"It’s a chilly St. Patrick’s Day night, and you’re walking down a cold and desolate road, seeking an Irish charm to satisfy your need for green. Block after block, street after street, and nothing is seemingly authentic enough to satisfy your craving for some Irish ambiance. Finally, you stumble upon a branch of Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern, a true taste of Ireland, you tell yourself.
"Well you would be wrong unless you consider Atlanta, Ga. to be even remotely close to the Emerald Isle. For it was in that city, the land of Coca-Cola-one of the largest American symbols in the world today, this trademark "irish pub" was created by the Pillsbury Corporation in 1976. Shockingly, no Doughboy-esque mascot was created for the restaurant, though a Bennigan’s leprechaun does sound like great fun.
"Despite the fact that the restaurant is an American invention, the company pumps Irish atmosphere into the establishment at a near-nauseating frequencies. Upon a quick glance of their website, the tag "O’YES!" is horribly, yet hilariously, used at the beginning of nearly every sentence. O’YES? A quick look at the menu informs me that I can mix-and-match my order of egg rolls with soda-bread. That sounds like true Irish hospitality. Egg rolls are Irish right?
"They are about as Irish as many of the other appetizers that disgrace the menu. Out of the eight choices on the spread, four of them are Southwestern inspired. Lackluster choices such as the likely-frozen Southwest Egg Rolls or the Fajita Chicken Quesadillas are certainly not an authentic taste of Irish food (nor Southwestern food either).
"This so-called Irish restaurant continues the trend throughout the rest of the menu as well. Care for a true taste of Irish cuisine? Then please do not order the "Turkey O’Toole" sandwich, a fairly standard turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich, fluffed with flashy adjectives and false hope, and if one ever visits County Kilkenny, you are unlikely to stumble upon the "Kilkenny’s Country Chicken Wrap," a fairly standard wrap consisting of hand-breaded chicken tenders (hand-breaded? Of course!), lettuce, cheese, bacon and Dijon mustard, rolled in a flour tortilla. By placing the name of one of the 26 counties of Ireland in the title, do they actually expect people to believe that his American meal would have any traditional taste of Ireland?
"By using beer as an ingredient in seemingly all of the dips and condiments, or a liberal dose of corned beef (which is actually an American adaptation from the traditional Irish bacon, but that is a different issue altogether), Bennigan’s, as well as many other restaurants that use similar tactics to impose a feeling of authenticity, are short-changing the native countries they have tried so hard to mimic. If someone were to visit Ireland, their only prior experience being at an "irish pub" like Bennigan’s, then does it come as a surprise when the native food leaves the customer terrified, flocking in the direction of the nearest American fast food restaurant? There is a homely, but ultimately depressing comfort of a fast food hamburger while surrounded by delicious and authentic food abroad.
"While people search for what they believe is a taste of the exotic, they unusually lapse back onto the crutch of the familiar. Then the seeker of true authentic cuisine is misled, deceived by the American-ness of what they ultimately find. Case in point at the "Irish" establishment, the most popular hamburger on the menu is their "American Cheeseburger." It makes for a sad, but perfect sense to me.