Walking into the Presidents Rock Club in Quincy, you’d expect good music. The walls are adorned with photos of famous musicians, the tables are decorated like albums, and the outdoor wall boasts a massive mural of Barack Obama dressed as Jimi Hendrix.
But the thing I didn’t expect was the great food.
At the urging of the owner, who said he had hired a new chef and tweaked the menu, I ventured out to the Presidents club, at the rear of 1546 Hancock St., specifically to try the eats.
For an extra dose of irony, my compatriots and I headed out on Presidents’ Day, a quiet Monday night without live music, so we could focus on the food.
It felt strange walking into a usually hopping nightclub specifically to eat. The brash wall art glared in the brighter lights of the dining room/dance floor with no cover band to distract the eye. There wasn’t even a hostess stand, and after we wandered aimlessly through the bar side of the restaurant, the bartender told us we were welcome to sit at any table.
And any table it was. With the exception of a happy-go-lucky group at the bar basking in the last night of a long weekend, there was no one else in the club.
The menu isn’t expansive, yet offers enough options for variety. Most notably, it includes several Irish-inspired dishes, more influenced by their new chef than the heritage of owner David Keville.
“We got a new cook,” Keville said in a thick Irish brogue. “The guy is familiar with the Irish scene, and was in a bar no longer in existence, and he came to us. It was a perfect fit. Primarily we’re in an Irish neighborhood and an Irish bar. We serve a lot of Irish food.”
Since moving into the space in January 2012, Keville has updated much in the club, which used to be Bad Abbotts and for a short time Texas Saloon. Most notably, the music has changed back to rock and DJ, and the vibe is continually tweaked to complement the music.
Though Keville isn’t looking to make the club a destination restaurant, he is hoping people will at least sample the menu, more for the sake of his hard-working chef than anything else.
I was skeptical, but figured it was worth the shot.
Although we skipped the breakfast offerings, we ordered the bar’s specials in almost every other category to get a full taste of the kitchen, starting with the Guinness beef stew ($4 for a cup, $6 for a bowl), buffalo-seasoned Wing Dings ($7), and the Presidential Nachos ($8.50).
The stew was hearty and overflowing with tender meat, cuddled in a thick sauce worthy of the “stew” moniker. The dish came with a thick slice of toasted bread to sop up any extras.
The wings, meanwhile, were worthy of their own trip back to the club. Thick chunks of white meat were breaded in crispy perfection and slathered with a spicy buffalo sauce. I’m tempted to return just to try the other flavors, honey mustard and barbecue.
As for the nachos, which were covered in meaty chili and peppered with tomatoes and lettuce, I’m not sure exactly what makes them presidential, but the dish was hard to put down.
While missing some of my favorite nacho elements — I’m looking at you, guacamole — they were cheesy throughout with a flawless crunch, and accompanied by a healthy heaping of sour cream and salsa.
Sticking to a bar food theme, we skipped salads and moved on to pizza, trying the intriguing Presidents Breakfast Pizza ($7).
Keville said the breakfast pizza is a local favorite, and is often ordered when people come in to watch a sports game.
My guests concurred, saying the 10-inch pie was the perfect late-night snack, a mixture of dinner and breakfast, with eggs, cheese, Irish sausages, bacon, peppers, and onions humming in the familiar taste of breakfast medley.
But perhaps my favorite dish was the corned beef Reuben ($7). Flavorful, juicy, with meat lean and delicious and so tender it gave way to every bite, and coupled with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread, the sandwich was surprising and scrumptious, and was gone soon after it was placed on the table.
Equally as good were the Guinness sirloin tips ($11.25). The well-marinated meat was unexpectedly sweet, extremely juicy, and tender to the touch, and sided with sautéed peppers and onions. Despite everything we had already eaten, those, too, were quickly consumed.
The only miss in my book was the shepherd’s pie. Perhaps I just don’t like this dish, but the thin layer of ground beef was consumed by a heaping of otherwise flavorless mashed potatoes and coated in a thick layer of cheese.
My Irish-blooded boyfriend, meanwhile, raved about it, calling it the perfect comfort food, a hallmark of what his mom used to make. He took the leftovers for later.
I left full and satisfied, and wondering why so few have ventured to this corner of the Hancock Street parking lot to try out the food.
It’s clear that Presidents Rock Club isn’t known as a restaurant, but there’s a good chance it could be.
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@ gmail.com.