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The AJC reviews Mac McGee, Decatur

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Even from across the Decatur Square, the blaringly bright red beacon that is Mac McGee’s facade is hard to miss.

When you step inside, the intimate space is all brick and warm wood, complete with many of the trappings of a traditional Irish pub. Seating is mostly high-topped tables, though the lucky groups can snag a cozy semi-enclosed nook of a table, complete with a direct line to the bartender through the “confessional window.” But for my money, the

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

best seat in the house is dead center at the bar, admiring the overwhelming wall of amber spirits.

Whiskey lovers, rejoice, for Mac McGee is your new mecca. Owner Andy Anglin set out to create a true whiskey bar, and led by general manager Casey Teague, this little Irish pub has amassed a collection of scotches, ryes, whiskeys and bourbons that numbers in the hundreds.

As we sit, we receive two menus from the bartender. The first is a laminated piece of paper with food on one side and an

impressive beer list that expands well beyond the stereotypical Irish pub drafts, including many craft and local brews, on the other. The second — announced with a startling THUD as it lands on the bar — is a 3-inch-thick tome of brown liquor known simply as “The Book of Whiskey.”

I’ve seen a few other bourbon selections that rival theirs, and the scotch lists at a handful of bars could give them a run for their money. But I struggle to think of another bar that celebrates whiskey in all forms as thoroughly as Mac McGee.

While aficionados gorge themselves on the sensory overload that is “The Book of Whiskey” — complete with detailed history and tasting notes of each spirit, sorted not only by country, but also region, city and county of origin — this is a fantastic place for beginners to broaden their horizons.

Credit: Becky Stein

Credit: Becky Stein

With three-glass flights available, ranging from $20-$30, and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff to guide you, educating yourself in all things whiskey has never been easier.

And if, like my wife, you want something other than whiskey? Our bartender replies with a smile, “We keep one bottle of all of the other spirits under the bar, just in case.”

As I sit contentedly trading sips between neat glasses of Colonel E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon ($15) and Hirsch Selection 25-year rye ($28), I remember that I also came here to eat.

After spending many an evening cozied up to the bar of various Irish pubs, I feel that I could recite most of the menu before even glancing at it. More often than not, when I’m in such a place, the food takes a back seat to the real reason for being there — a few pints, perhaps a soccer match, and some whiskey with friends. And while, at first glance, Mac McGee’s menu looks to be more of the same, you may just find yourself rediscovering a love for some of these Irish classics.

Credit: Becky Stein

Credit: Becky Stein

Chef Kyle Saylor keeps the focus primarily on traditional Irish food — with a few twists — and his dedication to making most components in-house does wonders for elevating the experience.

Take the tried-and-true fried cod and chips ($13) — a single massive piece of moist, flaky cod encased in a light and crispy tempura-style batter so good you’ll scrounge your plate for the last little morsels. My plate of fish and chips still stands as one of the best I’ve had, be it here or across the pond.

Even more traditional is the Full Irish Breakfast ($13), complete with runny fried eggs, house-made bangers and rasher — lean Irish bacon — black and white pudding, beans, tomato and soda bread.

On the slightly less traditional side is a delicious, if sometimes unwieldy, spread of toast topped with wild mushrooms, Saxon Alpine cheese and basil oil ($8). Alongside an order of curried chips ($5) — crisp, thick-cut potato wedges served with a curry dipping sauce — these snacks make for great table-sharing starters while you peruse for your next drink.

And while you may want to fully appreciate the unmolested flavor of Saylor’s house-ground double cheeseburger ($9), spring for the extra two dollars to add blue cheese and a rasher.

While Mac McGee is certainly a great place to sit with friends over a drink, and the whiskey selection alone should entice enthusiasts from all corners of the metro area into Decatur, the caliber of pub food coming out of Saylor’s kitchen will likely have everyone else coming back for more.

MAC MCGEE

111 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-377-8050

2stars5

Food: Irish pub grub

Service: Friendly and knowledgeable, especially about whiskey

Best dishes: Fried cod and chips, full Irish breakfast, double burger with blue cheese and rasher

Vegetarian selections: Cheese sandwich and a few salads and starters

Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Children: Yes, but it is a bar, so come on the early side.

Parking: Wherever you can find a spot near the Decatur Square

Reservations: Yes, but only for larger parties

Wheelchair access: Yes

Smoking: No

Noise level: Low to loud, depending on the crowd

Patio: Yes

Takeout: Yes

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11 comments Add your comment

jclark

October 4th, 2012
3:09 pm

But do they have Pappy’s????

Jennifer

October 4th, 2012
3:29 pm

If the visit was well and, “The caliber of pub food coming out of Saylor’s kitchen will likely have everyone else coming back for more.” Then, why only only Two Stars??

Christine

October 4th, 2012
3:41 pm

Great review but why only 2 stars?

Jadzia

October 4th, 2012
11:45 pm

I absolutely love the food at Mac McGees. I think they do the best pub food in Atlanta, traditional yet with the flavors we wish pub food had. They use to make an “egg in a hole” with brisket along the edges of the big piece of toast and a perfectly fried yet runny yolk egg in the middle. Nothing better after a night out! Their cheese board is reasonably priced, simple yet well thought out, and darn tasty. Really I haven’t had a bad meal there. I say this as someone who does the chef’s dinner at 246 and loves going to the little Alscatian place around the corner from McGees.

Lizzy

October 5th, 2012
9:22 am

For the love of stars, Jon, how on earth do you, John & Jenny endure the harping on the rating system. People, please read the review and decide if what it describes is worth your time and money to darken the doorway then take the monumental leap of faith! To borrow one of AA’s sayings..K(eep)I(t)S(imple)S(tupid). And, Jon, you had me with the fish and chips commentary – I am so there!

Reading comprehension is dead

October 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

LIzzy, I had the same thought when I saw Jennifer’s and Christine’s posts. I can only conclude that they are a.) trolling, or b.) have the IQ of a houseplant. ***smh***

JMSATL

October 5th, 2012
7:53 pm

I LOVE MAC McGEE’S! I ate there last year, and the food was surprisingly fantastic. I was driving, so I couldn’t try any of the whiskys, but I’m excited to do so soon. Thanks for reviewing this step into Ireland just up the street!

Kieran Pavlick

October 7th, 2012
5:42 pm

Jon says,it’s Two Stars,it’s Two Stars. Now if he recommended a Stock!

Chzaal

October 8th, 2012
8:51 am

To be fair, looking at a review and seeing that it got two stars sends and underwhelming message. If you have to read the review for the big “oh it’s a GOOD two stars review” revelation, maybe it’s time to rethink the rating process. This is more like a three star review that got two stars.

Mac McGee really deserves more than a mediocre review. The place is consistently warm and friendly, and the food is waaay above average Irish pub quality food. For contrast, see Limerick Junction’s barely edible college dorm room inspired fare and predictable beer list.

Mac McGee is doing something different–an authentic, everyone-is-welcome pub that takes pride in what it does. It feels great there. It’s a great addition to Decatur’s scene. Check it out, people.

Edward

October 9th, 2012
1:39 pm

Mac McGee also does monthly whisk(e)y tasting events that are worthwhile for anyone looking to explore deeper into the world of grain-distilled spirits.

dmorrison

October 9th, 2012
2:14 pm

Jclark, they sell out very quickly when it comes in. Their allocation of Pappy will arrive in late October. Slainte!