Here, you won't get a drop of Guinness or see a single flat-screen TV hanging from the walls.
But you will find 44 labels of Irish whiskeys, a pride in crafting cocktails, and a hand-picked selection of craft beers - nary a one Irish.
Daring to be different, Gerry Kieran re-created his version of an Irish pub from his native country 21/2 years ago when he hung the sign and opened the door to Seanachai Irish Pub and Social Club.
The location was a bit of a gamble, in a nameless strip center on Johns Island best known for being across from the popular Fat Hen restaurant on Maybank Highway.
Seanachai (shawn-a-key) is Irish for storyteller, and that is exactly the kind of culture that Gerry is trying to foster: People talking to each other, telling stories of their daily lives as well as the past, perhaps embellished with an exaggeration here and there.
"I just wanted to open something simple like the pubs I grew up in, kind of old-school country pubs. The big thing for me was no televisions. You can't go anywhere these days without a TV in your face, even restaurants. It just ruins conversation. That's the whole idea behind this place," Gerry says.
As for its dearth of Irish brews, it's partly that Gerry is thumbing his nose at the stereotypical "Americanized" Irish pub, with its predictable decor, shamrocky kitsch, and of course, Guinness on tap.
He also just isn't happy with the quality of Irish beers that make the journey across the pond, even Guinness. Instead, he prefers to take the time to taste and see "what's good" out there, regardless of the country of origin. Last week's chalkboard menu bore names including Blanche de Bruxelles (Belgium) and Donnybrook Stout (U.S.), for instance.
Gerry, 42, grew up in Dundalk, Ireland, where he says (in robust Irish brogue) "my mom had a wee shop." It was a small market where they sold vegetables grown in the acre plot behind their house.
"I was really lucky to have a mom who cooked a meal every day with all of the fresh stuff: baked bread, carrots and parsnips, just simple Irish stuff," he says.
That down-to-earth fare undoubtedly informed Gerry's palate (as well as his outlook) and eventually led to a career in food and beverage. Eighteen years ago, he made his way to Charleston and worked in some of the city's best-known restaurants, including Charleston Grill, Slightly North of Broad and Muse. And you might recognize him from the Charleston Farmers Market, where he cooks omelets and such on Saturdays at his Tasty Brunch booth.
It took a year for him to build out the inside of Seanachai. Recently, the pub has expanded into a spacious area outside the back door, with picnic tables, other seating, a fire pit and a bar. He's aiming to offer a few authentic Irish dishes at Seanachai by May 1.
Johns Island has welcomed him, and Gerry is appreciative. He likes the island's vibe and the "uniqueness" of his customers. "There's a great variance of people and a great character of people who come in here," he says.
Seanachai is technically a private club, but people are welcome to drop in for a few test visits. If you decide to become a member, there's a onetime $50 annual membership fee. But that also gets you a T-shirt and a $50 bar tab on your birthday in the first year, plus invites to special events.
Not surprisingly, Seanachai is celebrating St. Patrick's Day over two days, beginning today. Find details on its website, seanachaisocialclub.com.
Might Gerry share a wee bit of his home cooking in the spirit of St. Pat's? Why yes, he says, his green-blue Irish eyes a-smiling.
Braised Short Rib and Stout Cottage Pie
Makes 6 servings
11/2 pounds beef short ribs, deboned and the meat chopped into chunks
Vegetable oil for browning and sauteeing
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon butter (preferably Kerrygold Irish butter)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup of beef stock
1/2 cup of stout beer
Salt and pepper
1 cup green peas (cooked, fresh, or frozen)
6 cups mashed potatoes (preferably red with skins on)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 3-quart casserole dish.
In a small amount of oil, brown the chunks of meat in a large skillet over medium heat 8-10 minutes. Remove and let rest.
Add onions, carrots, garlic and thyme to skillet and cook over medium heat 6-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Melt butter in skillet, whisk flour into the butter and add tomato paste.
Combine all above ingredients and stir well.
Add beef stock and stout to mixture and cook 6-8 minutes until it thickens.
Season to taste with salt and a generous amount of pepper.
