Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
O’Donoghue’s Bar & Grill is back with a brighter, more open environment and an updated menu still dedicated to the fare of the Emerald Isle.
The eatery reopened last week after a six-week hiatus that saw the removal of walls and barriers that largely separated the bar and dining areas and also covered large windows.
As a result, natural light is now everywhere, radiating throughout an environment that also includes an updated bar.
“Everyone who’s come in, the reaction has been ‘Oh, this is so nice and bright,'” said Helen Donaghy, co-owner with her husband, Peter.
The bar now highlights old Irish coins that belonged to Donaghy’s late father. They’re interspersed along its horseshoe shape.
Donaghy said removing the wall between the bar and dining room unifies the establishment and helps foster the convivial atmosphere common to Irish pubs.
“We wanted it to be like a pub in Ireland,” said Helen Donaghy. “The food, of course, is extremely important, but so is the social aspect – making friends.”
The Donaghys, both natives of Ireland, opened O’Donoghue’s in June 2010. Shutting down briefly this year provided a respite for themselves and their staff and – upping the authenticity they crave.
“It’s the friendliness, good food, good drink – a good pint of Guinness is extremely important – and a warm, cozy feeling like home,” Helen Donaghy said in describing the ambiance of a traditional Irish pub. “That’s what we wanted and that’s what we’re getting.”
Menu changes have been relatively slight and haven’t affected favorites such as the shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage and Irish lamb stew.
Thanks to new head chef Rick Rubel, appetizer offerings now include loaded Irish nachos – thin potato crisps covered with shepherd’s pie mix, cheddar cheese, onion, tomato and more for $9.99 or $5.99 for a half order.
The dessert menu now includes the Southwest Florida favorite Key lime pie, as well as such Irish treats as Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake, banoffi – a crushed cookie base, toffee, sliced banana topped with whipped cream – bread and butter pudding and chocolate roulade.
O’Donoghue’s is serving only dinners for the first 10 days after its Oct. 5 reopening. After that, lunches and deliveries will be added.
A Sunday favorite, the traditional Irish breakfast, is also slated to return in about one week. Offered from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., the meal features imported Irish bacon (similar to a ham streak), black and white blood pudding, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, homemade potatoes and baked beans.
The restaurant has live entertainment on Friday and Saturday, off season, and Wednesday through Saturday during tourist season. From 3-6 p.m. on Sundays, there’s a seisiún (informal gathering of Irish traditional musicians) or jam session.
“You never know who’s going to show or what instrument they’re going to bring,” said Helen Donaghy. “It became extremely popular last year.”
Harry Miller Jr. and his wife, Suzanne, of Marco Island stopped by O’Donoghue’s last Friday for an early dinner, their sixth visit to the restaurant since its opening.
Ham and cabbage is a favorite for Harry Miller while his wife describes herself as being “more the chicken-pot-pie type.”
Both praised the food and the atmosphere.
“They’re just so friendly and welcoming when you come in, that it’s like eating at home,” said Suzanne Miller.
Their dinner companions, Chuck and Mickey Davies of suburban Philadelphia, were trying O’Donoghue’s for the first time.
Mickey Davies said he found the selection of dishes appealing.
“So far, it’s wonderful, it’s great,” said Chuck Davies. “You can’t go wrong if it’s Irish.”