by Mary Price Lee & Richard S. Lee

“Is this trip worth it?” the driver among us wondered aloud. First came the rain, with umbrellas, at home. Then came rush-hour traffic on Welsh Road (Route 63), with especially gooey intersections at 202 and then at North Wales Road. Hah! We weren’t even in Lansdale, where Welsh Road becomes Main Street. Finally, we arrived at Molly Maguire’s, on the corner at 329 West Main, one block past the railroad crossing — and, lo, the rain stopped.

Molly Maguire’s new general manager, Jay Murphy, hopes to play a role in the revitalizing of Lansdale with a St. Patrick’s Parade come spring. (Photo by Richard Lee)

Metered parking is available by turning the Maguire’s corner and winding your way into Lansdale train station parking ahead and to the right. It took us 35 minutes to get there from our home in Flourtown on a rainy early Friday evening; we figure it would take about 15 minutes on a clear midday Tuesday.

Molly Maguire’s has a narrow footprint on Main Street, but its etched glass windows facing the side street provide lots of inside light to complement the pressed-tin ceiling, handsome bar with its multi-colored tiled floor, dark wood paneling and varied seating that includes richly-upholstered sofa-style banquettes as well as conventional chairs and tables.

Molly Maguire’s is celebrating its first anniversary this month, and, while the first year was not all beer and skittles, with several management changes, our impression is that it is now firmly establishing its place in the revitalizing of Lansdale. That goal will become reality if its new general manager, Jay Murphy, can make his plans unfold.

Irish but born in London, single and 39, this Irish Rover has traveled the world and has the stories to prove it. Example: he was working in London at the time of Princess Diana’s funeral, and has his own vivid impressions of the event. He’s not a Royalist, although he has shaken Prince Charles’ hand, but he captivated the one of us who is with a lively exchange of Royal Family tales. His past includes 25 years in the Irish pub business, running, first, the busiest pub and later the biggest pub (O’Neill’s) in Ireland. He’s been in the U.S. for two years.

We met, too, with Jerry Eichner, executive chef for the two (and soon to be three) Molly Maguire’s Pubs. (The first, founded in 2007, is in Phoenixville; the next will open later this year in Downingtown.) Jerry is 33, a self-taught chef who came to the Phoenixville Molly’s after 10 years at a Peddler’s Village restaurant.

Molly’s large menu has Irish staples interspersed with such “interesting” items as fried dill pickles  wrapped in light dough, fried, dashed with Parmesan cheese and served with horseradish cream sauce ($7.95). The high-water mark on their menu is a New York strip steak with black and tan onion rings, $23.95, with most entrees in the $17-$18 range. Sandwiches and other fare are notably less.

We dipped a bit lower. One of us had a ham and Cheddar boxty: grilled ham, Irish Cheddar, with grilled tomatoes and fried onions, wrapped in an Irish potato cake and topped with warm Cheddar sauce ($11.95).  Served with just-right cooked vegetables, this was an excellent choice.

Server Sarah Metmiller shows off Molly’s selection of home-made desserts, “home” being the Phoenixville Molly’s. (Photo by Richard Lee)

Molly’s least expensive entrée was our other choice: mac and cheese ($12.95). This was huge — penne pasta with bacon and cheddar, topped with toasted bread crumbs. In addition to the standing variety, they offer a mac and cheese of the day, same price, slight twist to the traditional ingredients (example: summer squash added). This was pure comfort food. We closed this calorie-laden meal with a shared slice of Bailey’s cheesecake — as good as the name would imply, and made by their own baker in the Phoenixville Molly’s; all was abetted by excellent service from Sarah Metmiller, a Lansdale resident.

Molly’s has gotten some snarky online reviews, as well as praise, nearly all the gripes from its opening days, and part of the reason for Jay Murphy’s presence as GM. But based on our experience, Molly’s is worth a visit.

There’s also a new $8.99 lunch special: one-half sandwich and a choice of soups. On a return visit to re-take a photo, one of us had a half-Reuben and a deliciously sloppy bowl of onion soup. The other enjoyed a bleu cheese burger, lavishly trimmed, for $10.95.

Molly’s has music on Friday and Saturday evenings and traditional Irish music on Sunday afternoons.

According to owner Conor Cummins, the name of the restaurant comes from a legendary widow in Ireland in the mid-1800s whose name was taken by a group of men thought to be responsible for many acts of violence against landlords who treated poor Irish tenant families in a most cruel manner. The name Molly Maguires was also taken by a group of Irish American coal miners in Pennsylvania in the 1860s and ‘70s who engaged in many acts of violence against landlords and mine owners who had perpetrated horrific acts of injustice against coal miners and poor tenants.

Molly Maguire’s Restaurant and Pub, 329 West Main St., Lansdale. Reservations suggested; 267-263-2109. Open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For menus and directions,