5375 Hibiscus Drive , Naples, FL
A sign on the wall reads: “There are no strangers here, only friends who have not yet met.” The quote from Dublin’s poet, William Butler Yeats, sets the tone for the casual setting of the Irish pub and restaurant in East Naples.
Erin’s Isle is the oldest Irish pub in Collier County, celebrating the 25th-year since the Ward brothers, John and Mike, of Irish heritage, opened the restaurant’s doors in 1983.
If a green beer and a shamrock on your shirt isn’t enough to fully satisfy your desires to connect with Ireland this St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps all that plus an Irish story pronounced with an authentic brogue accent, by Erin’s Isle manager, Siobhan (pronounced Sha-von) Cummins, will do the trick!
Cummins is from an Irish country town in County Kildare, West of Dublin. She met a restaurant owner from the Naples area at a horse race track in Ireland a couple years ago. She was catering the event.
“He left his business card and asked if I’d be interested in coming to Florida to help at his restaurant. You get this all the time, men throwing business cards at you,” she said.
A bad day at work and an itch to travel urged Cummins to make the call and see if the offer was real. She’s been working in local Irish pubs ever since and takes a couple trips home to Ireland every year, she said.
After properly pouring a customer a pint of Guinness, Cummins is quick to tell an Irish joke made more effective by her lilt.
A shortened version of a Cummins’ joke goes like this: A German man is sitting at the pub and a fly falls in his pint of Guinness. He says, “that’s disgusting” and asks for another one. A fly falls in an Irish man’s pint and the Irish man pick’s the fly out, holding it upside down by its wing and says “spit it out man, spit it out!”
“Guinness is sacred. You don’t mix it. You don’t mess with a pint of Guinness,” Cummins said.
She adds that the Irish don’t actually drink more than other people. “They just hold it better.”
In addition to jokes and Irish beer, Erin’s Isle has a diverse menu including traditional items such as corned beef and cabbage, as well as the nontraditional. Menu items range from Irish stew to filet mignon and seafood.
The restaurant’s name has several connections to Ireland’s history. In Celtic times, the country of Ireland was often called Erin; off the coast of Ireland is an island, Aaron’s Isle and Erin’s Isle is the name of Dublin’s soccer team, established in 1917.
Mike Ward says the name comes from his mom.
“She suggested the name years ago for John’s first business. You can’t say no to an Irish mom,” he said.
There is live Irish entertainment at Erin’s Isle every evening.
Ward said the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Erin’s Isle this year is slightly scaled down because he is helping the Irish-American Club of Naples put on its celebration, Hooley on the Green, on the corner of U.S. 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road after the downtown Naples St. Patrick’s Day parade, which begins at 11 a.m. March 15.
Even scaled back, Ward anticipates packing the house in addition to a tented area outside that will be a bit smaller than past years, beginning 3 p.m. March 17. Entertainers include Mike Bermingham, a vocalist who plays guitar, keyboard, accordion and banjo.
Advance tickets are on sale for the St. Patrick’s Day dinner. The early seating from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. is $30 and includes dinner, entertainment and party favors. Dinner includes choices of corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, grouper, lamb shanks or prime rib with Irish soda bread, choice of potato and soup or salad.
The late seating from 7:30 p.m. to close is $35 for an advance ticket and includes many of the same choices as well as salmon, roast leg of lamb, prime rib and live Maine lobster.
For more information about Erin’s Isle Restaurant visit www.erinsisle.biz or call 774-1880. Erin’s Isle is located at 6190 Collier Boulevard, between Marco Island and U.S. 41.