St. Paddy’s Day at McFarlane’s: ‘A week’s worth of business in one day’

Published 7:06 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

MacFarlane’s Celtic Pub Owner and Chef James Bittner III is gearing up for St. Paddy’s Day.

“Yeah, it’s a long day,” he acknowledged. “We open at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast, and we’ll do about a week’s worth of business in a single day. But it’s all good. It’s a lot of fun.”

After 13 years at the restaurant, Bittner’s success has more to do with experience than the luck of the Irish. He ‘s ready. The special St. Patrick’s Day menu is ready. Male and female wait staff wear kilts. The atmosphere in the 140-year-old converted warehouse is absolutely charming.  (On March 17, expect a crowd, and yes, MacFarlane’s offers food that’s not typical Irish fare, including seafood and burgers. There’s a burger that includes banana, bacon and peanut butter. The fries are different from any other. )

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“Of course we’ll have Shepherd’s Pie, Reuben Sandwiches and Bangers and Mash,” Bittner said.

Bittner’s take on Shepherd’s Pie, a true Celtic staple, is lamb, beef, peas, carrots, onions and peppers stewed together with a thick brown gravy, topped with seasoned mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown. The Reuben is two slices of marbled rye piled high with corn beef, pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and dressing. Order Bangers and Mash and get two traditional sausages topped with beer battered crispy fried onions over colcannon (creamed potatoes dotted with healthy and delicious greens) and gravy. Served with your choice of one side.

Boxty is similar to a potato cake, he said.  Bittner adds leeks, bacon and cheese and pan fries it. The Scotch egg is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage and coated in house batter and fried. Pub fries are crispy potatoes covered in corn beef, cheese and bacon and baked in brown gravy.

“Traditionally, Celtic food is simple, hearty fare,” he said. “Haggis is a whole different ball game, spice-wise, “ he said.”Think of it as similar to boudin, but instead of rice, it’s stuffed with oats and instead of using pork intestines, a sheep stomach is used. Diners love our haggis bonbons, which are rolled, battered and fried. I also do a haggis stuffed pork loin and a haggis stuffed grilled cheese served on bread that uses corn flour. The cheese is gouda, American and pepperjack.”