(Continued from Wednesday…)
It’s been so long since we’ve dined at Clancy’s it was hard to find it. What surprised us about our search was how many of the neighbors had never heard of it. Clancy’s is an institution in the neighborhood. These had to be transplants.
We arrived long before dusk and it was a lovely evening. Tables were set out on the sidewalk along two ends of the building flanking the front door. They offered us seats at the bar or a table upstairs, but we kept the plan to eat outside. I was happy we did when Patrick Young walked out the front door and approached our table. I haven’t seen him since the 610 Stompers danced at the symphony for Christmas. And before that it was when we went into the restaurant he operated with his two brothers, the Oak Street barbecue place called Squeal. We liked Squeal well enough and were disappointed at how short-lived it was.
Patrick is the most gregarious of the three brothers and it’s always fun to visit with him. A quick look at the menu reminded us why Clancy’s is such a “thing.” It’s one of the few places in town to serve sweetbreads back in the days of the Contemporary Creole restaurant craze. It has a legendary soft shell crab and too many other wildly popular dishes to mention. But there are a lot of great restaurants Uptown, and what makes Clancy’s stand out from the others is not the food, excellent as it is. It is the camaraderie of all the “regulars” here. Everyone knows everyone. The front room is the hotspot, followed closely by the bar area, which is small and quaint. If you aren’t a “regular” you’re likely to be upstairs. Or outside, where walk-ins like us wind up.
We couldn’t have had a better waiter though, so it worked. There’s no such thing as a not-excellent waiter here. I wasn’t too hungry so I ordered a shrimp remoulade. I wish I had investigated the $17 plus price on this dish. It should have tipped me off that this was no ordinary shrimp cocktail. It was enormous, and more of a salad than a simple shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were enormous and coated in the throat-grabbing horseradish red sauce like the one at Arnaud’s. This sat atop a pile of lettuce and was flanked by disks of hearts of palm, a small pile of shredded carrot, half a deviled egg and another pile of heirloom cherry tomato halves. This was a great salad and extremely filling. I could and should have stopped after this.
Tom got oysters, which was maybe the most familiar fried oyster dish in town and very likely originated there. A few fried oysters on top of a little spinach topped with a dollop of melted Brie cheese. The oysters were a little small and perfectly fried in cornmeal, golden brown, crispy and greaseless.
Our second course was the evening’s special of crabmeat gnocchi with mushrooms and microgreens. The gnocchi were plump and well done, ladled liberally with crabmeat in a rich sauce with mushrooms. This was delicious and very filling. Tom got a favorite here, the sweetbreads in a Marsala sauce with mushrooms. These were as great as they ever were here. A dazzling new gourmet dish of the Eighties still going strong.
There was a steady stream of diners sidling up to these outdoor tables and soon Clancy’s was filled inside and out, just as it has been since 1983, and certainly since 1986 when owner and Iowa native Brad Hollingsworth took it over. It was a lovely evening.
We couldn’t leave without getting dessert. I was happy to be able to resist pots de creme, something I rarely do. But Tom had to get Bananas Foster bread pudding, something he can’t resist either. Here was an unusually beautiful presentation of this most pedestrian dessert. Looking like a massive muffin with an impressive extra-large muffin top, this beautiful specimen glistened with a lovely glaze that dripped off the sides and puddled underneath. It had an intense flavor of bananas and a delicate consistency. This was magnificent, and I don’t even like bread pudding. Tom finished this handily.
We left this tiny Uptown gourmet microcosm with fond memories of the halcyon days, and new pleasant ones from tonight. Good place.