By: Mickayla Beckett
As human beings, we’re engineered to like food. Some of us even have favorites, though I never could decide on one myself. Food is something that unites people because we all need it, we all make it, and we all eat it. Naturally, with the high Irish immigrant population in the United States over the decades and the enduring attachment Americans have for Irish heritage, there are a number of Irish pubs and restaurants around. Of course, there is a distinct difference between authentic Irish pubs and Irish-themes pubs, which is important to consider when analyzing the impact and success of Irish pubs. According to “The Irish Pub Concept,” a website that specializes in supporting and increasing the number of authentic Irish pubs in the United States, authentic Irish pubs tend to be more successful than their inauthentic namesakes. The website contains an economic comparison showing higher profits with the authentic Irish pubs, even if they had less money initially put into them. It’s hard to find exact statistics for how many of each may be in the country, but this particular website gives a good idea on how to tell the difference between the two: the authentic Irish pub is much more likely to be open during the day for food and it is much more likely to have an environment that promotes gathering, socializing, and conversing when compared to the themed pubs.
I live nearby one, Ryan’s Tavern, which is a restaurant founded by two second-generation Irish immigrants. This location was one of my first experiences with the concept of an Irish pub. Inside the menu and on their website, they have a section that explains that “pub” does not equal “bar,” but that “pub” is short for “public house” and referred to a community gathering place, most of which are family friendly. True to their description, Ryan’s Tavern is a cozy spot in the city that never fails to serve hot classics like shepherd’s pie as well as inspired items such as the Reuben and Fish and Chips. Although the traditional fare was limited, it did whet my appetite for more Irish cuisine.
Luckily, a yearly meeting for my mother’s work took her to Cary, North Carolina for a week and she asked me to go with her. With a free week’s vacation without babysitting, of course I agreed and that’s how I got to try Doherty’s Irish Pub. The founder of Doherty’s emigrated from County Galway in Ireland with the dream of opening a pub here—just like his grandfather had done in New York City in 1950 with Connolly’s Irish Pub. I learned while there that all the menu items were the founder’s personal recipes and that everything was made in the restaurant itself. Now I got the chance to try some true Irish fare. My mother had made corned beef and cabbage before, but there’s nothing quite like splitting a heaping bowl of the tender dish and another of bangers and mash for the first time. The “bangers” were certainly unlike any sausages I’d ever tried and I was much more enchanted with them than I was the Italian sausage we usually paired with potatoes at home. Our waitress that evening informed us that the sausages were specially made at the restaurant as well according to the founder’s recipe and that they were well liked by visiting family and locals alike. Like Ryan’s, the restaurant was a place that makes one feel comfortable and gives one the sense that Ireland would be a lovely place to visit, if only for a meal.