At a hotel bar in Berlin one sunny June afternoon, I asked some new American acquaintances about their plans for the day. Both worked for a large accounting firm. “E-mails,” one replied. “Editing a PowerPoint,” said the other. I gestured outside and reminded them that they were visiting a historic city on a cloudless day.

“Listen,” the first one said, a little self-mockingly, as she showed me the overflowing to-do list on her phone, “accountants might not be the kind of people you’d want to bring along on a trip around the world – but they are exactly the ones you want to make your packing list.”

So when Patrick O’Reilly, co-owner of O’Reilly’s Cure in Scarborough, told me that he and his wife, Sue, took two years to write up their business plan and request feedback from their friends and colleagues, it came as no surprise that his next sentence was, “I’m an accountant.”

Based on an analysis of traffic metrics and town amenities, the couple had even worked out, down to a few thousand feet along Route 1, precisely where they wanted their restaurant to be. When they found a site that aligned with their parking spot calculus, they hired architects and designers to help them create exactly the right space, using rough-sawn wood, metal, lots of glass and high ceilings to create a clean, but never clinical vibe that Sue O’Reilly describes as “rustic modern.”

Despite meticulous planning and a $1.3 million investment, there were early hiccups in the back-of-house. “You can do homework and research, but it only counts when you have the first customer come in the door and order something,” Patrick O’Reilly said.

Enter Scott Giallongo, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, who came on board a few months after O’Reilly’s Cure opened in October, first as a consultant, and eventually, as the executive chef. His menu – created in collaboration with both owners – references Patrick O’Reilly’s Irish ancestry as well as Sue O’Reilly’s Korean heritage, but by and large leans American, with a clear emphasis on pub classics and comfort food.


Giallongo’s best dishes are generally his simplest, like a chunky New England-style haddock chowder ($6 cup, $10 bowl). Tender pieces of celery and a piney, floral whisper of thyme let you know this isn’t a traditional Maine chowder, but that hardly matters. It was hearty without being heavy, with just enough cream to give it the heft to stand up to a pint of tangy, unfiltered Downeast Cider ($6) from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Both the “OC” burger ($13) and its poultry-based sister, the grilled “OC” chicken sandwich ($13), were solid sandwiches with a hint of sweetness from caramelized onions, crunch from strips of applewood bacon, and a savory finish: a melted slice of Welsh Red Dragon cheese flavored with ale and whole grain mustard. The combination worked well for both meats, if perhaps a bit better on the patty than on the slightly overdone breast.

A straightforward Irish classic, corned beef and cabbage ($15) was also generally enjoyable, especially the slow-simmered, briny meat, which, when eaten with a forkful of tender new potato, made me think fondly of wonderful pub lunches I used to eat in the UK. The bland cabbage and peculiarly barnyardy carrot slices, not so much.

Deep-fried Brussels sprouts ($8), intensely browned and mixed with smoky bacon, were also mostly a pleasure. A grating of more Red Dragon cheese on top, however, was salty overkill. And we discovered quickly that the dipping sauce – a mustardy, slow-simmered concoction made with serrano peppers, kimchi paste and Frank’s Red Hot sauce – was to be avoided. Mounted with an obscene amount of butter and flavored with sugar, it tasted like it was made from a thickened reduction of Sour Patch Kids.

“What’s in the sauce?” I asked a server, the only person working the busy stone patio section on my first visit. “Pfft. No idea. I’ll ask,” she replied. She never did. I tried to follow up later, when she made a microsecond-long visit to our table, but I missed my chance. We didn’t see her again for nearly half an hour, when swarmed by mosquitoes, we needed to relocate indoors.

Really, we ought to have made the move earlier, as did members of a local Little League team with their coaches, and a loutish party of New Jersey bros bellowing about recent escapades involving Sharpie art on the canvas of their sleeping friend’s buttocks. Good times.


I was charged with transporting the largest dish, the full rack of BBQ baby back ribs ($24). As I walked through the door, I had to turn to the side to accommodate the flimsy plastic “silver” tray, the kind you might spot at a church bake sale, lined with a doily and piled high with dry, beige cookies. “We didn’t have a plate big enough, and we have those trays from parties. It gives a ‘wow’ factor,” Giallongo said.

The grilled “OC” chicken sandwich features North Country applewood bacon, Red Dragon cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato.

In truth, little on the platter was wow-worthy. Rubbed with a housemade Cajun spice mix, then grill-marked and slow-roasted in an oven, the Sysco-sourced ribs were well-cooked, but were so free of meat, they could almost count as vegetarian.

The chipotle-spiced cornbread was sweet (in the Northern tradition), and purred with smoky heat, but looked sunken and unevenly baked – hard on the outside and squishy underneath. The best part of the dish may have been the lifeboat-sized serving of smoky “baked” (actually slow-simmered) beans that accompanied it.

I also encountered some unexpected chipotle in the Korean-inspired lettuce wrap appetizer ($12), a do-it-yourself plate of coconut jasmine rice and seasoned, stir-fried beef strips (“Sirloin? Ribeye? Maybe it’s pork?” our server guessed) meant to be eaten together in a bundle (ssam).

Part of the joy of eating ssam is loading up cool, fresh lettuce leaves with fillings and adding something electric and fiery to it, like kimchi or a gingery, scallion sauce.

Here, the only spice on offer came from a mild blob of chipotle aioli soaking into a ring-molded clot of rice.


Unfortunately, there were even bigger disasters. The Irish bangers & mash ($15) was one. On a mound of respectable mashed potatoes sat two rosemary-scented pork sausages from North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, New Hampshire – grilled to the consistency of a pool noodle and drowned in a Guinness-based gravy that tasted like thickened brown salt water.

A flavorless vegetable medley of sliver-cut zucchini, carrot, onion and summer squash did not help liven up the dish. “Such a shame,” said my dejected friend who had ordered it. I pushed the baked beans in his direction and handed him an extra spoon.

The Buffalo chicken flatbread special ($11) was no better: a bad idea on a plate. Because the kitchen grilled the dough before service, then baked it in the oven to order, the edges of the flatbread were tough and stale, the bottom wet and mushy. The sauce, “a house Buffalo sauce that we give a Korean kick with a kimchi base,” according to Giallongo, was acrid, amplified by the tang from a bleu cheese crumble.

When it comes to actual chicken wings ($12), the kitchen fares better, especially if you avoid the Korean Buffalo and stick to the Remedy sauce: “That first one is mostly ketchup with Korean sauce (presumably gochujang), and the second one? It’s really just regular wing sauce. That’s the one you want,” a knowledgeable and friendly server told me on my second recent visit.

In the end, her candid advice may hold the key to eating well at O’Reilly’s Cure: Stick to the simplest options and you stand a chance.

After all, an enthusiastically eclectic menu that ranges from poutine ($8) to a Mediterranean plate ($14), to a Greek salad ($10) to Korean steak tips ($20), demands a phenomenal amount of skill, time and advance preparation.


Sometimes even having an accountant in your corner isn’t enough to make it all work out in the end.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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