It seems like Argyle Street is finally living up to its name, with the addition of The Loose Cannon Scottish Public House to the row of restaurants flanking the curbside. Heading to the pub, I hope for tams and knickers and maybe a vault full of gold that I could swim around in; I expect at least a brogue-soaked experience that anything the word "Scottish" in its name should have. That's not what I get.
What I do get is a small and pleasant, low-key pub. Dimly lit, steeped in dark wood that is broken up by a sprinkling of Highland inspirations, it's an immediately relaxing space. Big tables loom in every corner and crowd each wall. At first there is no server to be seen, but after a few minutes he wanders by the bar and drops off some menus.
The menu has just a shade over a dozen items. The focus is standard pub fare---steak, hamburgers, club wraps. There's nothing that really screams "Scottish!" on the menu except for a steak and ale pie. Not a single member of the pudden race is present, let alone the great chieftain, haggis. There are some English dishes, like bangers and mash and fish and chips and some Irish-inspired corned beef meals, which is perfectly fine in a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey kind of way.
Our server really pushes the daily special
---a pitcher of beer and nachos for $15. Not interested, we settle on the fish and chips ($10.99) and the steak and ale pie ($9.99). My friend orders a pint of Guinness, and after striking out a few times in what feels like a wild beer chase (a number of draughts aren't available that night), I order a rye and ginger, which comes back neither watery nor too strong. The Guinness is well-poured.
The food arrives shortly, attractively presented on long, rectangular platters. Both dishes have a heaping pile of hand cut, wedge-style French fries.
The steak and ale pie is served in a round, carved-out loaf of bread. The menu said it was served in a warm pastry, so I am immediately disappointed, having expected a freshy cooked pastry pie. The stew itself is under-seasoned and over-simmered. The steak is tough and bland, and all of the vegetables are on the brink of disintegration in the thick, starchy broth.
Hard to distinguish in the dusky light of the bar, the fries are inconsistent, with some offering a brown crispiness and others edging over the line between well-browned and burnt. The fries that accompany the fish have teetered over that thin black line.
In the form of big pieces of beer-battered haddock, the fish is average, no better or worse than your bog-average crispy fried fish. The homemade tartar sauce is unfortunately bland, with only a hint of dill, and no acidity to cut through the fat and offer the delicious tang you hope for. Thankfully there is a big, fresh lemon wedge on the side. Tang achieved!
Even though the food is only OK, we aren't disappointed by our trip to The Loose Cannon. We spend two hours chatting over drinks and enjoying the unobtrusive atmosphere. Our server only interrupts to clear our dishes and offer fresh drinks, leaving us to enjoy the evening.
Food just doesn't seem like the point at The Loose Cannon. With a huge menu of scotch and whiskey and an extensive list of domestic and imported beers, it has a grab-a-pint-after-work feel that's easy to relax in and even easier to forgive for its failings. It's not really Scottish, but it's not crap, either: it just is what it is.