I dig downtown Bradenton before dark. Coasting along Old Main Street with a cup of B’Towne’s chocolate raspberry coffee, testing juniper essential oil at Om Gaia Wholistic Center, and chatting up the local bartenders … my speed for a Saturday.
One of the newer kids on this strip is McCabe’s Irish Pub, which opens daily at noon with draught beers, wines, and a bevy of single malt scotches and whiskeys. Though it’s less than a year in, it already feels like a decades-old institution.
Last weekend, I met co-owner Lou Thomey in her little slice of Dublin. I marveled at the Victorian décor -- a hand-carved mahogany bar, antique tonic bottles in display cases, and Gaelic street signage. Placards read: “My liver is Irish” and “You can’t drink all day unless you start drinking in the morning.” Nice.
“This is a real, authentic Irish pub, and I think downtown is the perfect place for us. Best move we ever made. We really love it,” Thomey said. “We use any excuse there is to have a party down here, and downtown has really become a destination. You can park once and go to a variety of places.”
Thomey and her partner, Thomas Stynes (who sold Rasher Tierney’s in January), revamped the 1,700-square-foot curio shop on the corner of Old Main/12th Street West and Third Avenue to resemble the Emerald Isles. The pub’s moniker is a tribute to Stynes’ grandmother, and fittingly, the ambiance hearkens back to her era.
There are distressed tongue-and-groove oak floors, evergreen ceilings, glass partitions, original 1920s brick walls, high-top tables, a pool table, and a bench-like seating area with plush cushions. Five flat-screen TVs, free Buzztime Trivia and a Megatouch Rx jukebox add modernity.
On tap are Guinness, Smithwick’s and Harp (or, as Thomey calls it, “the holy trinity”), as well as Kilkenny, Carlsberg, Shock Top, Strongbow, Bass, Yuengling, Bud and Bud Light. Irish car bombs are buy two get one free (or $7.50 apiece). Try the Irish Breakfast shot with Jameson and butterscotch schnapps in one glass, followed by a swig of orange juice, for $6.
Smoke freely, but if you want any food other than chips, you’ll need to order from one of the nearby eateries: B’Towne, Fav’s Italian Cucina, Beck’s Bistro, Pier 22, Retro City Café, Robin’s Downtown Café or Lucky Dogs.
I picked the latter -- McCabe’s 2-year-old next-door neighbor, owned by Kathy Jones, Greta Shepherd and Sheri Clinard. Within minutes of my phone call, Clinard walked over a six-inch Kamikaze sub with roast beef, pepper jack cheese, horseradish sauce, onion, lettuce and mayonnaise on a toasted roll for $7.95, accompanied by a bag of chips and a pickle.
“We’re happy to have McCabe’s right next door,” Clinard said. “Our food goes great with their drinks.”
McCabe’s hours are noon to 2:30 a.m. daily, and happy hour runs from noon to 7 p.m. with $1.75 domestic drafts and $2.75 wine and well drinks. From noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, sample $2.75 Bloody Marys with all the fixings (Thomey supplies pickled asparagus and stuffs 10 types of olives). Come for pool league on Mondays, and for Texas Hold ‘em on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The Muphin Men play from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursdays, and there is varied live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Check out the Celtic Clan on Feb. 29 while partaking of $12 beer buckets, and stop by Thursday (Feb. 16) during Get Down Downtown or on Saturday (Feb. 18) for the fifth annual Bradenton Beer Festival.
“McCabe’s is awesome,” said Dan Edwards, guitarist and vocalist for the Muphin Men, gripping a Jagerbomb. “This is definitely our favorite bar to play.”
And one of my new favorite places to haunt, at any hour.