Irish eyes are smilin' 

Hibernia a foodie find.

It's mysterious why some countries are known for their cuisine and others aren't. But once you start thinking about it, however, it's really not that big a head-scratcher. It's all about the ingredients. Lots of fertile land? Then there's room for crops and cattle. Crops lead to fine breads, tortillas, cakes, pies and pastries. Cows lead to milk, cream, butter, cheese and beef. Not so much land, or not enough grass? Then you've got chicken, pigs, ducks and geese. Surrounded by water? Then you've got fish, lobster, crabs, oysters, squid and all the other bounty of the sea.

It's understandable, then, that when people think of the world's great culinary hot spots, Ireland isn't the first place that comes to mind. Like England (which might be even lower down the foodie food chain than Ireland), the Emerald Isle is a windswept and rocky place. It takes hearty souls and hearty stock to live there, and the edible raw material that went into creating the foodways of a country like France or Italy just aren't on the menu.

That said, there is Irish cuisine, and the few authentic samples of it we've found over the years have been surprisingly good. Case in point: Little Rock's new Irish tavern and restaurant, Hibernia. Located in a strip mall location but run by real Irishmen and featuring a menu full of Irish favorites, it's definitely a stop any foodie should make. It could very easily become a favorite.

Though the menu at Hibernia features more than enough American dishes like burgers, sandwiches, steaks and po'boys (as well as bar fare like hot wings, mozzarella sticks, cheese dip and spinach dip), we came for what we'd heard was the authentic and interesting slate of Irish favorites. We weren't disappointed.

Irish food is working-man's grub, stick-to-your-innards hearty. There is a sturdy loveliness to it that you're never going to get from food spawned in a country where it's easier to get by, and the Irish items at Hibernia reflect that. As an appetizer, we debated between the prawn cocktail ($6.49) or the thoroughly Irish curry chips ($3.89), but ended up going with the garlic mushrooms ($6.49).

While we didn't know what to expect, it turned out to be a deceptively simple but truly delicious little dish: diced wild 'shrooms, sauteed in a garlic-and-herb-infused stout reduction. Served with toasted ovals of cheese-sprinkled black bread, it was a really fine way to start the meal. We found ourselves wishing there'd been a few more pieces of that firm and lovely bread.

From the list of Irish entrees (look the menu over closely, as some of the traditional stuff is hiding among the more pedestrian fare), Companion went the easy route with the fish and chips ($8.29). The reviewer, meanwhile, went a little more adventurous and tried the colcannon (a steal at $6.49). We didn't go completely out on a limb, however, and try the Irish breakfast ($9.95) a feast of Irish sausages, bacon, fried eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms and (the deal-breaker) black and white pudding. Think Jell-O meets blood and guts.

Companion's fish and chips turned out to be good: thick slabs of codfish, encased in a light and crispy batter and accompanied by well-seasoned fries and a side of homemade tartar sauce. It was the colcannon, however, that was a real eye opener. What arrived at the table wasn't much to look at — thick chunks of smoked ham, baked potatoes, carrots, fried cabbage and buttery mashed potatoes, all layered into a bowl. The result, however, was much more than the sum of its parts. While cabbage isn't everybody's bag, this was part of a sweet little tune, all the flavors married together almost perfectly. If we have learned nothing else from professional chef, chain smoker and globe-hopping curmudgeon Anthony Bourdain, it's that poor folks' food is usually best food — the result of people who can't afford better making delicious do with what they have. While it felt like we'd eaten the Blarney Stone by the time we threw in the napkin on the colcannon, the dish was the proof in the (thankfully blood-free) pudding.

While Hibernia might be one of the best places in Little Rock to stop in for a pint of Guinness (they've got it on tap ... duh), its big menu offers a little something for everybody — and a whole lot for foodies stalking Irish cuisine in the wild. Trying to eat two pounds of ham, cabbage and mashed potatoes before returning to work isn't the smartest thing this reviewer has ever done, but it was one of the tastiest.

Hibernia Irish Tavern

9700 Rodney Parham



Quick bite

One of the things we missed on our first go-round (but which will definitely be hitting in the future) is the Hibernia grilled cheese ($7.89), which the menu describes as artisan bread stuffed with Irish cheddar or pepper jack cheese, bacon, sliced tomato and roasted onion, all of which is then buttered, grilled and topped with herbed mayo. Definitely the road to a slightly earlier grave, but it sounds so good that we're willing to make that trade-off.


11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Other info

Full bar, all CC accepted and family friendly, with a solid kids' menu.


From the ArkTimes store

Comments (11)

Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Dining Review

  • Right at the corner

    The Restaurant at the Market dishes up date-night deliciousness.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Tastes right

    But Brave New needs a tune-up.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • La Ha forever

    The newly spiffed-up Mexican favorite still warms hearts, bellies.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Right at the corner

    • Your review matches our experiences. Eric, LouAnn, and occasionally Bubba all truly make one feel…

    • on September 21, 2017
  • Re: Tastes right

    • 'Diogenes - I'm glad you've had good meals there. However on Saturday May 28th 2011…

    • on September 20, 2017
  • Re: Tastes right

    • Big Fun you seem to be suffering from Pteronarcophobia :-)

    • on September 20, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation