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Touch o' Irish; MacGregors' tones down the green, plays up its claims as a beer lovers paradise

The "Irish pub" is a curious concoction. It often seems that all a bar needs is a coat of green paint and Guinness on draft to consider itself one. But as a friend remarked upon entering the seemingly Irish pub-y MacGregors' (it is called MacGregors', for goodness' sake!), "It's too big and too bright to be an Irish pub."

Perhaps it is wise, then, that MacGregors' Grill & Tap Room on Maple Road dials the O'Irish down a bit. Sure, there are Emerald Isle flags dangling from the ceiling, the menu includes "Irish Nachos," and the beer list features Guinness and several other stouts.

But MacGregors' actually refers to itself -- on its sign, no less -- as "A Beer Lovers Paradise." Note the absence of the "I" word and the "p" word in its full title.

I suppose it is a beer lovers' paradise. The brew list -- which can be read in full on its website -- is suitably massive, with a sign near the front door noting "83 draft beers."

And it is appropriately unique, with such particularly noteworthy treats as the Brit fave Fuller's ESB and the Scottish-style Oskar Blues Old Chub.

While there are no happy hour specials, per se, there are, instead, daily and monthly specials. For example, this mid-September night featured an Oktoberfest quartet for $3.50 a pint: Spaten Oktoberfest, Otter Creek Oktoberfest, Great Lakes Oktoberfest and Brooklyn Oktoberfest. This, our server explained, was a monthlong special.

On a recent Thursday evening, I opted for a simple Magic Hat No. 9, and was pleasantly surprised by the price of $3 for 11 ounces.

Looking around the long room, I discerned that happily, the music was almost inaudible. This was especially appreciated when I realized it was the Dave Matthews Band, although some might be disappointed that the sound system seemed garbled.

The wooden bar was downright Last Supper-sized, lengthy and quite attractive, and even with a rather large crowd for a Thursday evening, the space felt roomy and comfortable.

A fleet of flat-screen TVs meant a nice view of the tube from virtually any booth or bar stool, and the other expected bits could also be found (air hockey, darts, some type of video poker game that one visitor seemed obsessed with).

The bar experience, then, was quite good. It was the "grill" portion of MacGregors' full name that was a tad questionable.

The menu is actually rather ambitious for a tap room, with the usual suspects (wings, burgers, fish and chips) joined by paninis, a diverse selection of hand-crafted pizzas, and a nice bunch of veggie options.

I opted for the simple wings-and-fries, while my friend ordered six wings and the appropriately named "Macho Nacho Platter." This was to come before the wings, but did not, since, as our server explained, "somebody forgot to make it."

When it did arrive, the beef he ordered was nowhere to be found. The server quickly appeared with a heaping bowl of apology-beef, which she did not charge him for, but to him, the damage was done, despite the platter being large enough to feed a family of four.

Are these little mix-ups a big deal? Not really, although one other visit with a large group for lunch led to similar snafus. Again, not altogether surprising -- a large crowd for lunch anywhere is dicey -- but worth nothing.

So consider this a relatively positive verdict. While I can't ignore my cohort's complaints, I found MacGregors' ideal for a drink. With a bit of time, I would expect any question marks to be erased.

And if not, there's always the Guinness.


MacGregors' Grill & Tap Room

4350 Maple Road, Amherst 725-0720,

Scene: A relatively relaxed "Irish pub" vibe amid a sea of flat-screen televisions.

Specials: There are no happy hour specials, but there are several daily specials, with some monthly beer specials, as well.

On tap: A sign at the front claims "83 draft beers" an entire list can be found on its website .

Music: Much of it was inaudible, but mostly seemed to be middle-of-the-road rock.

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