‘Hey, we’re Irish!’ Castletown Geoghegan serves the entire family

If you’re looking for a spot of green no matter the time of year, head to Castletown Geoghegan in downtown Belleville.It’s as authentic as an Irish pub can get without being in Ireland.”We wanted a family pub and that’s what we have here,” said Tom Gagen, 67. Originally started almost a decade ago by Tom and his brothers Ed and Kevin, the business is now run by Tom, who handles the bar, and Ed, 68, who is in charge of the kitchen.

Ed Gagen, right, and his brother, Tom, run Castletown Geoghegan, an Irish pub in downtown Belleville. - BND

Fans of a good Guiness stout or a shot of Bushmills whiskey are welcome, but so are all ages for an Irish meal and entertainment.”When you come in here, you might see a couple generations. Families and children are welcome here,” said Ed.They gather for the Tuesday night seisiun (session), an Irish pub tradition where local musicians join together to informally play Irish tunes (7-7:30 to 10:30 p.m.).”Anyone can sit down and jam,” said Tom.”Or sit down and listen — and eat,” added Ed.Shepherd’s Pie is one of the top-selling menu items. It’s a traditional Irish dish of ground beef, vegetables, herbs and spices, topped with colcannon (mashed potatoes) and baked ($11.95). Irish Stew ($14.50) and Corned Beef & Cabbage ($13.95) are on the menu, too. They include a demi loaf of homemade Guinness Brown Bread.The brothers recently completed a four-month makeover of the interior of Castletown Geoghegan (the Gaelic way to spell Gagen), making it even more Irish. You’ll see photos of Irleland on the newly painted green walls and carved shamrocks on the new wooden beams in the party room, which has been extended 12 feet. The pride of the pub, though, continues to be the gleaming wood bar with a convenience commonly found in Ireland’s drinking and eating establishments: Hooks below the rail next to bar stools for hanging purses, hats or jackets.The pub will be a decade old come September, and the brothers said they’ve had to change with the economic times to continue to draw customers and meet the bottom line. They’ve tightened the menu up, but kept the best-sellers. They serve lunch, dinner, plus a dozen appetizers. Sandwiches include a non-Irish favorite the brothers laugh about.”The Reuben is big,” said Ed with a chuckle. The corned beef is piled high on toasted rye, topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing ($8.95). Other sandwiches include burgers, chicken, pulled pork and roast beef. They all include fries, or the not-to-be-missed crispy Irish Chips, which also can be served as an appetizer ($5.75).Potatoes play prominently on the appetizer menu.”Hey, we’re Irish!” said Tom. Try the Potato Puffs (mashed, then flash-fried and served with dressing, $5.25) or the Irish Nachos (large plate of Irish Chips topped with Shepherd’s Pie and Cheddar cheese sauce, $10.95). Five salads, homemade soup of the day and desserts that include Irish Whiskey Bread Pudding ($4.95) round out the menu. Those who imbibe will have many, many choices: Eight brews are on tap, including Guinness, Smithwick’s, Harp, New Castle and Schlafly. There are at least 30 different types of bottled beer, too. Plus, Irish single-malt scotch and whiskey draw fans with names like Glenlivet, Cragganmore, Tyrconnell and Knappogue.”We have some rather unknown whiskey and we pride ourselves on having them on hand,” said Tom.The two brothers said homes are small in Ireland, so families gather in pubs for a meal and to enjoy each other’s company. They want their customers to feel the same, said Tom.”We think of the pub as an extended living room.”How the pub got its nameIt may be spelled Geoghegan, but it’s simply pronounced Gagen, which is how the family name is now spelled in the United States.The name of the pub has been borrowed from a tiny town, Castletown Geoghegan, in the County of Westmeath, Ireland. It is the ancestral home of the Gagen family, with roots traced back more than 1,000 years. The family coat of arms (on display in the entrance) is a gift from family historian Eddie Geoghegan, who lives near Athlone, Ireland. A framed photo of the Belleville pub graces the wall of Ned Claffey’s, the most prominent pub in Castletown Geoghegan (right across from St. Michael’s Church).

Source: Suzanne Boyle, bnd.com

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