St. James Irish Pub adds new kitchen

Source: Dakota Rabbitt, heraldnews.com

Tuesday, 06th Sept, 2011

In recent years, the economic recession has impacted nearly every job in some way. Local bar St. James Irish Pub decided to combat the recession by making an enormous change: adding a kitchen.

At St. James Pub, chef Matthew Medley serves up a big burger with bacon, lettuce, and tomato, plus an order of chicken wings with one of six choices of sauce.

John Brandt, owner of the establishment for 20 years, and his partner Ron Travassos, initially decided to start serving food again in an attempt to appeal to more customers. However, it took “about a year” before the co-owners’ vision became a reality.

Brandt took a trip to Minneapolis, Minn. to look at one of the country’s most profitable bar/restaurant combinations. Brandt was able to observe the hybrid, and planned on using similar aspects to help his own bar succeed after the transition.

The St. James Irish Pub had been kitchen-less since 1995. After a year of hard work, the pub now features a state-of-the-art kitchen, full of Energy Star equipment, which, Brandt said, is the leading brand in kitchen fire prevention.

This new kitchen and the added restaurant aspect have yielded many positive results. The pub “went from having three employees to now having fourteen,” said Brandt, adding it is “bringing in more, new customers.”

New customers include couples coming in for lunch and people stopping by late at night. With the hospital nearby, there are both workers and patients leaving at all hours, and many will come in a “last-minute burst” to order food before the kitchen closes at midnight. Brandt said he has noticed the most enthusiastic response from returning customers. “The regulars really love it. Friday after work, they can have a nice, hot meal with their cocktail, and they will stay in the pub for longer.”

The Irish pub has also become much more “green” by using locally grown ingredients. While attempting to fight through the difficult economic situation, the pub has continued to support local farmers, too.

For Brandt, Sundays are spent at farmers’ markets in the area, sampling regional produce and cheeses. Brandt describes his weekend activity as “fun work.” He “enjoys going around to various farmers’ markets and tasting produce and cheeses for the pub. It’s great to be able to see where I am buying my food from.”

This ensures that locally grown ingredients are fresh, and for many people, those ingredients can give the food a unique, home grown taste, he said.

The introduction of locally grown food into the menu has been a hit thus far and the local ingredients are also featured in specials. “Recently, we served salads that had cheese from Westport and Narragansett.”

One of the most popular items on the menu is the “Juicy Lucy,” a cheeseburger composed of two handcrafted hamburger patties with Monterey jack cheese in between them. After adding onions, lettuce, and tomato, the chef ties it all together with the slightly spicy secret “Boom-Boom sauce.”

Other favorites are chicken wings drizzled in homemade whiskey sauces, hand-cut french fries, sliders and onion rings. The pub also features a take-out option called the “lunch box to-go.”

The St. James Irish Pub is located at 91 Purchase St.

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