Stepping Out: Seamus McDaniel’s
1208 Tamm Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139
I recently traveled to Dogtown to eat at what many consider the neighborhood’s crown jewel: Seamus McDaniel’s. Many of my friends told me that this place is famous for its hamburgers, so, naturally, I had to check it out.
From the outside, McDaniel’s appears to go on forever. The interior is surprisingly huge considering it’s an Irish pub, but it can easily fill the seats. Even on a weekday at lunch, there was a crowd large enough for me to get pressed up against a large man trying to get through the door. I don’t think he enjoyed the experience.
McDaniel’s is obviously set up to serve the masses rather than the individual. The interior felt very artificial—along the lines of Chotchkie’s restaurant from “Office Space,” except, sadly, with no flair and no Jennifer Aniston. The other big difference is the service: The servers in the movie (perhaps excluding Jennifer Aniston) were upbeat and attentive, while our waitress couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the floor.
We started with the buffalo wings, which came out piping hot, as a mouthwatering, fragrant steam rose from the meat. I loved the sauce, which was spicy but not eye-watering. Unfortunately, I was hoping to see juices ooze from the tender meat after each bite, but instead, the chicken itself was kind of listless. Despite this, however, I’d still probably try this appetizer again.
The first entrée was a Philly beef sandwich. A large poppyseed roll was filled with thin slices of beef and topped with green peppers, onions and a mysterious white Philly cheese spread. The sandwich and the accompanying french fries barely fit on the same plate. In terms of quality, I would say the Philly was fine, but not great. The cheese brought nothing to the sandwich besides excess calories. A few times I tried just the cheese and found it completely flavorless. The biggest problem with the Philly, however, was that it was just too salty. Even the crinkle fries were unimpressive.
People go to Seamus McDaniel’s for the hamburgers. The room we were in was filled with people, and it looked like almost all had ordered burgers. We thought the petite, elderly woman reading “Jane Eyre” and drinking tea right next to us was the only exception. Turns out her gigantic mushroom Swiss burger just took longer to come out. With everyone appearing to be a fan of the hamburgers, I was more than excited to try my barbecue cheeseburger.
I admit, it was solid. The burger patty was really thick, and the pink center was a gorgeous site to behold. The beef was definitely moist as well, with juices and steam spilling from the divided center. The hamburger had all the makings of a wonderful culinary feat, and yet I came away with a sort of “meh” reaction because it lacked great flavor. Even the cheddar cheese failed to add any discernable taste. Likewise, the hamburger meat itself could have used some seasoning; it had a surprisingly dull taste that added no punch to the sandwich as a whole. The best thing was definitely the barbecue sauce. I think I could have had a similar experience lathering a piece of bread with the same sauce, however. Maybe I chose the wrong hamburger option, but as it stands, I cannot say that McDaniel’s provided anything more than an OK hamburger.
My so-so experience at Seamus McDaniel’s was bewildering considering the praise I had heard. Perhaps I was unlucky and came on a bad day. Or maybe it was just due to something I like to call “the Great Seamus Groupthink Conspiracy”: Everyone claims McDaniel’s is the best because everyone else says it is, and even though the food is only mediocre, no one will admit it because of the fear of wrath from the majority. Whatever the case, McDaniel’s is not very expensive (burgers and sandwiches are about $8), so it’s probably worth trying it yourself. But if you do, you probably won’t see me there.