328 N. Charles St., (410) 539-7504, mickosheas.com
Last year, City Paper heard through the grapevine that a few people over at Irish pub Mick O'Shea's were miffed because we awarded them a "Best Chicken Tenders" award last year. Of all the delicious, artful versions of bar food Mick O'Shea's makes—including frequently changing, often sort-of-sophisticated daily specials—here we were getting all excited about the most basic-ass bar food, chicken tenders. Well, their chicken tenders ($10 with french fries) are very good and because half our staff was raised on those low-maintenance, frostbitten, breaded chicken pieces when our parents were too busy to cook for us (or just plain didn't give a shit about cooking), we are confident in our assessment of superior chicken tenders versus passable chicken tenders. "Perhaps the meat is a cut above the rest. Perhaps the seasoning in the breading is a little more flavorful," we ruminated when we gave them the award, the culinary sleight-of-hand eluding us (truthfully, a lot of the reason these tenders were deemed particularly good is probably because we were eating them inside of Mick O'Sheas, a welcoming bar and a City Paper favorite). While a positive award is a positive award, we understand why it might be annoying to get so much praise for something so minimal in terms of preparation.
So let's praise another item from the Mick O'Shea's menu: its Grand Marnier Pit Beef sandwich ($9 with chips), roast beef with a Grand Marnier glaze, stacked with red onions and covered with some fierce horseradish aioili on a treacly brioche roll. It's a softer, sweeter version of that Maryland staple, pit beef, walking the line between a bougie version and just a subtler alternative. This is how to adjust and tweak rather than "improve" a cheap food standard. And if you get the Grand Marnier Pit Beef with french fries (for $1 more), it's pretty much a fancy version of the Arby's Roast Beef classic combo. The fries you get, unless you specifically ask for steak fries—those dopey, tiny surfboards of potato, oy—are brittle, orange-ish curly fries, while the roast beef has that same damp thin moistness of an Arby's sandwich but just enough pit beef ruggedness to work. And really, it's only a few bucks more than Arby's largest combo anyway.