The quest for Summit County’s best Irish bar: Loads of beer, four bars, one title
It’s March 17 and everyone is looking for a Guinness and the best and most authentic Irish party in town. But in Summit County, finding that party is harder than it sounds, with four bars claiming to be the true local Irish Pub. Napper Tandy’s with its Irish roots, the community-spirited Burke and Riley’s, Murphy’s, a somewhat sports bar and the traditional Celtic Cala Inn all promise an authentic and fun St. Patrick’s Day experience. So which is the official Irish Pub of the Summit? We’ll let you be the judge.
First, Napper Tandy was a revolutionary freedom fighter, who was extraordinarily lucky, even for an Irishman. Then it was a lyric in an old Irish song. Now, it’s a pub in Breckenridge that “parties like a club.” Founded by first-generation Irishmen, the pub, upstairs from Salt Creek on Lincoln Avenue, is a place where anyone can come and feel at home, said co-owner Anthony Bulfin. “(Our) attitude is give everyone the same old Irish welcome that you’d expect to get at home,” Bulfin said in an article-swaying Irish accent. Napper Tandy’s takes credit for being the first to bring a favorite Irish beer, Smithwicks, to the U.S. at its Long Island location, Bulfin said, and the red ale has been served in the Breckenridge pub since it opened in 2007. Today, it’s holding nothing back in the way of Irish festivities. The celebrations will include a corned beef buffet, served with a special Irish white cream sauce, green beer and, at 5 p.m., performances by local Irish step dancers whose teachers are world champion dancers, Bulfin said.
The Cala Inn in Summit Cove combines a shot of Irish tradition with a splash of Scottish influence, but holds the Americanism. The Celtic restaurant and pub offers a highly authentic European experience inspired by owner Scott Pohlman’s frequent trips to his family’s home in Scotland. The pub, designed by Irish and Scottish artisans, doesn’t bother with American conventions like a wait staff. “Our bar is more like what you would actually walk into in Ireland or Scotland,” Pohlman said. “It’s not an American model of what an Irish bar should be, it’s an actual Irish bar.” The Cala Inn, which draws its name from the Gaelic word for cove, is tucked into the residential Summit Cove neighborhood and has become a favorite with Irish locals and those who live nearby. “It’s a gathering place for everybody that lives in this community,” Pohlman said. “It’s very comfortable.”But today’s fan fare will be somewhat limited. When you’re Irish every day, it’s tough to ramp it up for special occasions. The bar will open early for a full Irish breakfast at 8 a.m. and local radio station Krystal 93 will do a live morning remote.
Burke and Riley’s, a second-story outdoor pub with a great patio in Breckenridge, has all the makings of a true, authentic Irish pub. A menu featuring family recipes for Shepherd’s pie? Check. Whiskey imported from Ireland? Check. Guinness? Check. But, according to co-owner Mark Burke, it’s not the beer that makes the bar Irish. “An Irish pub is a place where people in the community gather and become family,” Burke said. “That’s what an Irish pub is all about, being part of the fabric of the community.” Burke and his partner, Jack Riley, opened the bar together in 2004, hoping it would be a small “quaint” community place. Today, Burke and Riley’s boasts a menu of traditional homemade food based on family recipes, its own Irish pale ale and a commitment to the community. The Irish-American owners give money to various local groups including the Backstage Theater in Breckenridge and athletic programs at the high school. “We’ve taken a place we’ve made successful and we’ve actually given back to the community as a result of it,” Burke saidTonight, they’re giving the community a place where visitors can feel like locals and locals can feel like Irishmen with a party that will include live music from “rebellious” Irish band SixtySix Days and a unique St. Paddy’s T-shirt with the cover charge.
Murphy’s juggles multiple identities. It is a neighborhood hang-out, a sports bar and an Irish pub all at once. The bar in Silverthorne wasn’t born Irish, but took up the heritage of its owner Mark Bernie Murphy after its first St. Patrick’s Day in 1999. “Everybody wants to be Irish,” Murphy says. And parts of the sports bar and pub are. The interior is decorated with Oak wood once housed in a courthouse in Ireland.The alcohol also has a ring of authenticity and will be flowing all day today with live guitar performances by Carey Robinson and Tommy Shrieve and a chance to win a Grenade ski jacket.
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