The saying “Everyone is Irish on March 17,” sure does ring true for the people of Ridgefield, Wilton, and the surrounding areas. While just one calendar date may commemorate Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, celebrations go on full force the entire month.
Located at 93 North Main Street in the heart of South Norwalk, O’Neill’s Irish Pub offers a taste of the Emerald Isle all year long, but they really step up their game in March.
“For St. Patricks Day, we kick off the season on March 1 with a Guinness Dinner hosted by the prestigious Guinness Ambassador Mike Riordan. This private event sells out, so it’s best to call and book in advance,” says O’Neill’s Co-Owner, Donal Leahy.
You will want to take advantage of the Norwalk Police Emerald Society’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 11. It starts at 11:00 AM at Veteran’s Park in Norwalk and ends with a ceremony at O’Neill’s Irish Pub. You can find an entire month of events, including live Irish music, food, and dancing, at www.oneillsono.com, but there’s so much more than just St. Patrick’s day to celebrate at O’Neill’s.
“People from the area consider this their home away from home. One local family came in the other night to celebrate a special birthday. Their child has celebrated every single birthday here at O’Neill’s—from his first to his 21st,” Leahy says.
It’s no wonder why families come to O’Neills to celebrate. The staff is attentive and familiar enough to pull up a chair and chat. Chefs Ezequiel Cortez and Antonio Sanchez have been here since the bar’s inception in 1999, and they have perfected the art of many authentic Irish dishes and American classics.
Every meal starts with warm Irish bread scones studded with raisins and served with fresh butter. One of the best things on the menu is the chicken curry. The portion is enormous, the heat is just right, and the veggies are served crisp. You will leave full and satiated if you order the curry and rice with a side of Guiness.
“Some of the best curries are imported from Ireland,” according to Leahy.
Thanks to the UK’s longtime connection with India, curry has become traditional Irish Fare. “Someone just came in yesterday to get a gift card for her Indian neighbors because they love our curry,” Donal says.
Other authentic offerings include bangers and mash featuring pork sausage imported from Ireland. My husband devoured a corned beef reuben panini with a big thumbs up.
“The fisherman’s pie and shepherd’s pie are also fan favorites. Of course, our steak sandwiches are also very popular,” says Leahy.
The summer menu features more rice bowls, legendary tacos, salads, and lighter Fare. In addition, you can listen to live music all year long at O’Neills, which has an outdoor space for larger crowds.
Good Golly, Miss Molly
The Irish customs of hospitality are also alive and well at Molly Darcy’s Pub in Danbury, which is named after an Irish American Woman who was a dear family friend of the owners, John and Anya Riney and Kevin and Phyllis Doonan. Over the years, this team, who all hail from Ireland, has created numerous restaurants around the country, including Molly Darcy’s in Myrtle Beach, Sally O’Briens, McGoverns, Bailey’s Corner, The Clinton Inn, and others. Yet, the Executive Chef at Molly Darcy’s Danbury, Tommy O’Malley, has remained a constant and has been turning out delightful Irish fare at Molly Darcy’s Danbury for over 20 years.
There’s so much to love about Molly Darcy’s. The vibe of the place is spacious but somehow so cozy. The upstairs area offers seating with many spaces for groups. There’s room for music, a large dance area, a large professional sound system, two bars, pool tables, games, weekly theme nights, but perhaps most importantly—the food!
“You won’t go wrong ordering anything on the menu,” Chef O’Malley promises, in his thick Irish Brogue. And he is correct.
I order the hot wings for a starter because I consider myself a hot wing aficionado. Unlike the rubbery mess many bars pass off as an appetizer, Molly Darcy’s wings are crisp, yet tender and flavorful. The wings fall off the bone, and the sauce is a mix of buffalo sauce with just a hint of tangy ranch. I usually don’t enjoy ranch dressing, but it works.
One of my guests tries the corned beef and cabbage quesadilla. This offers a slightly lighter option for this traditionally heavy meal. My short rib with a Guinness demiglace served over mashed potatoes is sumptuous comfort food. My daughter orders the Dubliner burger, and we love the savory combination of the cheddar ale sauce, bleu cheese & crispy onions on top. We managed to save room for dessert. The chocolate lava cake is fudgy and divine.
Perhaps best of all, owner Anya Riney orders a coffee and joins us for a chat during dessert. She shares her experiences in Ireland and the states. She made us feel like welcome guests in a cozy home.
“That’s the way we Irish are, we like to pull up a chair,” Riney says. Her eyes sparkle, and she shares a wide, warm smile.
Like O’Neills, Molly Darcy’s has a month’s worth of entertainment lined up for St. Patrick’s Day. To find out more, go to www.mollydarcy.com.
Located just up the street at 6 Lake Road, the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Foundation celebrates everything Irish—all year round. They offer weekly Irish language, Irish fiddle and whistle classes, weekly céilí and set dancing classes; monthly seisiún and more. Chef Dan serves up classic Irish dishes to club members as well.
On February 5, Molly Darcy’s is hosting a fundraiser for the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural St. Patrick’s Day Parade Fundraiser. The event runs from 1-6 and offers an Irish buffet, live music with the Mighty Ploughboys, dancing, and more.
This event helps the Irish Cultural Foundation prepare for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration weekend, running from Friday, March 17th, and culminating with a parade on Sunday the 19th. •