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The Quiet Man
64 East McFarlan Street
Dover, Morris County, New Jersey
(973) 366-6333

By The Artful Diner
February 10, 2003

In 1952, when the award-winning movie The Quiet Man was being filmed on the southwest coast of Ireland, young Francis Burke was working as a waiter at the famed Ashford Castle. Many of the movie's cast members stayed and dined at the castle, including the stars, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The young man was so impressed with Mr. Wayne that, years later, after coming to America, he named his pub after the film and in honor of "The Duke." And, subsequently, Ms. O'Hara even paid a call at Mr. Burke's establishment.

Despite this intriguing bit of history, The Quiet Man resembles just about every other convivial Irish pub/neighborhood happy-tappy you've ever laid eyes on. The cozy, bustling -- often smoky -- bar comes replete with comfortable high-backed booths, television screens, and a charming cast of local characters. And yet... the moment you enter the diminutive (smoke-free) dining room dressed in handsome woodwork and adorned with sketches of some of Ireland's favorite sons, you sense that your taste buds are in for infinitely more than the all-too-typical assortment of take it or leave it "pub grub."

Of course, if you happen to be in the mood for a grilled open-faced Rueben ($7.95), fresh roasted hot turkey sandwich ($10.95), fat, juicy burger ($7.95), homemade chicken potpie ($10.95), or delicious "Dublin-style" fish and chips doused with vinegar and salt ($11.95), you'll find them all present and accounted for; and Chef Russell Baker, who has presided over The Quiet Man's kitchen for nearly two decades, will turn them out with considerable style. But don't be afraid to be a bit more adventurous...

Why not start things off with sautéed slices of slightly crunchy asparagus served over al dente penne pasta with a touch of browned garlic and olive oil ($8.95)? Very nice, indeed. As is the beautifully presented Belgian endive salad ($6.95). Diced apples, pecans, and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese form a delicious epicenter surrounded by vertically arranged leaves of endive that protrude above the rim of the bowl like an armada of ancient obelisks. A tangy balsamic vinaigrette adds just the proper complementary finishing touch.

Another highly regarded appetizer is the combo of grilled eggplant and tomatoes ($7.95). Add a few roasted peppers, some fresh mozzarella, a warm basil vinaigrette, and you have a simple but most satisfying prelude to your meal. If you want to get a bit fancier, however, the kitchen can certainly oblige. Feel free to indulge yourself in such opening moves as baked Brie in puff pastry consummated with a zesty port wine sauce ($7.95), or a grilled, sliced portobello mushroom cap over whipped potatoes spruced up with Madeira wine sauce ($6.95).

But as we move on to the entrées, let us have no misunderstandings... Like all that has gone before, they would never be accused of being "gourmet" fare... but neither are they meant to be. What The Quiet Man does -- and does extremely well, I might add -- is serve up gratifyingly prodigious portions of well-executed, comforting cuisine at prices that won't break the bank.

Take the special salmon ($19.95) as a case in point... It is lightly blackened, just enough to invigorate rather than inundate the fish's natural flavor, and the accompanying beurre blanc and deliciously decadent scalloped potatoes find a delightful counterpoint in a zippy tomato salsa served up in a ramekin of radicchio.

The robust pan-seared pork tenderloin ($18.95) is yet another indication that Mr. Baker knows what he is about. The "other white meat" is exceedingly prone to overcooking and has been known to dry and toughen at the drop of a fork. But these medallions are incredibly moist and succulent, studded with black pepper, and consummated with a seductive brandy demi-glace and just a touch of cream. A sumptuous mound of whipped potatoes and fruity applesauce are most appropriate companions.

Because of their delicate disposition, the grilled chicken breast paillards ($15.95) also have a tendency to turn droughty. But, like the aforementioned pork, they, too, are quite moist and gently bathed in lemon and olive oil. The very same addictive whipped potatoes are in attendance, as is a meaty grilled portobello mushroom.

As you might expect, steak holds a prominent place among the main courses. And the sirloin strip appears in a number of delicious guises: grilled with sautéed wild mushrooms and a heady merlot wine sauce ($19.95); pan-seared with an Irish Whisky demi-glace and splash of cream ($19.95); or grilled and sliced with white wine and garlic butter sauce ($17.95). All are tender, immensely flavorful, and heartily recommended.

House-made desserts continue along the homey, hospitable theme. Luscious rice pudding ($4.50) embellished with cinnamon and currants is comfort food personified, and the semi-sweet chocolate tart ($5.00), a dense and chewy delight. You will also find a rustic apple crisp dressed with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream ($5.00) and a savory carrot cake ($5.00) to tickle your taste buds. In my book, however, nothing quite compares to the incredible peanut butter-chocolate cheesecake ($5.00), a mellifluous mélange of creamy peanut butter crowned with a mouthwatering layer of semi-sweet chocolate.

Each year, Chef Baker offers up a special menu for St. Patrick's Day. Along with a number of special appetizers and desserts, the entrées always include such perennial favorites as traditional corned beef dinner ($12.95), corned beef sandwich ($9.95), Dublin-style fish n' chips doused with vinegar and salt ($12.95), and Irish lamb, beef, and vegetable stew with whipped potatoes ($13.95).

The Quiet Man is one of those rare establishments with which you strike up a long-term culinary relationship. Indeed, if my wife and I lived in closer proximity, we would surely be dining here several times a month. On St. Patrick's Day, or any day of the year, this charming Irish pub is always worthy of a visit.

Cuisine: American/Pub Grub
Hours: Mon - Sat, 11:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is permitted in the bar area only.
Reservations: Not accepted
Parking: Small lot and street parking
Alcohol: License
Price: Inexpensive/Moderate
Handicapped Accessible: Everything on one level; restroom access difficult

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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