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Food Feud: Hennessey's vs. O'Malley's

Who will win in the inaugural battle?

In Food Feud, local eateries will square off in categories like service, ambiance, menu, house specialties, drinks and an overall score. First our intrepid "professional" will give his or her assessment. Your votes will determine how right or wrong our pro was.  So vote early and vote often to give your favorite eateries some well-earned bragging rights.

Hennessey's Grill Seal Beach and O'Malley's on Main are not unaccustomed to feuding. A rivalry started years ago when Hennessey's was booted from it's original location, and O'Malley's opened in its stead. Instead of leaving town quietly, Hennessey's reopened across the street, giving rise to some friendly, ongoing competition. While it's not quite an Irish war for independence, it does make the two establishments perfect matches for the inaugural Food Feud.

VIBE/AMBIANCE

Hennessey's: On this visit there was a bit of Sunday sports-bar bustle in the often quiet Hennessey's. Overall, Hennessey's Grill feels more like a bar than a pub. The bar itself and the television screens playing any and all sports are the focal points, and it's a good place to watch a game with friends. There are some obligatory British and Irish beverage ads, but not all of those advertised by them  are on tap. The ease in finding a table most nights is a definite plus and  Hennessey's offers parking, often another big plus in Old Town Seal Beach.

O'Malley's: The inside of O'Malley's on Main is all dark wood, pub yellow walls, and Irish photos and jerseys. It's a lot like Hennessey's, if a bit more "authentic." The fireplace is a nice touch. The crowd skews slightly older and more family-friendly at this time of day. As much space is devoted to dining as to drinking. Ease in finding a table can vary wildly based on day and time. O'Malley's is as likely to be packed and raucous as it is to be calm and somber.

Advantage: O'Malley's.

SERVICE

Hennessey's: The black-n-khaki clad bar- and wait-staff are cordial and attentive. The cordial part is nice since the slower traffic must not pay off in the form of tips. The attentive part is almost mandatory, considering how many of the patrons are there to drink.

O'Malley's: Our visit was on a Saturday night at 7 PM. O'Malley's was full, but not packed. The service was good.

Advantage: Hennessey's.

MENU

Hennessey's: Neither place is out for authenticity. Irish nachos and Chinese chicken salad are available, as are an abundance of burgers, sandwiches and more traditional Irish/British fare. At Hennessey's, our waitress described the fish and chips as a house favorite, so that was to be the dish on which our battle would take place.

O'Malley's: As noted, it's not Johnnie Fox's (a more than 200-year-old famous Dublin pub), but O'Malley's skews a bit more traditional.  One can order a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, or bangers and mash.

Advantage: O'Malley's.

SPECIALITIES

Hennessey's: The fish and chips are $13.95.  Tartar sauce comes on the plate, but you have to ask for malt vinegar. The tartar is tangy but not to the point of distraction. The fish--cod--is plentiful and flaky. It's the right temperature when served, so it's not mouth napalm. As our companion noted, "It's so crunchy outside and so tender inside." The fries are the right mix of soft and crisp. The meal comes with cole slaw.

O'Malley's: The fish and chips selection is $16.95, including cole slaw and soup or salad. The first is one large slab of fried Alaskan halibut. It's a quality piece of fish, but the batter was a little soggy. As with Hennessey's, tartar sauce comes on the plate and malt vinegar is an ask-for-it item. O'Malley's chips are substantial, well-seasoned slabs of tuber-ular goodness.

Advantage: (Ever so slightly) Hennessey's. Classing up a staple often works as with the fancy burger and gastropub crazes. But some items almost need their humble origins.  Something traditionally served in yesterday's newspaper doesn't always benefit from dressing up. Therefore, Hennessey's, with its humble cod, gets the nod for its crispy yet tender texture. That said, O'Malley's chips are as good as they come.

VALUE

Hennessey's: Hennessey's seemingly had a promotion for everything. Drink specials, karaoke, food specials, kids eat free–the list is longer than the draft beer list.

O'Malley's: O'Malley's offers the usual daily special, happy hour and Monday Night Football specials.

Advantage: Hennessey's.

DRINKS

Hennessey's: The draft beer selection is a bit lacking in what's become a beer town. There is a full bar with a wide array of traditional whiskeys and mixed drinks. For our purposes, the Guinness would face off. As surprising as it may seem to the uninitiated, a pint of Guinness can vary wildly from bar to bar. It often leads the true beer snobs to dismiss a given watering hole outright. At Hennessey's, the Guinness has the right amount of creaminess and bite in the correct proportions.

O'Malley's: An admirable selection of Irish whiskeys is available in addition to a superior draft beer assortment. The Guinness is surprisingly similar at both Hennessey's and O'Malley's. O'Malley's has the slight edge at the moment. It just tasted fresher.

 Advantage: O'Malley's.

linda June 27, 2011 at 05:26 PM
omalleys, of course.........everybody knows that the potato is the staff of life... a well cooked chip is pure love.......fish just come and go, but the lowly potato is a constant, so its'O'Malleys' by a mile!!
Emily Knell June 27, 2011 at 05:58 PM
O'Malley's - Meatloaf--yummy!!! Love the patio w/ stone fireplace! I haven't been to Hennessy's enough to judge it.
Margarita Campos June 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM
I always end up moseying to O’Malley’s because of the more intimate settings you can find in the cuts of the place to have a beer and catch up with friends. Last time I ate at O’Malley’s I had the yummy crab cakes; however, that was about 2 years ago…remembering them is a good sign?

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