Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sunday Story: A Banger, With Mash

The 80-some household crests that cling within the two areas of O’Toole’s Restaurant & Pub are a relentless reminder to John and Tom O’Toole of their Irish heritage.

In 1920, the O’Tooles’ paternal grandparents left their house in County Cork within the southwest nook of Eire, a nation peppered with cozy small cities, islands and cosmopolitan areas. They got here to America and made a house and a household in Pittsburgh.

One of many couple’s 4 youngsters, Jim, moved to New York Metropolis for work. There he met the lady who turned his spouse, Marie, a Brooklyn-born lass whose lineage is half German and half Irish.

Dwelling within the metropolis offered the couple with a mess of actions that always included visiting the neighborhood pub for full of life dialog and engaging Irish beers. In 1959, after they got here to Richmond for Jim’s job, they couldn’t discover any neighborhood pubs that reminded them of these they frequented in New York.

“My dad determined to open up one in 1966, and it labored out fairly properly,” John says. “O’Toole’s has all the time been in the identical location at 4800 Forest Hill Ave.” He notes that the household later added a second restaurant in Midlothian, managed by his brother Tom.

When it initially opened, the Forest Hill restaurant and bar was referred to as Homosexual 90’s and resembled an Nineties membership that includes Dixieland bands. However after six years, Jim and Marie integrated O’Toole’s, rebranding as a pub and serving primarily American meals regardless of the Irish identify.

John started working within the kitchen along with his dad in 1977 and purchased into the enterprise in 1988. He began including Irish meals to the menu within the early Nineteen Nineties, together with some dishes nonetheless in common rotation: fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash. “Our fish and chips is one in every of our bestsellers,” he says. “Our shepherd’s pie additionally sells properly, as do our Irish beers — Guinness, Smithwick’s Crimson Ale and Harp Lager.”

Like the unique Irish pubs, which date again to the tenth century, the O’Tooles needed to supply a comfy, welcoming environment together with some leisure. “We now have some Irish entertainers, jazz musicians and extra. We attempt to combine it up,” John says.

Right now of yr, nonetheless, O’Toole’s concentrates on honoring the household’s Irish roots by internet hosting a wake on March 16, adopted by a genial St. Patrick’s Day celebration the following day.

“My dad began that custom,” John says. “Throughout Lent, Catholics don’t drink until there’s a wake. So, Dad began a wake so folks might drink. We now have bands, and all people sings.”

On St. Patrick’s Day, the menu options Irish meals, together with Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage. “We put on inexperienced and have all Irish music all day lengthy,” John says. “Individuals line as much as get in. We now have an excellent time.”

Though he hasn’t been to County Cork, John has traveled to Dublin. “It was nice,” he says. “The meals was nice, the music was nice, and the folks have been pleasant. It was very nice to see the nation my household got here from.”

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