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Eating with Emma

Sláinte to these Irish pubs on St. Patrick’s Day

Raise your glass, gather 'round, and feast on these tasty three Irish-influenced dishes served up right here in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The Shebeen Irish Pub & Kitchen's photo-worthy Guinness pour ($7 for a 16-ounce or $8.50 for a 20-ounce).
The Shebeen Irish Pub & Kitchen's photo-worthy Guinness pour ($7 for a 16-ounce or $8.50 for a 20-ounce).
Photo by Emma Jolly
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I’ve celebrated my fair share of the stereotypical St. Patrick’s Day extravaganzas: I drank green beer in college while fraternity boys drunkenly bellowed Irish folk songs, I drank beer along the Chicago River with my older cousins as the city dumped 100 pounds of green dye into the water, and I had my right of passage as a Sarasota local celebrating at the Shamrock Pub, located at 227 Ringling Blvd., pretending I could dance as well as the Sassy Lassies.

Shamrock Pub is a right of passage as an Irish lass in Sarasota.
Photo by Emma Jolly

But the older I get, the more I realize St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about the day parties that slip into the wee hours of the morning, fueled by Jameson shots. It represents the feeling that comes with being a prideful, proud and passionate Irish woman while reflecting on the culture my ancestors curated and have, unknowingly to them, been passed down through generations of tradition.

Somewhere between the drinking and the dancing, the Irish overcame adversity by showcasing the importance of what it means to laugh at yourself, enjoy what blessings, big or small, that grace your home and celebrate any and everything — and I mean, everything.

You remembered to go check the mail every day this week? Pour yourself a stiff one. You were able to spend a day at the beach and not sneeze or cough due to the red tide? Sláinte. You read through a full Eating with Emma column? That calls for a toast.

While the Irish and those who think they are Irish show up loudly and proudly every year for this holiday, its the local chefs who celebrate the origin of simple, savory ingredients and share their menus with the likings of foodies like me, that have me feeling extra lucky to be Irish — and not just on St. Patrick’s Day.

So raise your glass, gather 'round, and feast on these tasty three Irish-influenced dishes served up right here in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Shakespeare's Craft Beer & Gastro Pub

3550 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; 941-364-5938;

I’m lucky enough — wait, do you hear that? It’s my paternal grandfather, Francis W. Burke, rolling over in his grave as I start my Irish inspired food column at an English pub. But Grandpa, if you have any doubts — this is also your son’s favorite joint. Shakespeare’s is a place where you go when you’ve had a bad day to make it better and a place you go to continue celebrating the wins of a great day. 

I selfishly wish I could keep this spot to myself forever, but the time has come to unleash its more-than-pleasant plates served up at its are-we-still-in-Sarasota-atmosphere. Since first walking into its dark, mysterious and cozy ambiance many moons ago, this has become a go-to dinner destination when my family is in town as the staff serves consistently crave-worthy meals each and every time. 

May your glass be ever full as you booze up with the bounty of beers offered here. You can choose from a solid, hand-picked rotation of craft beers, but my staple beer to sample at Shakespeare’s for this holiday is none other than a Guinness on draft — alongside 14 other draft beers to pick from, plus a surplus of bottled options and wine too.

Filled with bacon, jalapenos and three cheeses, these potato skins ($8.95) make my Irish belly happy.
Photo by Emma Jolly

May your troubles be less after you ask for at least one order of the three cheese stuffed potato skins ($8.95). You’re probably thinking of a sports pub skin serving but let me tell you — these skins reign supreme in my Sarasota-based mouth. Filled with bacon, jalapeños (to align with that redheaded flare), and three cheeses plus parmesan cheese will make any worries wander away. If that isn’t enough cheese for you, my Irish roots can turn a blind eye to the “English” in Shakespeare’s spicy English beer cheese dip ($9.95) and allow this deadly-delectable dip a moment on this Irish roundup — as long as it's consumed with an Irish pint of sorts.

May the sun shine warm upon your face when you bite into the shepherd's pie spin-off, the cottage pie ($15.95), described on the menu as a “delicious combination of ground beef and vegetables cooked in a rich gravy and topped with mashed potato and melted cheese, serves with a crusty rosemary bread.” What I love just as much as the drive to Flavortown found in this dish, is how it’s served in a brown and ivory stoneware bowl that I swear my grandparents had in their kitchen. See Grandpa, everyone is a bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

Shakespeare's serves up more-than-pleasant plates full of simple and savory ingredients, just like the college pie ($15.95).
Photo by Emma Jolly

Calling all lucky leprechauns: On March 17, head to Shakespeare’s for the corned beef or Irish burger special! But, I can also promise you this isn’t the last time you’ll read me raving about this restaurant.

McGrath's Irish Ale House

8110 Lakewood Main St., Bradenton; 941-210-4398;

I’m lucky enough to know that McGrath’s offers brunch, lunch, dinner and a happenin’ happy hour. Sucker for brunch? From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, you better order the Irish skillet with corned beef hash ($13) with tea service ($6) and mix in a bottomless mimosa moment ($10).

