Met a few of my MC buddies at the now-famous Kilkenny House in Cranford last night. The purpose was to celebrate "St. Practice Day," a supposed Irish tradition that marks the halfway point to St. Patty's Day.
As though the Irish, or the rest of us for that matter, need practice at pubbing, meeting friends and having fun.
But Barry O'Donovan, the Cranford Leprechaun, takes both his pub and his Irish heritage seriously, so he had Brian Kennedy's lively Irish band, bagpipers and what looked to be Michael Flatley's daughters Irish-stepping to the delight of the packed house. Kennedy knew--and sang--the Clancy Brothers version of Galway Bay, a ribald rendition that brought roars of laughter from at least one patron. The video is up at my FB page, and will probably make it to YouTube shortly. The bagpipers made a grand entrance and wowed the crowd with their performance.
But packed houses at Kilkenny don't only happen on St. Practice Day with all the trimmings. Barry and his corner man Damien, along with his extremely friendly and efficient KH staff usually deal with large crowds that often spill out onto the street to sit outside if the weather permits--and sometimes even if it doesn't permit. If there's a prettier, more pleasant server than Jenny (see pics), I've yet to meet her.
The pub is very simply a welcoming, family place where the stranger is a stranger just once. That recipe is now in use successfully at many a local pub, and that suggests that pubs, especially Irish ones, have come full circle. From the corner pub in the Auld Sodde, to the corner pub in small-town America, to the Mega-Pub in the highway shopping centers, and back to the local, small-town model, delightful places like the Kilkenny House are, for many, their home-away-from-home.
Look, it's far cheaper to buy booze at a liquor store and drink it at home. But what fun is that, unless you're planning on getting totally sh!t-faced, which is not a good idea in the first place? For millennia, man has sought the company of his peers, and good pubs provide the perfect atmosphere to do that.
Besides, ever try getting your wife to Irish-Step it after fetching you your beer? Ain't happenin.'
Instead bring her to a pub like Kilkenny House. She won't have to cook, you won't have to clean up, and you'll bond as a couple.
And though you might be tempted, I'd recommend that you don't sing Galway Bay too vigorously.