When you’re eating for 6—you plus the Celtics’ 1st string—you’ve got your grunt work cut out for you. They’re out there on the court giving it their all (well, sometimes; c’mon, Pierce, get it together!)—the least you can do is give it yours at the bar.

For instance, you can tell LeBron James to suck eggs while doing likewise at The Empire Lounge in Louisville.
Empireeggs

Actually, the rather straightforward deviled eggs & somewhat underroasted cauliflower with raisins & pinenuts were the least of the eats I tried;

Empirecauli

not pictured (because they were part of the spread for a pal’s birthday party, which we briefly ignored to catch the end of the Celtics-Cavs game) are high-quality salumi & cheeses; an excellent grilled thin-crust pizza with buffalo mozz & speck; &, best of all, a salad featuring crispy squid in miso-balsamic vinaigrette—an unexpectedly winning combination.

***
Next up: where better to cheer on the Celtics than at a real Irish pub? Well, Katie Mullen’s ain’t even close, but it sure does play one on TV by piling up the spuds—only 12 of 45 dishes (I counted) don’t include them in some form or fashion (the number goes up if you get a salad with your sandwich instead of fries, but who does that?).

At most Irish pubs, “curry chips” means, essentially, gravy fries; here it means chips & dip. Not a problem in itself; in fact, if they’d been as “fresh & warm” as the menu indicated, the thick-cut & plentiful Bang Go Leor curry chips would’ve scored high. In a slightly staler state, they were still okay, but the best part was the more tangy than “spicy” (again per the menu) curried dip—of which there was far too little to go around; we had to ask for extra.
KMchips

The boxty, meanwhile—essentially an Irish latke—actually was warm & fresh,

KMboxty
filled with an also-not-exactly-traditional mixture of chicken, bacon, tomatoes, “spinach” (it appeared to be lettuce instead) & cheese—Swiss, IIRC?—& accompanied by sour cream sans advertised chives. Despite the minor gaffes, what wasn’t to like? Make it a crêpe, make it a calzone, make it a burrito—all that stuff in a wrapper works for me. It came with a garden salad (below right) whose mustard-horseradish vinaigrette was surprisingly nice & robust; the Director had a Caesar which at least vaguely resembled a Caesar (more on this later).
KMCaesar KMsidesalad

***
Pub grubby as I am, a little something special was in order for Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers championship series. So we went to Izakaya Den, where a pure, summer-evening-scented, chilled cucumber soup,

IDcucumbersoup
enriched I think with sour rather than (or in addition to) regular cream, was marred only slightly by silky but too-salty gnocchi & a paucity of the promised lobster (I counted 4 tiny chunks).

There was more than enough ankimo—steamed monkfish liver—to compensate, however; a little of the rich, creamy, subtly funky stuff—not iron-y at all—goes a long way. Plus: free shiso leaf! Why more people don’t put those zingy things in salads & such is beyond my feeble comprehension.
IDankimo

This trio of salads refreshed despite the slathering of mayo-based dressing on the green beans, which after all didn’t undermine their crispness, balanced as well by the vegetal cleanness of the marinated daikon & black seaweed.

IDsalads

***
This plate of sliced Polish sausage & smoked gouda chunks with BBQ & honey mustard dipping sauces did not refresh with its vegetal cleanness. Nor was the quality that of Empire’s meats & cheeses. At Hanson’s Grill & Tavern, I’d almost have been disappointed if it were. First of all, you can’t go around dipping good gouda into BBQ sauce; only the supermarket grade suffices. Besides, the spicy sausage was totally enjoyable, studded with as many red pepper flakes as bits of fat.
Hansonssausagegouda

Second of all, you don’t go to Hanson’s for the food anyway (unless it’s the Louisiana Station salad, which really is pretty satisfying). You go for the neighborliness: to yell at the Lakers with the guys at the bar; to eavesdrop on the 2 genuine bimbos in a shrieking fight at the next table; to thank the waitress who gently but firmly informs them they’ve got 1 chance to tone it down. (Note: cursing at the TV—A-okay. Cursing at your frenemy—not okay. Funny how that works.)

That same waitress put up with my annoying special requests all night as well: could I get both the charred tomato & the jalapeño vinaigrettes for my wedge salad? And, um, could I get more bacon & gorgonzola on the side, seeing as how I’ve got like 1 crumble for every 10 bites of iceberg? She brought them willingly, without charging me extra.

Hansonswedge
The Director’s center-cut sirloin was cooked to order, which is about all you can ask from your average under-$20 steak; you could have asked more from the baked potato, however, like “Could you not be warmed over?” as well as of the onion rings, like, “Could you not be from a factory somewhere?”
Hansonssteak

I doubt the distinctly vinegary hot wings involved much personal TLC either, but that didn’t stop them from being plenty juicy & highly flammable.

Hansonswings
The “Caesar” salad, however, required quite a bit of TLC from our overworked bartender, alone upstairs but nonetheless gracious about scrounging up some croutons for me when I pointed out that I’d gotten nothing but dressing-soaked lettuce (I didn’t even bother asking for more of the paltry shreds of store-bought parm).
HansonsCaesar

Well, that’s not quite true: there were fried capers mixed in there, kind of a neat, unconventional touch. Still, when he brought me these little toasted crostini & explained the cooks had been out of croutons, I thought, why didn’t they let him know that when I ordered it? A Caesar without croutons is like the Lakers without Kobe—nothin.’ (Actually, that latter sounds pretty good.)

HansonsFrenchhdip
Factory fries came with the Director’s French dip, too, whose ratio of hoagie to sliced beef was a little high.

Ah well, you win some, you lose some, right? Hey Celtics—that doesn’t apply to you.

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