood and while that evolution has diminished the popularity and prominence of boxtys, they are still a traditional Irish food served throughout Ireland.


  8. Gil, next time you’re at O’Neill’s I highly recommend that you try the Boxty Reuben (a traditional Reuben sandwich that uses boxty in place of bread), and the waffle-cut sweet potato fries. But not together. Well, unless you’re really hardcore. 🙂

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