When most people travel they seek out dining establishments with local flavor and flare in an attempt to try something different. It adds a little excitement to their vacation or work trip by trying something new. However, when close to home, those same adventurous people tend to fall back into everyday routines and simply choose to frequent chain restaurants while often overlooking hidden local gems. One such hidden gem might just be Idaho Falls’ best-kept secret, The Celt Pub and Grill.
Located in downtown Idaho Falls off Broadway Street, The Celt has a lot of charm and the characteristics you would hope to find in a local hangout that is begging to be discovered. Once you visit, you’ll understand why it’s quickly growing in popularity. I stopped in recently with my wife Christy for dinner with our new year resolution to be more adventurous in 2017 fresh in mind.
When we first arrived, we were greeted by a friendly staff, but it was the exposed brick interior walls and locally milled woodwork throughout that truly welcomed us. With a local band warming up in the back—a regular sight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights—we were instantly impressed by the atmosphere The Celt offers and pleased with our decision to stop by.
For those anticipating pub-style food, think again. While a lot of the attention (and rightfully so) tends to focus on the bar that includes 24 beers on tap, a fine selection of Scotch and Irish whisky, craft cocktails, as well as a thoughtful selection of wine, it’s the food that deserves a little bit of the spotlight as well. So how do you establish yourself as not only a bar, but also a fine restaurant? For starters you smoke all of your meats in-house, but more importantly you hire the right staff.
After working 20 years at a high-end fine restaurant in town, Head Chef Mark Koon was lured away and given the go-ahead to do what he does best with a menu: be creative. Koon is constantly coming up with new menu ideas for The Celt from what appears to be an endless supply of inspiration.
“I like to take an idea and make my own concept,” Koon said. “I’ll go through Irish cookbooks for ideas for a starting point and then create my own recipes.”
Koon is one of five cooks on a staff that includes a total of 20 employees.
Locally owned, The Celt is celebrating its fifth year in business after seeing the vision of what an old abandon building could be years earlier. After it sat vacant for seven years, General Manager Liza McGeachin fell in love with the historic and unique building.
“We looked at other places, but just knew if we were going to do this it had to be here,” McGeachin said. “This building has character both inside and out.”
It is and always will be a bar first, but as the food menu continues to grow, so do the number of families as well as those who are simply looking for a good meal. The impressive menu ranges from sandwiches and finger foods to seafood, steak and prime rib and all come in at affordable prices.
To get started we went with a house favorite for our appetizer: the house-smoked chicken wings. The Mesquite cherry smoked wings come as a dry rub with homemade blue cheese and XXX (sweet and spicy) sauce, with other sauce choices available.
From the first bite, you can instantly taste the smoked flavor and each wing was super moist and very delicious. I’ve always been a big fan of chicken wings and this offering didn’t disappoint and was an excellent kickoff to the night. We also went with another house favorite, the Fish & Chips. The hand-battered red snapper included a side of wasabi tarter sauce and was served with a basket full of Idaho fries. While battered fish can tend to be a little on the greasy side, that’s not the case here. It was done to perfection.
Since they do smoke all of their meats, I was drawn to “The Oinker” Hog Roast on the menu and had to give it a try. Like the chicken wings, there is a distinctive smoked flavor to the thinly sliced and slow roasted spicy pork shoulder. It is sautéed with broccolini, garlic, and onions, pork a jus with sharp white cheddar cheese and served on a hoagie roll. It’s the kind of sandwich you need a knife and fork to eat and each bite melted in my mouth.
Being so close to St. Patrick’s Day, my wife opted for the Corned Beef & Cabbage for her meal. This updated take on a traditional dish is made with all natural slow-roasted corned beef with sautéed cabbage and it was served over a bed of Colcannon potatoes then topped with bold brown gravy. It was easy to see why this is a popular choice at The Celt and a favorite year-around.
We left full and very satisfied with our decision to give The Celt Bar and Grill a try. With plenty of other great choices on the menu left to be discovered, this is one local hot-spot we know we’ll be back soon to experience once again.