Tempura monkfish tacos with mango slaw & chile-lime mayo at McHugh's in Ennis.
Hot, crispy Irish monkfish, tangy tropical fruit slaw and cool chile mayo all wrapped up in a soft Mexico City-style corn tortilla. This is Eire-Mex at its finest. And as the former curator and head judge of Houston's Tacolandia taco festival, I can say with some authority that McHugh's in Ennis is serving some world-class tacos.
The tortillas are made in Ireland at the Blanco Nino tortilla factory in Clonmel. (I order these by the case for all my taco, tostada, enchilada, chilaquile needs.) It was the Blanco Nino folks who suggested I get to know the Mexican food-loving crew at McHugh's.
On my first visit, I was so nostalgic to find real tacos on 100% corn tortillas, I ordered every taco on the tapas menu. The downhome, pulled pork taco was excellent.The buttermilk fried chicken taco was my kid's favorite--it reminded them of Texas black skillet fried chicken. But the monkfish taco was nothing short of stunning--it brought together stellar Irish seafood and authentic Mexican flavors.
Did I mention the beer?
McHugh's on Parnell Street in downtown Ennis is owned by Western Herd, County Clare's outstanding microbrewery. The pub showcases every beer Western Herd sells (and occasionally some that haven't been released yet).You'll often find chef/owner Maeve Sheridan working a shift in the kitchen.
The Western Herd brewery is located on a cattle farm in Kilmaley, County Clare--Ireland's Wild West. The owners, Michael Eustace and Maeve Sheridan (nee Eustace), are the eighth generation to raise livestock here. Cattle wander around and sometimes munch on the grass just outside the brewery building. Hence the "Western Herd" moniker and the cattle head logo.
Tacos, cold beer, and cattle: All very comforting to a transplanted Texas longhorn. (Hook 'em!)