Don't forget the bottomless brunch mimosas for $10 at McGrath's.
Courtesy photo

Headed for happy hour? I’ll join you for half-priced drafts, $5 bar bites and $3 house wines. Just let me know when so I can text co-owner Bruce Mahnke, who was inspired by his great-grandmother’s family meals to years later open McGrath’s. If you’re lucky enough to have grown up with Irish home-cooking, you’ll feel like a kid again. If you weren’t lucky enough to have grown up with Irish home-cooking, welcome home.

May your glass be ever full of fantastic flights of flavorful beer. For $8, you can “pick your poison” with the world tour flight of Calusa, Stella, Magners Cider and Killians. If you’re feeling like tapping into Irish roots a bit more, ask for the four coners flight that fills your cups full of Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny and Smithwicks. Looking for liquor? This Irish whiskey lover recommends treating your tastebuds to the Teeling label or ordering the craft cocktail favorite, the Irish true old fashioned ($13).

May your glass be ever full of fantastic flights at McGrath's Irish Ale House.
Courtesy photo

May your troubles be less with the beautifully flavorful boxty ($9), an actual Irish household staple dating back to the 1700s. This pleasing potato pancake outlasted and outwit the famine and now graces this Lakewood Ranch eating house menu and should not be overlooked when placing your appetizer round. But, if you feel like ordering more, the charcuterie board ($10) is worth ordering for the clover honey alone.

Irish tradition never tasted so good with McGrath's Irish Stew ($17.50).
Courtesy photo

May the sun shine warm upon your face and warm your heart when you order the family favorite, Irish beef stew ($17.50). Unlike other culinary masterminds who spend hours brainstorming how to plate a dish, McGrath's dishes out a simplistic, soulful and scrumptious platter that would surely make our ancestors scream "Sláinte Mhaith." Chunks of beef, carrots and, of course, potatoes swim in a lake of savory traditional Irish brother paired with none other than my most-loved foodie moment of March 17: Irish soda bread.

Starting at 1 p.m., celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at McGrath’s.
Courtesy photo

Calling all lucky leprechauns: Starting at 1PM, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at McGrath’s! With live music until 11:30PM, food and beer, games and entertainment for all ages, raffles, giveaways and more!

Shebeen Irish Pub & Kitchen

6641 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-952-3070;

I’m lucky enough because after Pub 32 closed its doors in 2022, owner Ross Galbraith rode the rainbow over to Siesta Key and designed his next pot of gold for those devastated (me, my heart shattered) by Pub 32’s departure. The pub is back! Renamed and relocated, The Shebeen Irish Pub & Kitchen is a much smaller version of Pub 32 — but with the gracious staff that treats you like you break soda bread daily, the history that hangs on its walls (including my family crest), the meals that trigger core memories and the live music that makes the entire six-table pub come together in unison (or not, depending on how many pints have been consumed), it feels like you just got a free ride to the Emerald Isle.

The Shebeen Irish Pub & Kitchen makes you feel like you just got a free ride to the Emerald Isle.
Photo by Emma Jolly

May your glass be ever full as will your belly if you keep drinking heavy beers. Knowing my belly will be bloated with my people's potato dishes, I'll need a light beveragino. Order a Smithwick’s at Shebeen ($6.5, 16oz or $8, 20 oz.) and you will be slinging back that easy libation until you think you sound like Sinéad O'Connor or Bono. However, if you can find room in your belly to enjoy a Guinness, the way this pub pours the 200-year-old brew is pretty Instagram-worthy (as seen on my personal grid).

The leek and potato soup ($7 for cup, $10 for bowl) and the sausage rolls ($12) will make your troubles be less.
Photo by Emma Jolly

May your troubles be less after you move past the idea of ordering a soup when its 80+ degrees outside. The leek and potato soup ($7 for cup, $10 for bowl) is as hearty as the Claddagh ring. I slurped up my cup faster than you could say, “Erin go Bragh.” If the Florida heat is telling you, “No soup for you,” you can order like my Scottish husband and dig into the sausage rolls ($12) that come with a yummy gravy.

May the sun shine warm upon your face when you order the corned beef and cabbage ($20). Corned beef (seen one time a year at the forefront of all Publix stores with potatoes, cabbage, Guinness and green and orange dyed floral arrangements) technically isn’t a delicacy derivative from Ireland herself, but rather a plate inspired by the Irish and Jewish partnership in New York during the 19th century. 

The Shebeen’s corned beef and cabbage ($20) is delectable, even if my photos don’t do it justice — I blame the Smithwick’s.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Irish immigrants bought brisket at kosher butcher shops because it was the most affordable meat at the time and threw it into a pot with cabbage and potatoes to allow a salting process — making it more tender than brisket. While Americans eat corned beef and cabbage to toast to St. Patrick, the Irish living in the motherland usually eat lamb or bacon. Regardless, Shebeen’s version is delectable, even if my photos don’t do it justice.

Calling all lucky leprechauns: Shebeen will be hosting a St. Patrick’s Day event with dancers, live music and more on March 17. Visit their Facebook page for more details.

And to you my foodie friends of Irish descent or not: “May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.”



Emma Jolly

Emma B. Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group for five years as the digital fulfillment specialist with previous experience at Sarasota Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and even "The Jerry Springer Show" (yes, that's right). In her spare time, she enjoys doing anything near or on the water, being a cat mama and, of course, being a foodie with her new hubby.

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