- 1850 Hooper Ave., Toms River, NJ, 08753
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
- 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- Official Web Site:
Plenty of diners are familiar with the original Mulligan's -- a comfortable, come-as-you-are bar and restaurant on Squankum Road in Farmingdale where golfers and regulars gather for good food and conversation. A sequel, Mulligan's Bar and Grill, opened a few years ago in Toms River, and while the atmospheres of the eateries couldn't be more different, the quality of the food -- homemade and
comforting, with an emphasis on Irish favorites -- remains the same.
Built on the spot where the Silverton Hub once stood, this restaurant is much more modern than the original, but not the least bit pretentious. A large bar -- it takes up about half the length of the restaurant -- is the first thing you see when you come in, and built-in TVs -- some flat-screen -- broadcasting sports channels can be seen from every table. Booths crafted from chocolate-brown leather and rich fabrics cozy up to dark, wooden tables, and the room is anchored by sand-colored stone columns that give the space a very clean look. A walk down the hallway leading to the bathroom gives curious diners a glimpse into the inner workings of the kitchen.
The menu is divided into sections that carry on the Farmingdale restaurant's golf theme -- a mulligan, after all, is a golf term for a shot that's not counted against the score -- with "The Front Nine'' listing appetizers, "On the Green'' showing salads and "Par for the Course'' listing entrees. Young diners can turn to "Miniature Golf'' for their dishes.
My dining partner and I opted for lemonade and iced tea, but the restaurant offers different beer specials every day, as well as a selection of cocktails. A packaged goods area is on site for those who might like to pick up a six-pack or case of beer on their way out.
Our meal started off with an appetizer of spinach artichoke dip ($8.99), made with fresh spinach, artichokes and house seasonings and served in a hot bread bowl. This dip is one that, when done well, is just delicious, but when done poorly, is just awful. I'm happy to say that Mulligan's didn't disappoint-- their version is creamy, though nicely browned a little on top, and perfectly seasoned, with whole spinach leaves and bite-sized chunks of artichoke throughout. A generous serving was piled into a deliciously crusty bread bowl, which tasted homemade and paired well with the creaminess of the mixture. Also served with the dish was a handful of tortilla chips -- they, too, tasted homemade, and were nicely salted; I would have been happy to have a few more of them. Certainly one of the best versions of this dip that I've had.
For our main course, I chose the almond-encrusted chicken salad ($9.99), touted on the menu as pan-seared chicken breast in a homemade almond crust served over mixed greens with Craisins, mandarin oranges and celery with sesame ginger dressing. A truly great pairing of ingredients, the salad was bright and fresh both in color and in flavor, and the portion was more than enough for my
dinner and lunch the next day. The chicken was juicy inside and crisp outside, with slivers of almonds dotting the golden coating. The bits of celery, a vegetable not often seen in restaurant salads, was a nice addition -- its mellow flavor and snappy bite played into the overall freshness of the dish. The mandarin orange segments were a great choice and my favorite part of the salad; juicy, and not bitter at all, they added a pop. But its the dressing that truly makes the dish -- though it's called sesame ginger, the taste of ginger isn't prominent, and its clean flavor is a refreshing accompaniment to the salad.
The only thing that could make the salad better, in my opinion, would be a crumbling of cheese -- gorgonzola or goat cheese would be perfect.
My companion went for the iron skillet garlic steak sandwich ($10.99), which is served open-face. Ordered medium and prepared that way, the steak was draped over garlic toast points and topped with frizzled fried onions. It was served alongside fries coated with a light dusting of Old Bay seasoning, an unexpected but enjoyable addition.
I took my dessert -- a healthy slice of carrot cake ($4.99) -- to go, and it's a good thing I did because I probably would have asked for another. Choosing carrot cake in a restaurant is a gamble - all too often you're brought a slice that is dry and crumbly and topped with lackluster icing (and as all lovers of carrot cake know, the cream cheese icing is the reason you order it!). Not here -- the cake was dense and moist, with flecks of carrots throughout and just the right amount of spice. And the cream cheese icing -- fantastic. So fantastic that I had to restrain myself from licking the last bits out of the to-go container.
The total for the night was $42 -- not bad at all for an appetizer, two generous-sized dinners and dessert.
The menu features a handful of Irish dishes ranging in price from $12.99 to $14.99 -- Shepard's Pie, chicken Murphy, bangers and mash, hot corned beef served with cabbage and boiled red potatoes, and the delicious-sounding Dublin roller coaster -- a marinated flat-iron steak served over two mounds of homemade mashed potatoes and topped with an Irish Whiskey mushroom sauce and vegetables.
Other tempting options on the large menu include grilled kielbasi served with pierogi, sauerkraut and vegetables; yellow-fin tuna, either in a sandwich or served atop a salad; brick-oven pizza, paninis, apple-butter pork chops, and a variety of burgers.
The owners of Mulligan's know what they're doing. The food is approachable and well made, and the atmosphere is inviting and not at all fussy. Paired with pleasant service, this is a restaurant that, unlike it's golfing namesake, certainly should be counted.