Two friends, Rick and Colleen, suggested that we meet at a relatively new Irish Pub in Union, so on the hottest day of 2011 (so far), the missus and I headed up the GSP to State Rd. 82, Morris Ave. According to the owner Pat Connolly, a transplant from the Aulde Sodde in County Mayo, there had been a tavern on the location for eighty-five years. Pat regaled us—in a delightful Irish brogue—with the story of a group of men who, the day after Pearl Harbor, all met at the bar, hoisted more than a few pints, and headed off to Elizabeth to enlist in the war effort. Only one came back, and he, a veteran of Iwo Jima and still a regular at the bar, shared the apocryphal tale with Pat.
No stranger to the bar business, Pat ran a pretty famous place up in North Arlington called Fatso Fogarty's, and under his guidance the bar was a staple for seventeen years. He even got one of the big TV stations to come down and televise his famous "Turtle Races" (tortle in Irish brogue). "Those tortles were pretty popular, but you know they are very unpredictable. One could take aff down the lanes like his backside was on fire and then stop centimeters from the finish line, torn around and come back."
The Tortles couldn't have been as unpredictable as the condition of Connolly's when Pat undertook to renovate it, however. The bar sits exactly where it sat back in the day, but Pat allowed as how one side of the floor was five or six inches higher than the other side, and patrons using either water closet could pee--um, peer into the basement below.
Fortunately, the necessary renovations look very appealing, although if another Connolly family member continues her activity, the floor might be in need of repair again. Joanna, wife of Martin and daughter-in-law to Pat does double duty, working as a bartender, and then, later in the evening dons her Irish step-dancing togs. This little wisp of a gal, pretty as a picture, moves her feet with a speed, grace and power that would make Michael Flatley jealous, and she has been performing for more than three decades with some of the world's best known Irish step dancing teams. On this night she was performing to the music provided by her husband Martin, the fellow "whose name is on the ownership papers," according to Pat.
Beer-wise, the requisite Smithwick's is on tap as are Sam Adams and Yuengling, along with other mainstream beers. Bottles are also available. The menu is generally pub fare with an occasional specialty dish. I judge an Irish pub by its Shepherd's Pie, and Connolly's was very, very good, especially if, like me, you like a lot of potatoes on top. The missus judges every eatery by its crab cakes, and she allowed that hers were excellent as well. The dessert (see the pictures to the right) was a masterpiece of presentation, and Karen, our waitress vowed that none of the calories would stick. Connolly's must be a good place to work, as this Irish-born lass treks 70 miles each way to work there.
Connolly's should be a fixture in Union for some time, and you may even get to see Joanna's daughter Grace doing the Flatley thing some day. The three-year-old was riveted by her mother's performance.
As was everybody else in the place.
But it can't be good for the floor.