Fancy some fine Irish food and a heady pint? Head to Leland.
Diners may not think of the Port City suburb when deciding on a spot for weekend fun-tivities, but make no mistake: The Joyce has it all. Sunny patio seating equipped with an outdoor bar? Check. Three kinds of whiskey on tap? Check. A food menu chock full of Irish classics to pair ever-so-nicely with a lineup of local craft brews? Check, check.
I’ll admit: When I log into my Uber account, my number one “recommended” location is Slainte. I’m a sucker for the downtown Irish dive, so I was thrilled to hear the same service-industry group operates a sister restaurant under its wing (just to be clear, The Joyce and Southport Slainte are sister restaurants, while downtown’s bar and Monkey Junction’s pub are sister businesses.)
Equally as fabulous for football and day-drinking as it is for taking the family out for traditional Irish fare, Leland’s The Joyce is a no-brainer for folks who love delish grub and drinks. Between the Jameson on tap and digital countdown timer to St. Patty’s Day, the ambiance bears similarities to other Slaintes. Each place, however, respectfully caters to their main demographic. Downtown is the small, crowded pub, which does not serve food, but often has barflies chucking quarters in the jukebox while sipping on Tullemore Dew. Suburbia Slainte, in Monkey Junction and Southport, cater to consumers who want spirits, games and food. The Joyce follows suit, with a spacious, immaculate dining room, again honing in on the neighborhood sports-bar crowd who are hungrier for more than a Guinness.
My date and I went to The Joyce for an early lunch and started off with jumbo pretzels with jalapeño beer cheese. After practically zero wait time (granted, we were the only guests in there at the moment), out came two gloriously shiny twisted knots, heavily dusted with coarse sea salt. I untucked a yeasty corner and, despite the steamy pretzel facial, dug right in. The exterior was dark golden brown and had a crisp buttery bite, while the inside was fluffy and melted onto my tongue. Dunked into the mildly spicy, malty beer queso, it was an addictive way to start the meal. Beer: good. Cheese: good. Salty dough dipped in beer cheese: Come on! Do the math!
The menu didn’t offer an enormous amount of diversity, but I applaud The Joyce for honing in on one main concept: authentic Irish delicacies plus some bar-food staples. There were salads and wings, but it wasn’t eight pages of overkill, with copious amount of options that end up making diners less hungry.
Fish and chips seemed an obvious choice. The “market fish” (likely cod) was super fresh and battered in a light, crispy coating. It’s fried so, of course, there was a standard amount of grease, but, overall, each tartar-sauce-covered bite was surprisingly light and satisfying. A squeeze of lemon and a few splashes of malt vinegar cut through the fattiness. The hand-cut fries were well-seasoned, thoughtfully cooked, and most importantly house made and not out of a bag. The little cup of slaw could have been easily forgotten, but thank Guinness, I made sure it found its way into the review. It was creamy, refreshing and honestly rocked my world. A lot of coleslaws are throwaways; The Joyce’s was not.
I heard a handful of positive reviews about the steak and Guinness pie, and it had my date’s name all over it. Its mere sight was half of the fun. The pie came in an oval casserole dish, topped with a majestic puff-pastry cap. With each tap of the fork, the flaky dough cracked and fell into the meat stew, which brimmed with Guinness-braised beef tips, portobello mushrooms, pearl onions, carrots, and potatoes. A pinch of salt wouldn’t have hurt, but the barley-scented beef was tender and comforting, and the savory caramelized onions were rich and filling. Winner, winner: steak-and-Guinness-pie dinner!
The Leland restaurant ultimately caught my attention when a friend told me they had a burger so good (and topped with pastrami), he simply couldn’t ever order anything else. The Joyce Burger came loaded with thinly sliced cured meat, smeared with Thousand Island dressing. The outrageous handheld was exactly what I would expect from a burger with such a description: hearty, unctuous, and inevitably dripping between fingers and sliding down elbows. On the side: generously sized, slightly sweet, crunchy onion rings. Yes, the order was the opposite of a salad, but if diners are in need of a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, pants-popping sandwich, The Joyce Burger will do. The cornmeal-dusted bun was soft, the Angus beef tasted freshly ground, the dressing was tangy, and the fatty pastrami and salty cheddar wove together and nestled the patty like a warm quilt.
The online dessert menu noted their Irish coffee consisted of a robust dark blend with Jameson, house-made Irish crème, and a whipped-cream mint topper. The in-person menu, however, didn’t seem to have the drink listed. The bartender assured me they could make it and do it up exactly as I wished. Props for offering the classic caffeine cocktail with more than just crappy ground beans and a shot of booze.
Said James Joyce (the restaurant’s namesake and influential literary Irishman), “The light of whiskey falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself.