With the St. Patrick’s Day Parade upon us, I checked in with our city’s Irish heavyweights and a few other popular eateries to see how they’re prepping for March 11. Prior to the pandemic, parade day was among the biggest revenue days of the year for many restaurants.
Next to the weather forecast, the number of pounds of corned beef sourced by the Hibernian Hall, O’Brien’s Pub and Buskers is usually a pretty good indicator of the expected crowds. Or maybe not. An inclement parade day means revelers tend to pick a spot and stay put.
“People check the weather and plan accordingly,” said O’Brien’s general manager, Kerry Philbin. “Despite the rain, cold and wind last year, we were exceptionally busy. But if the weather is nice, people tend to be more mobile, moving from place to place, [giving us] a consistent flow of fresh customers all day. I think it will be very busy [either way].”
Seems so. From March 8-18, she expects to go through 900 pounds of corned beef. Not surprisingly, the Newport Hibernian Hall has that number beat.
“We will be helping to cook 700 pounds of corned beef on behalf of the Hibernians just for their sandwiches on parade day,” said TR McGrath, who spearheads the massive undertaking at McGrath’s Clambakes in Middletown. But that’s not the end of it.
“On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the Hibernians will host a corned beef-and-cabbage dinner, for which an additional 200 pounds [will be delivered],” he said. “For those that miss those opportunities to get their corned beef, the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians will be hosting a grab-and-go corned beef-and-cabbage dinner to be picked up at St. Augustin’s Catholic Church on Saturday, March 25.”
Downtown, authentic Irish pub Buskers is a magnet for St. Pat’s celebrations.
“My staff thought I was crazy to start planning for this two months ago, but it’s going to be nuts, especially with the holiday happening on a Friday,” said Laurin Finn, general manager. “When there’s a whole week between the parade and [the 17th], it’s a full-week celebration.”
She expects to go through at least 400 pounds of corned beef through the six-day period, welcoming neighbors who would prefer to enjoy their corned beef and cabbage in peace on the offdays in between.
But it may be Pour Judgement manager John Flynn, who expects to go through at least 200 pounds, who sums it up best. “No matter how much we make, we always run out,” he said.
For families and those who eschew the masses of downtown on parade day, Rejects Beer in Middletown has an alternative: a .kid and dog-friendly event with arcade games, movies, kids food, a leprechaun pinata, green margaritas for the adults, and $2 corned beef tacos.
This year’s downtown celebrations, in addition to the annual contingent from Newport’s sister city, Kinsale, Ireland, will see an additional group of visitors from Kinsale rolling into town for the U.S. launch of Black Beak Irish Whiskey and Rum, presenting events on either side of parade day.
Distillery owner Sam Black will be on hand at Malt on March 9 and at Fastnet on March 12, at 6 p.m., to host the first American tasting of his Citrus Galaxy, a single malt Irish whiskey finished in IPA beer casks, and Maple Mayhem, which he calls “a maniacal expression of Irish whiskey aged in maple bourbon casks,” along with Black Beak Golden Rum, Ireland’s only native rum.
Finally, aside from the green festivities and all that meat, keeping in mind that many are observing Lent in the lead-up to Easter, it seemed appropriate to share that Mc- Grath’s Clambakes and the Newport Hibernian Hall have teamed up to bring back Fish Fry Fridays. The event was re-introduced in 2021 as a to-go option and is now available for dine in or take-out. Dinners, served from 4 to 8 p.m., include fried haddock, steak fries and cole slaw for $17, and will be offered every Friday through April 7, with the exception of March 10 and March 17.