Brunswick pub: Irish at heart, but not in your face

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BRUNSWICK — O’Donoghue’s, the newly opened pub at 103 Pleasant St., may look like your run-of-the-mill Irish-American bar.

But its owners have a significant personal tie to Ireland’s history.

Diarmaid and Patrick O’Dononghue, two brothers originally from Massachusetts, opened the bar, formerly the Raven’ s Roost, on March 10.

O’Donoghue’s is a nod to the pub their grandfather, Paddy O’Donoghue, opened in Dublin in 1934, after working as commander of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Irish independence from Britain was achieved in 1922.

Paddy was close friends with Michael Collins, a leading figure in the Irish revolution during the 20th century, and the inspiration for the 1996 film “Michael Collins,” starring Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts.

Diarmaid said he still enjoys showing off his grandparents’ wedding photo, which features Collins, the best man, scowling in the front row.

“The thing about the picture is, the British didn’t know what he looked like, and so he didn’t want his picture taken,” Diarmaid said. “That’s 1919 so they’re in the middle of organizing the revolt, so you can kind of see the look on his face.”

Although Diarmaid said he and his brother were inspired by their family’s history in crafting the Brunswick bar, he added they aren’t looking to “shove Irish down” anyone’s throat.

“It’s kind of an Irish-American pub, it’s not an Irish pub per se,” he said. “It’s kind of a regular pub, owned by a couple of Irish guys with a good Irish history.”

Patrick and Diarmaid purchased the Pleasant Street building in late October 2017. Diarmaid was living in New York City when Patrick, a Freeport resident, called him with the idea of opening a pub based on their grandfather’s in Brunswick.

“I got to the point where I felt like I’ve kind of done everything I thought I’d do in the corporate finance world, and I kind of wanted to come out from behind the desk at that point,” Diarmaid said. “I’ve always thought of getting into this business, and the timing just kind of worked.”

Diarmaid moved to Brunswick in November and the owners renovated the space, which included building a stage for live music and karaoke.

While O’Donoghue’s has been having Diarmaid called a “soft opening” since early March, the restaurant’s grand opening, a ribbon-cutting facilitated by the Brunswick Downtown Association, will be Friday, May 11, at 5 p.m. The grand opening will feature a bagpipes performance and Irish step dancers.

Diarmaid said the preliminary period has given the owners time to “work out the kinks” at the establishment, such as choosing vendors and figuring out what to put on the menu, as well as ensuring the staff are properly trained. 

The menu, which will be expanded, reflects the brothers’ desired American influence, with appetizers such as meatball sliders, chicken tenders, and mozzarella sticks, and entrees that include meatloaf and ribs.

It also includes straightforward soups and sandwiches such as New England clam chowder, and a steak-and-cheese sub served with mayonnaise, green peppers and onions.

Irish staples such as corned beef are also featured on the menu, but for now only on rye bread with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut as part of a Reuben sandwich.

Diarmaid said traditional Irish meals like shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash will be served as specials.

O’Donoghue’s also has a full bar. In addition to wine, draft and bottled beer,  Diarmaid said he expects the restaurant to have a cocktail menu in time for the grand opening.

Diarmaid said he and Patrick hope to host blues nights on Saturdays. After securing their special amusement license at the Brunswick Town Council’s April 2 meeting, the bar has also hosted local bands to perform live music and will host a karaoke night April 19.

“The pub in Ireland is all about live music and we kind of wanted to do that, too, so live music, the karaoke and live music is kind of carrying on the tradition,” he said.

A display on the bar’s wall will feature photos and other artifacts, like newspaper clippings explaining Irish history, as well as the O’Donoghue’s connection to the Irish revolution.

Ultimately, Diarmaid said he and Patrick want people to get the feel of Ireland in subtle ways when they walk into O’Donoghue’s.

“That’s why we say we don’t want to throw Irish at you when you walk in, and say ‘have some corned beef and look at the leprechauns,'” he said. “We want you to come in and just feel it. Read the stuff on the wall, see all the history, and think, ‘Oh this is really cool.'”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Diarmaid O’Donoghue, co-owner of O’Donoghue’s at 103 Pleasant St., Brunswick, behind the bar April 13. He and his brother, Freeport resident Patrick O’Donoghue, said the Irish-American pub was inspired by their grandfather’s pub in Dublin.

O’Donoghue’s has having what the owners call a “soft opening” since March 10; a grand opening will be held Friday, May 11.

A 1919 photo taken at Diarmaid and Patrick’s grandparents’ wedding shows Michael Collins, a well-known figure of the Irish War of Independence, sitting in the front row to the left of groom Paddy O’Donoguhe, located in the center of the photo. Collins was unhappy to have his photo taken, because the British government did not know what he looked like. 

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