Photography by anthony bianciella
Accompanied by a Reilly, an O'Neil and a Malley (no "O"), I visited Biddy O'Malley's in Northvale to see what a self-described "Irish bistro and bar" was all about. Given the company I was with, and the Sullivan and Bannigan sides of my family, I felt eminently qualified. What we found was a friendly and comfortable establishment with a varied and reasonably priced menu that leans on, but isn't limited to, quality pub food. The place is clearly American, but it has a definite Irish flair.
Noel O'Malley came to the United States from County Clare, Ireland, in 1994. In 2001, he married Eileen Campbell, affectionately known to her friends, not coincidentally, as Biddy. After spending 17 years in the food service industry, Noel opened Biddy's in 2011.
"The food in the typical Irish pub always seemed like an afterthought to me," he says, "with the quality enjoying the same unfortunate reputation the food in Ireland used to have." O'Malley says that reputation is changing, with the rise of some great chefs who know just what to do with the isle's fine beef and produce and who have access, of course, to excellent seafood. "I wanted to bring the same thing here," he says.
So O'Malley hired two well-credentialed chefs to help make it happen – executive chef Ryan Lagud and sous chef Wilson Lindemann. It seems to be working. Biddy's has started to build a loyal and regular clientele from Northvale and the other surrounding communities in this corner of the county.
The accent is on the local. Goffle Road Farm in Wyckoff provides the poultry, Balthazar Bakery in Englewood brings the bread and Stokes Farm in Old Tappan supplies the seasonal fresh produce. All butchering is done in-house, and they make their own stocks, bases and demi-glace.
Biddy's features 12 beers available on tap, including Guinness, Harp and Smithwicks, with 30 more by the bottle. We started with a fine black-and-tan, just to set the mood, and ordered some appetizers. Piri-piri chicken wings were prepared using a dry rub that includes oregano, cilantro, ginger, garlic and ground piri-piri pepper. The accompanying sauce complemented those spices nicely, and together they made for a unique plate of wings. Guinness-and-lemon mussels were well cooked and tender, in a subtly flavored broth that made for great sopping. Baked macaroni and cheese combined chorizo, cheddar, asiago and Swiss cheeses, green apple and cavatappi pasta, topped with pistachio crumbs. It was a hit, although I would have preferred more sauce.
Most of the cuisine de pub can be found on the standard menu and includes items you'd expect to find, like Guinness beef stew and bangers and mash. The traditional Shepherd's pie, made with lamb and root vegetables and topped with creamy mashed potatoes and scallions, is great comfort food. My fish and chips featured a generous portion of perfectly cooked Atlantic cod, firm and moist. Unfortunately, it was overwhelmed by too much batter; half as much would have been fine with me. We all agreed that Biddy's meatloaf, with mushroom duxelle, rosemary and a Chianti demi-glace, was the evening's favorite.
The specials menu, which suggests both a wine and beer pairing for each entree, is the home of decidedly non-pub offerings. The night we visited, they included rare ahi tuna, pepper-crusted black angus New York strip steak, hazelnut-crusted monkfish and slow-roasted pork tenderloin.
If beer isn't your thing, there are 25 bottles on the wine list – a good range of reds and whites – all for $25. Also on the something-for-everyone menu, you'll find pizza, pasta, pulled pork, burgers and, for "the Itty Biddys," some good value choices for the kids.
191 Paris Ave., Northvale
Most entreees $15-$20, Family Friendly, Take out, Open 7 Days, Full Bar