Rebirth of a Courthouse Classic

Source: Holly Nunn, clarendon.patch.com

Thursday, 01st Sept, 2011

Courthouse’s quintessential Irish pub hosted a grand reopening Wednesday, complete with a new menu, and renovated interior and kitchen.

Patrons enjoy an outdoor view during Ireland's Four Courts' grand re-opening. Credit Holly Nunn

In April, a grease fire knocked out kitchen operations for the summer, allowing only a limited menu to compliment the drink selection at Ireland’s Four Courts. The kitchen has been back in operation since early August, but Wednesday’s event was something of a premier for the changes.

“What we found was that the fire gave us an opportunity to have a new beginning,” said General Manager Dave Cahill. “We’re not just a pub. We want people to know that we’re a restaurant.”

Part of the new beginning is a totally different approach to the food they serve.

When the kitchen was crippled by the fire, renovation was in order. And with the new kitchen came a new chef to renovate the menu.

Chef Joel Lucas, former executive chef at McCormick and Schmick’s and Chef Geoff’s, both in Washington, said he was at first reluctant to spend his days boiling meat and potatoes.

“Even as a chef for 25 years, I didn’t have any knowledge of Irish foods,” Lucas said. “With Irish food in the U.S., you have your corned beef and cabbage, your fish and chips, your shepherd’s pie. But I started doing research and found that there is a lot more to Irish food.”

Lucas not only expanded the menu, but also changed the way food at the restaurant was made.

Now, it’s all about “scratch cooking” at Ireland’s Four Courts.

“We looked at the menu and said, ‘If we’re going to serve chicken fingers, we’re going to make chicken fingers,’ ” Lucas said.

“The fire is something that really drew me. They were taking the opportunity, redoing the whole kitchen, getting the tools necessary to really crank out good food. I’m lucky to be here.”

The new menu is part of management’s refocusing the purpose of the pub, from a neighborhood watering hole to a gastropub where the kids are welcome, too.

“When we first opened in 1996, we were like a traditional Irish bar,” Cahill said. “That was when our clientele was in their early- to late-20s. All those people who came in originally still come, but now they have families.”

To attract those people and other families, Cahill is offering a kids-eat-free special from 4 to 6 p.m. every day, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

The effect of the kid-friendly policy was apparent Wednesday, when pre-schoolers danced to music by a solo guitarist playing covers of Coldplay, U2 and Miley Cyrus.

The special won over Beth Decker of East Falls Church, who used to come to Ireland’s Four Courts for happy hours with friends.

“I’ve been here before, but I’ve never brought the girls,” said Decker, who brought her daughters — Madelyn, 11, and Caroline, 6 — and a friend. The girls approved of the fish and chips, and Decker said her steak salad was excellent.

The things Arlingtonians love about the pub haven’t changed.

The beer is still cold, thanks in part to a new draft beer system, and the music is live five nights a week.

And the fish and chips? Really, really good.

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