591 South Collier Boulevard, Marco
“In Ireland if St. Patrick’s Day falls on Lent, all Lent duties are relieved,” said Cathy O’Clarke, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Mel Slawik.
St. Patrick’s Day, the feast day in honor of the saint who drove all the snakes out of Ireland, falls during Holy Week for the first time since 1940. These sacred seven days preceding Easter and the last week of Lent won’t fall on St. Patrick’s Day again until 2160.
Cathy O’Clarke’s will have several St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, including an event which might fit into the Lenten responsibility of helping your neighbor.
The first St. Patrick event hosted by the Irish pub and restaurant was St. Baldrick’s, held March 8. The event is a fund-raiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises funds to help find a cure for childhood cancer.
Several bartenders and servers from Cathy O’Clarke’s and Almost Famous Mel’s have agreed to sacrifice their locks to support the organization.
The event organizer, Mike Assaf, will also have his head shaved by volunteer barber, Russ Rosario of Marco Island. Assaf said he is in search of more willing “shavees,” sponsors and spectators. Proceeds from draft beer sales will also be donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. .
Their largest event is on the actual holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
As the only Irish pub on Marco Island, Cathy O’Clarke’s anticipates another packed house for their 8th annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration since the restaurant opened in 2001.
“You can’t even move in here,” said restaurant manager Debra Day.
There will be Irish bands, entertainment, food and drinks in and around the restaurant, including an outside stage, beer truck and private shows in the Fat Pelican Room, the sushi bar attached to Cathy O’Clarke’s Irish Pub and Grille.
The sushi bar will be closed for the day and there will be a 2 p.m. seating with a show which lasts until 4:30 p.m. and will include a personal bartender, a semi-private performance by Fiona Malloy and Bagpiper and a choice between four Irish meals.
The show beginning at 5 p.m. will include the same and allow those with reservations to have a guaranteed seat until the bar closes.
“Even if the weather is bad, heaven forbid, these guests will have a guaranteed nice, dry place inside,” O’Clarke said.
The cost for the early show including dinner, a drink and dessert is $25 per person and $35 for the evening seating.
“Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” O’Clarke said.
O’Clarke is close to her Irish heritage, born to parents who were both Irish. Her father was born in County Cork, Ireland and her mother was actually born in England, but is of Irish heritage.
“She (mom) won’t claim it though,” O’Clarke said of her mother’s birthplace.
To connect with one’s Irish heritage, whether real or perceived, Cathy O’Clarke’s has a wide array of authentic Irish foods and drinks.
The menu includes several dishes she learned growing up with her family in Philadelphia, including Irish macaroni and cheese with shrimp tempura on top.
The menu also includes Bog Trotters, which are French fries with four different cheeses melted on top and baked in the oven. Other Irish favorites include: sheppard’s pie with ground sirloin, peas, onions and mashed potatoes; Father McCarthy’s stew, which is an Irish stew made with lamb; fish and chips; chicken limerick and corned beef and cabbage.
There is something for everyone at Cathy O’Clarke’s including vegetarian dishes, prime rib, salmon, grouper, Tex-Mex style dishes, wings and pizza. O’Clarke makes the desserts and soda bread everyday from recipes learned by her grandmother.
The restaurant has an authentic Irish Pub feel with heavy wood furniture and wood floors. It has a wide array of bric brac (Gaelic slang for knick knacks) on the walls of the pub, including Guinness signs, Irish dolls, tin plates and an old washing machine, all from Ireland.
Slawik and O’Clarke are as proud of their Irish-style brews as they are their ambiance and food menu. The two attended Guinness classes in Dublin, which included “night pubbing,” they said.
They acquired the fob system for the bar which gives the beer the perfect combination of nitrogen and oxygen to offer the Irish-style brew.
“It’s frothier and fresher,” Slawik said.
O’Clarke said she hopes to offer the family-oriented Irish tradition of St. Patrick’s Day.
“Here the connotation is of a drunken brawl. In Ireland it started with Mass, going to a parade, women making breads and desserts and going down the street to visit each other’s houses. The doors were always open. ‘Put another potato on the pot,’ as my mother used to say,” O’Clarke recalled.
She said the restaurant is offering a place for the family this St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s about family, living through the hard times not giving up and having faith. It’s also about helping your friends,” she added.
The St. Patrick’s Day celebration and block party will likely take over the whole shopping center at 591 South Collier Boulevard across from the Hilton. The celebration benefits the YMCA of Marco Island and the Sons and Daughters of Erin (the Gaelic term for Ireland). More information on Cathy O’Clarke’s and upcoming events is available by calling the restaurant at 642-9709.