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The Black Raven Pub offers food and entertainment that captivates

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Fries with Guinness cheddar at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Fries with Guinness cheddar at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Always check the calendar.

Gathered around a pair of tables at Choctaw’s The Black Raven Pub, 14471 NE 23rd St., we laughed as a pair of kilted bagpipe players entered the ostensibly Irish pub. Maybe they had just left a gig, I said. Maybe this is where they like to eat, I said. Maybe they won’t start playing, I said.

But it was right there on the bar’s online events calendar: Oklahoma Scottish Pipes & Drums. As more bagpipes and players entered, we all knew what was going to happen.

A brief word about the glories of the technological age in which we currently live:

Cell phones are completely amazing. They can guide people to an out-of-the-way restaurant in Choctaw. They can look up Irish terms with which they are not familiar before ordering. And when a bluster of bagpipes arrives and starts playing a familiar, but unique version of “Oklahoma!,” friends can open a chat program and talk until the racket dies down.

So it went as customers drank and ordered and ate and the band played and rested and played again.

My first thought when anyone mentions Black Raven is always the Guinness cheddar.

On the restaurant’s website, the owners call it a “beautiful black melted goo” and I am hard-pressed to find any better words to describe it, but here it goes.

Guinness cheddar looks like a mountain of hot tar and tastes like every choir of angels in heaven came down to rub their famously cheesy wings on your taste buds. As Leviticus 8:37 tells us, “Blessed art thy angel wings, yea, verily, because they taste of beery cheese.” Amen.

That is why you should order the Guinness chips ($6.99) before you even order a drink. You need these in your life.

Scotch eggs (two for $7.49) also are popular. A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded and fried. It’s exactly as good as it sounds, in a heart-stopping sort of way.

It you’re looking for mashed potatoes, Black Raven uses them a lot. Probably the best place for them was underneath a couple of sausages and some gravy in the bangers and mash ($10.99).

While in other applications they were a little dry or stiff, the dark brown gravy and the fat from the Irish sausage in the bangers and mash made for a hearty, velvety bite. If you suffer from a chill, this is a dish guaranteed to warm you from the inside.

There’s more mashed potatoes atop the shepherd’s pie ($10.99), but I wasn’t as excited about this dish. The potatoes didn’t have as much moisture to work with, and the melted cheddar cheese on top seemed lost in the mix. I like the mix of mushrooms, vegetables and ground beef and pork under the potatoes just fine, but the flavor didn’t blow me away.

Shepherd's Pie at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Shepherd's Pie at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

I’d much rather get the fish and chips ($10.99), but that’s almost always true. The Black Raven dips cod filets in a Harp batter and fries them golden and crispy, with the fish inside still tender and juicy. The fish and batter has a mild sweetness, but for a real punch of flavor, grab that malt vinegar and go to town.

Depending on how cold it is outside, I’ll tentatively recommend the beef and Guinness stew ($9.99). The flavor was nice but could have used a bit more seasoning. Freshly ground pepper would go a long way to livening up a pretty straightforward dish. It’s filling. It’s nice and warm. But it doesn’t bring as much to the table as the salmon boxty ($17.99).

Oh, boxty. Ever since Sean Cumming’s Pub, I have been a fan. It’s a silky salmon filet wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes, pan-fried and then topped with a lemon-dill sauce. It’s crazy how good this is and how stark the comparison is between some much heavier fare.

Salmon boxty at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Salmon boxty at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Pub food, by nature, is pretty fatty, heavy stuff. It’s there to keep you fed while you have a few pints, before you head back into the mines. Salmon boxty isn’t diet food, but it’s so much more delicate than a Scotch egg or even fish and chips. That lemon-dill sauce is dreamy, too. Creamy and tart, it’s a great balance against the starchiness of the potatoes.

Forgive me, but I had to go back for more Guinness cheddar on the Black Mist Burger ($14.49). It’s a burger topped with Guinness cheddar and corned beef. The taste was fine, but sadly, the cheese got lost amid all the other strong flavors. One might be better off getting The Raven Burger ($9.99) and adding Guinness cheddar for $3.50. It’s less meat, but more of that amazing cheese flavor.

Finally, the Irish bread pudding ($5.99) continues my streak of being wrong about bread puddings. Growing up, I could not stand the mushy and wet texture of the sweet slop, but Oklahoma City and the surrounding environs are making some tremendous bread puddings lately. This was moist with pockets of crispness and plenty of balanced flavor from the Irish whiskey caramel sauce.

Irish bread pudding at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Irish bread pudding at Black Raven Pub in Choctaw, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

As several guests grabbed their coats and headed out, one of the pipers said, “We finally drove you off, huh?” No, because they will be back for the Guinness cheddar and Irish bread pudding.

Print headline: Full nest, Bagpipes aside, The Black Raven Pub is a treat for the senses.

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