Monday night is normally subdued for the restaurant and bar business in downtown Annapolis.
Not so at Galway Bay Irish Pub on Maryland Avenue. Men and women were sardined four deep along the stretch of hardwood bar and every table was booked. A big screen dominated the dining room and three more TV sets were spread throughout the pub.
The TVs at Galway Bay were set up for one night and one reason only: the pub had a starring role last night on The Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” hosted by restaurateur, best-selling cookbook author and reality show star Guy Fieri.
The owners of Galway Bay, brothers Michael and Fintan Galway and Anthony Clark, discovered their popular Irish pub was going to get the Hollywood treatment in late October.
”A show producer spotted an article in a travel magazine,” said Clark. The show called the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, which gave Galway Bay a good recommendation. “Afterwards, the producer interviewed our chef, Mike Morrone, for nearly two hours. They wanted to know the top sellers on our menu and how they were made.”
Fieri and his crew quietly arrived in Annapolis in November and toured the restaurant. The next two days, the restaurant was shuttered for filming. On Nov. 17, cameras were rolling as customers ordered and ate.
And last night, crowds clustered around the bar awaiting the start of the show at 10 p.m., Michael called out winning numbers from red stubs that were handed to every patron as they arrived. His brother, Fintan, spun a wheel for another contest. Specially printed T-shirts bearing the pub’s logo were given away. Just before the show aired, Fintan walked through the pub handing out small white paper bags of freshly popped popcorn.
State Senator John Astle strolled into the dining room.
”I mentioned this on the floor of the Senate tonight,” Astle said. He seated himself in front of the largest screen, next to Connie Del Signore, president and CEO of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau. “This show has a terrific audience nationwide. It’s great exposure for Galway Bay,” said Del Signore.
Seated at the bar, Annapolitans Megan Boylan and Jessica Rorer waited for the show. Galway Bay regulars, they’d been invited to take part in the show’s filming at the pub. They arrived at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning and weren’t released until 1 p.m. “It was really fun, an experience with my friends,” said Rorer.
”I was a little afraid,” said Boylan. “But Guy was such a low-key, down-to-earth person. What you see on screen is what you get.”
Chef Morrone didn’t swap culinary trade secrets during his face-time with Fieri. Instead, the two chatted about Fieri’s extensive car collection. “He has everything. Million dollar cars.”
The chef joked, “This is only two minutes of my fifteen minutes of fame.” He added: “Guy liked our fried oysters, our cole slaw and our cabbage wraps. He’s a chili guy and I use green chili peppers in the cole slaw, a little bit of a southwestern flavor. We also use a lot of fresh, locally sourced food, like our Virginia oysters.”
The crowd erupted in loud cheers as scenes from Galway Bay flashed across the four screens. Teasing the audience, Fieri visited Defonte’s in Brooklyn, New York, and The Glass Onion in Charleston, South Carolina, before pulling up in his red Camaro in front of Galway Bay on Maryland Avenue.
On camera, patron John Shumaker was asked what he likes about the pub. “You know what? There’s no TV,” Shumaker announced. Stunned, Fieri stammered, “How are you going to watch my show?” Watching from the bar, Shumaker was delighted his comment had aired.
In the kitchen, Fieri gushed over Chef Morrone’s cabbage rolls, stuffed with a mixture of creamy potatoes, corned beef and mustard sauce. “It’s Irish sushi,” Fieri proclaimed. “It’s the Irish bomb!” Morrone showed how he spends five to six hours daily fortifying the corned beef with more flavor.
Fieri ate it up.