Molly Brannigan’s Irish Pub – Erie, PA – Fat Guy Reviewer: Scott

**UPDATE: Unfortunately Molly Brannigan’s is now closed permanently. Following extensive water damage to their ceiling and dining area they made the decision to cease operations. I have left the review up for the time being.

Recently I had lunch at Molly Brannigan’s in downtown Erie.  I have been going to this restaurant for many years ever since it opened but had not visited in some time.

When I worked downtown Molly’s was semi-regular in my lunch rotation.  It has long been an Erie destination for good food and Irish classics, such as reuben sandwiches, shepherd’s pie, potato and leek soup, boxty, and bangers and mash (sausages with mashed potatoes which were always quite good).  Among their rotating selection of draft beers you will always find Guinness. You can also get a Magners Hard Cider which is a bit of a rarity to find on tap.

 Molly’s was originally opened by John Melody (owner of Tap House, U-Pick-6, Public House, etc).  John sold his interest in Molly’s many years ago and in the last few years it was purchased by Red Letter Hospitality (owners of The Cork, Skunk and Goat Tavern, etc.).  Red Letter undertook a reasonable size renovation of Molly’s after purchasing the restaurant but a good deal of the original charm remains. Thankfully this includes the old bar and related woodwork – imported from a former pub in Ireland when Molly’s was first opened.  The fresco style painting on the highest recessed portion of the ceiling did not make the cut, however.  Folks familiar with Molly’s will know what I am talking about if they happened to look up while they are there.  Anyway, enough with the history.  On with the food!

Molly Brannigan's Reuben
Molly Brannigan’s Reuben

Since I was at Molly’s for lunch I decided on a classic reuben with fries.  I ordered the Thousand Island dressing on the side and ranch for the fries, of course (the universal condiment).  While I like Thousand Island well enough I wanted to only put it on part of the sandwich – for science!  My server was pleasant and attentive.  She also may have been the only server working lunch that day; but was handling all her tables well.  Food arrived pretty quickly (15 min or less) even though the dining room was well populated that day.  The reuben itself had plenty of corned beef, just enough sauerkraut and was served on a nicely toasted marble rye bread.  The corned beef was very tender and juicy (as corned beef goes).  I remember years ago when Molly’s first opened rather than sauerkraut the reuben came with a kind of braised cabbage instead.  I don’t know if that is the more traditional recipe, but I wondered if more folks would prefer the sauerkraut.  The fries were perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy inside.  The ranch dressing was expertly made, as well; not too thin and just ‘ranchy’ enough to compliment the fries or anything else you would dip in it.  Ranch is serious business.  Portion size was reasonable for the average person (or even, myself) and I definitely did not leave hungry.

Overall I was pleased with my recent meal at Molly Brannigan’s and will certainly visit again. In looking at the dinner menu online the Bangers and Mash along with the Shepherd’s Pie are still there.  The boxty and the leek and potato soup did not survive the change in ownership and/or pandemic induced downsizing of menus. Boxty is an Irish potato pancake if you are not familiar.  I ordered it only once at Molly’s, myself, and decided there were better things on the menu.  I imagine others must have felt the same.  I did enjoy the leek and potato soup, though, on past visits. I will miss that.

Molly Brannigan's lunch menu
Molly Brannigan’s lunch menu – As of May 2022

Above I included a picture of the lunch menu showing items and prices current as of this writing (May 2022).  I plan to return to try additional menu items, and maybe even go for dinner instead.  I plan to add that visit to this review.  The cost of dining out in Erie, as elsewhere, has certainly crept up in recent times for a variety of reason. Molly’s is no exception. Prices are bit higher than most any establishment nearby such as those in the new Flagship City Food Hall but I don’t feel that is a fair comparison.  Molly’s is a large-ish regular sit down restaurant with a higher operating cost than any of those small vendors; so you must take that into account.  I will say, though, $15 for a sandwich and fries in this area does seem a bit high; even considering all of this.

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