I was driving through the Waterloo area coming back from the Twin Cities last fall and it was around the lunch hour. I was thinking about going to a brewpub or a similar type of place for a couple beers and a sandwich. I did a quick search on my GPS to see what was around and I saw a place called Jameson's Public House come up. I thought that sounded sort of interesting, so I took off to see what Jameson's Public House was all about.
It turns out that Jameson's has been around since February of 2006 (it says it was established in 2005 on the logo, but it didn't open until a couple three weeks before St. Patrick's Day in 2006) and features a combination of American and Irish dishes along with a number of beers and whiskey available. I mean, any place named after the famous Irish whiskey should have a good selection of whiskeys on hand and Jameson's Public House features over two dozen different types of Irish whiskey to choose from.
The pub is housed in a building in downtown Waterloo that was built in 1890 and originally housed an Odd Fellows Lodge. By the 1980's and 90's, downtown Waterloo had seen an exodus of businesses and many of the buildings had been vacated and run down. That's where a local civic leader by the name of Buck Clark came into the picture.
Buck Clark had been a Waterloo police officer for 18 years before retiring in 1998 and getting into private business. In 2001, Clark successfully ran for local office as he was elected to a four-year term as an alderman to the Waterloo city council. While on the city council, he saw opportunities in the downtown area and after his four-year term was finished, he opened places such as Monica's Cigar Bar, Cu and the Cellar, and Jameson's all within a couple of years. In 2009, Clark ran for mayor of Waterloo and won in a close three-way race. Clark was easily re-elected to two more terms in 2011 and 2013 before he decided in 2015 not to run for a fourth term as mayor.
Clark changed Monica's from a cigar bar to an upscale piano when anti-smoking laws were becoming more common place about 10 years ago. The concept never caught on and Monica's closed in 2008. (Monica's reopened as the Volks Haus German pub in 2010 under new ownership.) Clark sold Cu and the Cellar - right next door to Jameson's Public House - last summer, but the place hasn't reopened.
Jameson's Public House is located on E. 4th St. in downtown Waterloo. (see map) I was able to find parking on the street in front of the Volks Haus (I almost went in there, but decided I'll have to go back at some point.) Jameson's was easy to spot with the bright green facade over the brick front of the old building.
The decor at Jameson's is what I would call rustic. It's not like some places that put up a couple Irish flags and call themselves an Irish Bar. It had sort of an old world Irish feeling to the place. The Irish greeting céad míle fáilte is over the entry way from a small front dining area to the larger dining area in the back.
The long narrow space features a number of high-top tables and standing bars with a number of pictures and maps of Ireland. The ceiling features exposed wood beams and there is an upstairs area in the back of the place. It was cozy and inviting. Jameson's also hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
I sat at the bar and was greeted by Shaylin, the bartender/day manager for Jameson's Public House. She dropped off a menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink. They have nearly 20 beers on tap at Jameson's and I ordered up a Smithwick's. Unfortunately, it was pretty flat in taste. Shaylin tried the Smithwick's out of the tap and she said, "Hmmm... Doesn't taste that flat to me." But it was flat - I know how Smithwick's is supposed to taste. She offered me another beer and I took and IPA they had on tap. That, too, tasted a little flat for an IPA, but I just decided to keep it and move on. I got to wondering after a bit if possibly they needed to clean their lines out, but I didn't say anything.
The menu at Jameson's is a mix of American and traditional Irish fare that includes sandwiches, appetizers, burgers, soups, salads and entrees such as a traditional Shepherd's Pie, a home-style meatloaf platter, bangers and mash, baby back ribs, and an Irish stew in a Guinness gravy. Sandwiches include a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, a meatloaf sub, and Jameson's signature Dubliner sandwich - roast beef and smoked bacon topped with Swiss and cheddar cheese, and a spicy English-style mustard all served on wheat berry bread. They also featured a handful of burgers on the menu including the Buffalo burger that was topped with blue cheese, onion rings, jalapeños and a spicy cream sauce; the Hawaiian burger that had grilled pineapple rings, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, a fried egg and house-made sweet chili mayo; and the Mac - they fry up some of the house-made mac & cheese into a patty and top it with cheddar cheese, chipotle mayo and and applewood smoked bacon.
I was thinking about getting their reuben sandwich when I walked into Jameson's - the place looked like it would have a killer reuben - but then something on the menu jumped out at me. They had a hot beef sandwich on potato bread served with mashed potatoes with chopped scallions and topped with a stout beer/onion gravy. Comfort food was just what the doctor ordered after being on the road for the prior four days.
The sandwich was large, but cut in half with the mashed potatoes in the middle. The beef was braised and shredded on the potato bread slices. It was a full helping of potatoes with a generous pour of the stout/onion gravy over everything. There was a lot of food on the plate, as well. They definitely didn't skimp on the offerings.
Not only did it look delicious, it WAS delicious. The beef was tender and juicy, the mashed potatoes had a great down-home flavor, and the stout/onion gravy tied everything together with its rich taste. Shaylin asked me how my lunch was and I told her it was a "spot-hitter".
I always have great hope for the food at Irish pubs that I visit in my travels. Walking into Jameson's Public House, I thought that the place had potential. Other than the somewhat flat beers I was served, I thought the food I had at Jameson's was very good. The hot beef sandwich was an excellent choice for someone needing comfort food at that point in the week. It's nothing fancy at Jameson's, but it's cozy and friendly. And that's all you should look for at an Irish pub like Jameson's.