Thursday, 28th October, 2011
As a native of Cork, Ireland, Sarah Staley is ready, with the help of her husband Jeff, to break some misconceptions Americans have about Irish food and culture.
The couple plans on offering a taste of Sarah’s homeland through their new Bartlett restaurant, The Sheep & Fiddle, 1085 Army Trail Rd., scheduled to open Thursday, Nov. 3.
“We really want people to get that sense of what Ireland is about — that it is about relaxation, it’s about having a little bit of fun,” Sarah said.
“People will be a bit surprised, I think, because a lot of people think Irish food is a little bit flavorless, or whatever. We’re going to change that perception as much as possible,” she added with a laugh.
Located where Hull’s Pub used to be, the restaurant is cozy with room for less than 100 guests and simple decor that the Staleys hope will make patrons feel at home.
“Americans think the Irish really like to drink and a reason there’s that misconception is because the Irish often will go to a pub more as a place to gather,” Jeff said. “It’s more of a place to sit around the fire, sing songs, tell stories. It’s kind of like you’re going into someone’s living room, and that’s the culture we’re trying to portray.”
The restaurant’s head chef, Simon Kearney, hails from Northern Ireland and previously worked at McNalley’s Irish Pub in St. Charles.
The Staleys said Kearney’s best dishes include a beef and Guinness stew, made with slow-cooked beef and vegetables braised in a Guinness-based gravy ($11.95); the Sheep & Fiddle boxty, an Irish take on a French crepe, filled with beef and Guinness, chicken and leek, corned beef and cabbage or a vegetable medley ($9.95); and Simon’s shepherd’s pie, a combination of fresh beef and vegetables in gravy topped with mashed potatoes and served with Irish brown bread ($10.95).
Traditional American pub food, such as burgers and specialty sandwiches, will also be on the menu, as will traditional Irish whiskeys like Jameson, Bushmills and Tullamore Dew.
Sarah added that in the Irish tradition of not rushing, a pint of Guinness will be served properly, which she said means taking “at least five minutes to pour.”
The Staleys said they plan to help the community, starting with raffles of bar signs given to them by beer distributors, with proceeds going to a food pantry. They also have hopes to expand their menu, host musicians and eventually open more locations.
“I think what Bartlett really needed was a place where you could take your family out for dinner and have a nice dinner, but at the same time it’s a bar,” Jeff said.
The Sheep & Fiddle will be open Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight.