If you've seen the big guy in the kitchen at Blarney Stone Pub and wondered if he ever played sports, the answer is yes. Eric Burns was a standout two-sport athlete growing up.
Not surprisingly, he turns out tasty food in portions to satisfy the biggest appetites. Think plates of wings with eight different sauces to choose from — paninis, pulled pork and the massive Blarney Stone Burger, pasta, steak and an array of pizzas — all served at reasonable prices.
"Everything's made from scratch," Burns said. "I call it gastropub food. It's not just food you drop in a deep fryer, but you can still get it at a good price." Blarney Stone opened at 21st and Woodlawn on St. Patty's Day in a space that formerly housed Larry Bud's Sports Bar & Grill.
Owner Michelle Lindgren is continuing the location's history as a hangout for Wichita State University sports fans. With Burns in the kitchen, the food is good enough to draw in customers no matter what sport is in season.
Burns, 29, grew up in Las Vegas, where he was once matched up against future No. 1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden in a high-school all-star game."My claim to fame," Burns said with a grin.
He picked up cooking as a teenager, when he fried his first chicken rather than running down the road to KFC. "I was like, oh wow, this is good."
Burns attended culinary school and worked his way up the ladder at the four-star Green Valley Ranch Resort, just down the road from the Vegas Strip in Henderson, Nev. Eventually he was in charge of quality control for the resort's 10 kitchens, "going around to make sure everything was up to standards."
Four years ago, Burns, his wife and their three children moved to Kansas to be near his parents, who live in Clay Center. Burns' wife is originally from Jamaica, which is why one of his wing sauces, spicy jerk, tastes so authentic. Two other wing sauces — sweet Thai chili and honey sriracha — attest to his love of Asian flavors.
There are traditional and nontraditional Irish influences on the menu. Irish rolls, for instance, are made of slow-cooked corned beef and sauerkraut rolled up and fried in wonton wrappers. Irish Nachos is a dish that has proven a big hit, and melds fresh fried potato chips topped with corned beef, cheese sauce, grilled bell peppers and onions.
Shepherd's pie, Irish stew, bangers & mash and beer batter fish and chips are other dishes from the Emerald Isle. Once Irishmen get a taste of Blarney Stone's Irish pizza — a hand-rolled crust topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and more — they'll probably claim it as their own too.
As for dessert, Burns' fried bread pudding with ice cream and caramel sauce is convincing many a diner to clean their plate.
In addition to its 200-seat main dining area, Blarney Stone has a private room that can be reserved and a patio. It offers drop-off catering as well.
The bar is fully stocked with a selection of beer and liquor, Irish and otherwise. But Burns says the place is really intended to serve all ages, "It's an atmosphere where your kids can be loud and you don't have to worry about it."
Blarney Stone Pub
Sunday - Wednesday 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM
Thursday - Saturday 11:00 AM - 2:00 AM
2120 N. Woodlawn #300