Doc Magrogan’s Featured on aroundphilly.com

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2007

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REVIEW: DOC MAGROGRAN’S OYSTER HOUSE

 


 
   

   
 
     

 

Doc Magrogran’s Oyster House  By: Ken Alan

In the restaurant biz they were known as chains. Now we call them brands. Regardless of what one calls it, saying it usually is done with a distasteful sneer. Thanks to Applebee’s, Chili’s and the rest of that ilk, mass production (once the linchpin of our country) is now considered a restaurant bane, especially when referring to the culinary world. To wit: as good as that Italian chain’s meatballs might taste, are they ever as good as the one’s served at an authentic storefront trattoria?

Don’t tell Dave Magrogan he’s running a chain with his six (and counting) Kildare’s Irish Pubs, which are spreading over the state in clover. This former chiropractor has become Super Restaurateur; his opening rate is almost unprecedented (about one a year) in Pennsylvania, with each operation running at a profitable pace.

Yet the Kildare’s concept flies in the face of mass production. Magrogan has become successful because he truly wants you to experience Ireland. All his chefs are trained there, the restaurant’s furniture is imported from there and the staff is prompted to explain the individuality of the Kildare’s they represent.

Never one to stick to the same mold, Dave soon decided to expand to another niche with last year’s opening of Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House at its prime location in West Chester. He saw the need for good, fresh seafood in an area crying out for an old-time chowder hall, like those that once proliferated the town back in the 1930’s–a concept that could be branded yet become as un-Red Lobster as it gets.

Just as an Irish-themed restaurant is only as good as its boxty’s and bread pudding, Doc’s will only succeed by serving the freshest fish/shellfish within an authentic feeling atmosphere. It does and it is, I’m happy to report.

I have been to five out of the six Kildare’s literally dozens of times, as Magrogan can confirm. What brings me back is all-around consistency combined with a really fun setting. This, though, was my first Oyster House visit and I was no less impressed than I’d been with my past vicarious trips to Ireland.

Doc’s has handsome wooden floors, nautically correct accents (ship’s steering wheels and models of vessels) and many framed photos of the seafaring life abound. There is an ocean floor of a raw bar, a long (and smoke-free) tippling bar plus a series of warrens in which to dine. I spotted a whimsical site (a stairway that goes up to nowhere) and another one that took me back to a cool second bar, an almost secret enclave, perfect for hiding away or maybe a private party.

My dining partner and I began by taking the true seafood-lover’s litmus test; we ordered the oysters.

Get a bad one and it sets the whole tone of your meal, if not your decision to return. Thankfully those northern California Kumamoto’s were briny pillows of heaven, as were the clean and buttery Georges River oysters from Maine, all were slurpy goodness.

We split two apps, black lobster ravioli with sautéed crab meat in a tomato basil cream sauce ($10.50) and four of Dad’s Famous Clams Casino, plump and piled with andoullie sausage, peppers, big chunks of onion and fresh bread crumbs ($7.99).

Our entrée was fine, an evening special of halibut filet topped with crabmeat and shiitakes in a basil-brandy cream sauce ($24.99). My partner thought it a bit too cloying, though the sweet aspect didn’t bother me and the fish was nice and tender.

With bivalves and chowders, fresh fish and crisp salads, Doc Magrogan’s is doing it right in West Chester. Oh, the bar scene is a fun one, too.

A few other notations: Just like those at his other places, Dave’s servers are mostly exceptional, scripted for sure yet natural in their presentation. There is also some outdoor seating both out front and in back when the lantern-y oyster house motif seems too dark during nicer weather. And, as stated, I really dig that back bar area.

If the past is any indication, I’m sure it won’t be long ’till you see a second and a third Doc Magrogan’s pop up sometime soon. It’s in the man’s nature to be ubiquitous–a local boy gone good, making a name for himself and his places while branding the hell out of his ideas. Just don’t call it a chain.

Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House, 117 E. Gay St., West Chester, 610.429.4046, www.docmagrogans.com

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