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Mystery Diner: McNally’s breakfast pays homage to Emerald Isle

The time hovering around St. Patrick’s Day is when the Irish diaspora come together to honor their heritage. But, it has increasingly become a time for those of any ethnic background to celebrate all things Irish by means of drinking, eating, music-listening and all-around revelry. To engage in such behavior (any time of year), there is no better local place than McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub.

With its food, brews, live music and ambience, McNally’s in downtown St. Charles pays homage to the Emerald Isle every day.

I’ve sampled many items from McNally’s lunch/dinner menu and have enjoyed everything I’ve ever tried. So, naturally, I was enthusiastic about its breakfast menu. That’s right. McNally’s also serves breakfast. Only on the weekends – from 9 a.m. to noon. And, let me tell you, it’s well worth the week-long wait to wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning for a hearty, Irish breakfast. It’s one of my favorite culinary exports of Ireland, and at McNally’s, they do it right.

To start, save the latte and cappuccino cravings for another day. McNally’s doesn’t serve fancy coffee drinks. If you’re after a creamy concoction to start your morning, have a Guinness. And don’t forget to add a little black currant for a tinge of sweetness. They also serve coffee ($2), Barry’s Breakfast Tea ($2), orange and grapefruit juice, Bloody Mary’s ($5), and Mimosas ($4).

Our waitress never let us see the bottom of our coffee mugs and was diligent about keeping up with our pre-meal coffee binge.

The traditional Irish breakfast served at McNally’s – The Full Monty ($12), often called an “Ulster Fry” – is a family recipe, which consists of Irish bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, two eggs (any style, but traditionally they are fried), Heinz beans and soda bread. The Full Monty spares no space on a plate, and everything is touching because you’re meant to combine components rather than eat them one-by-one.

McNally’s uses Winston’s Irish sausage and bacon. The Chicago-based Winston’s Sausage opened in 1967 to cater to Chicago’s Irish and Irish-American populations. Winston’s uses an Irish-family recipe for its sausages, and they are robust and savory.

My dining companion ordered The Full Monty, and – with the eating habits of children in mind – we ordered the Buttermilk Pancakes ($8) to share.

The mini-Monty or the Essential Irish Breakfast ($9) is the smaller version of a traditional Irish breakfast and comes with Irish sausage, bacon, a fried egg, Heinz beans and soda bread.

Because my dining companion opted for The Full Monty, I politely chose an alternative to my beloved Irish breakfast.

I ordered the McNally’s Breakfast Boxty ($9), a folded potato-crepe filled with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, spinach, bacon, onions and cheddar cheese. The boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake, is used as a wrap similar to a tortilla. The crepe’s thin, crunchy outer layer – combined with its filling – gave the dish a symmetrical balance of tastes and textures.

After lightly smearing brown-sugar butter and a layer of warm maple syrup over the top of the pancakes we ordered, I began to indulge. The chef adds vanilla and butter to the pancake batter, which made the pancakes taste as if they were laced with sugar cookies. They are incredibly delicious!

Other dishes include the Irish Eggs Benedict ($10), an English Muffin topped with grilled tomato, Irish bacon, cheddar cheese, poached eggs with Orange Whiskey Hollandaise and seasoned breakfast potatoes; and the Corned Beef Hasherole ($9), which consists of crisp skillet potatoes tossed in a creamy mix of McNally’s slow-simmered corned beef with red onions, bell peppers and cheddar cheese baked in a bread crumb crust and topped with two eggs.

McNally’s also serves more traditional American fare, such as an American Breakfast Sandwich ($8), French Toast ($7) and Oatmeal ($3.50).

For years, McNally’s has been employing the “holy trinity” of success in the restaurant business – quality food, an inviting atmosphere and great service. The Irish pub plays an important role in the social scene of St. Charles and has firmly cemented its Irish roots in the suburban city.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant each week and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

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