Stir in the peas and spoon mixture into prepared casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.
Remove and top with mashed potatoes (try to make furrows and peaks so it will brown nicely) and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Remove, serve and pour yourself a pint of stout.
In a happy coincidence, I got an email this week from a friend in Columbia, Barbara Embick, sharing a recipe to celebrate St. Paddy's Day. Barbara is record systems manager for the Columbia office of the law firm Nelson Mullins, where she has worked for 17 years. But Barbara has her family cooking gene, and the restaurant business in her past.
"My maternal grandfather was Italian and my grandmother Irish (Tomasi and Josephine [McDermitt] Colocino). My grandfather immigrated from Italy in the early 1900s as did most of his family and they settled in Pennsylvania, which is where he met my grandmother. They opened a cafe in Avis, Pa., in the early 1900s, which remained in our family for about 75 years. My grandmother was the cook, my mother later became the cook as well."
Barbara says her mom was a fabulous cook, and, "We delighted in both Italian and typical Irish meals throughout our lives with her. My sister and I both helped with all this throughout the years and learned many of the dishes and became pretty good cooks ourselves."
Fast forward to the early 1990s, and Barbara and friends opened the Alley Cafe in the Vista region of Columbia. "It was an eclectic mix of dinner specials, sandwiches, salads, etc., all made fresh everyday and paired with several varieties of draft beer or good wine," she says. "I developed most of the menu dishes for the cafe, many original and many from my family traditions."
She says this corned beef and cabbage was one of the dinner specials around, of course, St. Patrick's Day.
"I have tweaked the recipe over the years to what I think is now the perfect Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe. I added the mustard/sugar topping about 10 years ago and, on a tip from Martha Stewart, began keeping a bit of the core on the quartered cabbage slices to keep them intact while cooking and serving.
"My favorite way to finish the meat is not in the oven, though the oven does well, is to place it on indirect heat on a gas grill to do the finishing of the meat. The mustard sugar combination just seems to penetrate the meat better, it gets crustier and is just scrumptious!"
Barbara adds that a nice rye or grainy bread goes great with this meal.
Corned Beef Brisket
4- to 5-pound corned beef brisket with spice packet
2 (12-ounce) dark beers, such as Newcastle or Yuengling (Barbara thinks Guinness is too strong)
A grainy mustard such as Plochman's or Boar's Head
¼ to 1/3 cup light brown sugar
Small red potatoes, 3 for each person you are serving
Cabbage, cut in wedges, leaving a bit of the core
1 can chicken broth
Ways to cook
There are three ways to cook: In a slow cooker, on the stove, or the oven. In all of these, you:
Add the meat to the pot, fat side up;
The 2 beers;
The spice packet; and,
Enough water to cover the brisket (I put water in the bottles to be sure to get all the beer flavor).
How to cook
Slow cooker method: Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
Stovetop method: Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 to 5 hours.
Oven method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a dutch oven, begin on stovetop and bring to a boil. Place in the oven and cook 2½ to 3 hours or until tender.
Putting it together for a meal
Cook the meat the day before and then let it chill in the pot in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, take off all the fat from the top of the broth. Remove the meat from the broth, keep the broth in the pan to use for vegetables.
Finish off the meat and vegetables separately (this only takes about 30 to 40 minutes).
Transfer the meat to an open roasting pan, fat side down.
Both the meat and the vegetables will take about 30 to 35 minutes to cook, do the next 2 parts together.
Take meat out of refrigerator 30 to 40 minutes in advance of cooking.
Combine grainy mustard and sugar and spread over top of meat.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in open roasting pan or for extra special flavor, place the meat on the grill. You want the top to nicely brown. If using the oven, you can finish it off under the broiler.
Add chicken broth to broth you cooked the corned beef in.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer.
Add potatoes, cook 10 minutes.
Add carrots, cook 5 minutes.
Add cabbage, cook until all the vegetables are tender.
Slice the meat in thin strips across the grain.
Place vegetables around the meat.
Reach Teresa Taylor at 937-4886 or ttaylor@postand courier.com.
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