Restaurants get ready for March 17 and beyond
North Side Grille in Hudson had ordered roughly 800 pounds of corned beef ahead of St. Patrick’s Day last year. Then came Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency order on the afternoon of March 16 limiting all restaurants and bars in New Hampshire to takeout and delivery only.
“My phone started going bananas,” owner Roger Soulard said. “Everyone was asking me, ‘Did you just hear what Sununu said?’ and ‘What are we going to do about St. Patrick’s Day?’”
Soulard and dozens of other local restaurateurs were suddenly faced with having to change their St. Patrick’s Day plans overnight. Despite being limited to takeout, North Side Grille served up hundreds of boiled corned beef and cabbage dinners to go and ended up selling out by that evening. Today, Soulard said, takeout is up more than five to six times what it was before, representing about 40 percent of the eatery’s overall sales.
As the ongoing state of emergency in the Granite State begins to close in on a full year, local chefs and restaurant owners discuss how they are tackling St. Patrick’s Day this time around, plus the anticipated return of expanded outdoor dining just weeks away for some.
Corned beef craze
The week of St. Patrick’s Day is among Soulard’s busiest, and this year will be no exception. In fact, he’s even planning to increase his corned beef inventory by a few hundred pounds.
North Side Grille will offer single-serve meals of corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots, as well as two-dinner and four-dinner ordering options. The eatery has also done a few themed specials, like Irish poutine and corned beef macaroni and cheese.
“I’m definitely looking forward to a successful St. Patrick’s Day week,” Soulard said. “I actually plan on doing corned beef as an all-week special hopefully to spread the cheer, if you will.”
Grill 603 in Milford, another local restaurant that has experienced a sharp increase in takeout sales over the last year, is also upping the amount of corned beef to be cooked and served.
“We had already cooked off 200 pounds of corned beef, so we went ahead and put it out on Facebook that we had corned beef dinners to go … and we were overwhelmed by the response,” Grill 603 owner Eric Griffin said. “This year, we’ll probably do about 225 to 250 pounds, and we’ll just run it as long as we can until it’s gone. … Our takeout business is so much higher now, although we have been getting a pretty decent amount of indoor dining too. It seems like people are starting to get more comfortable.”
It’s also a big time of year for Fody’s Great American Tavern, which has been open for more than a decade in Nashua and will soon celebrate its second anniversary at another larger location in Derry. According to co-owner Maria Foden, there will be corned beef and cabbage specials, as well as signature cocktails, Reubens and other creative options like corned beef poutine. The St. Patrick’s Day menu will be available from Friday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 17, at each restaurant location. Both will also be open for lunch.
Great New Hampshire Restaurants will feature corned beef dinner specials across each of its T-Bones, CJ’s Great West Grill and Copper Door locations, with cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and homemade soda bread. They’ll be available for takeout or dine-in on March 17.
“We’ve seen sales from indoor dining start to creep back up,” said Nicole Barreira, director of marketing and menu development for the restaurant group. “We keep reiterating the myriad of things we’ve been doing to keep people safe … and once we get back into the warmer weather, we hope to really be on the other side of things.”
In Nashua, Casey Magee’s Irish Pub & Music Hall will be celebrating its first St. Patrick’s Day since opening its doors last June. Owner Matt Casey said the doors will open early at 10 a.m., with a limited menu of specials to be served, from corned beef dinners to Irish bangers and green beer. Live acoustic performances from Steve DeLuca will also be featured on Sunday, March 14, from noon to 4 p.m., and on Wednesday, March 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. — the first time since the pub’s opening that there will be live music inside the building, according to Casey.
“We’re going to be open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on that day,” he said. “We’re really excited, but we’re going to try and simplify it and take every precaution that we can.”
The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant on Elm Street in Manchester will also be opening early for St. Patrick’s Day, at 6 a.m., for breakfast in the morning. Co-owner Neal Brown said a limited dinner menu will follow throughout the day, until 9:30 p.m.
Several local takeout-only specials for St. Patrick’s Day are also available if you’d rather enjoy that corned beef and cabbage at home. In Hollis, Buckley’s Market & Cafe is currently taking orders for a heat-and-serve dinner box for two, which will feature slow-braised corned beef with potatoes, cabbage, turnip and carrots, as well as Irish soda bread, chocolate Guinness cupcakes with Baileys Irish cream frosting, and the option to add a four-pack of Guinness beer. Orders can be made now through March 10, with pickups on March 17.
Presto Craft Kitchen on Manchester’s West Side, according to chef and co-owner Joe Grella, is also taking orders now for corned beef brisket dinners with potatoes, carrots, cabbage and soda bread, as well as Guinness pie, both of which feed four to six people per meal. The deadline to order is March 12, he said, with pickups at the restaurant on either March 16 or March 17.
Chef Alan Natkiel of Georgia’s Northside in Concord had been getting ready to throw an “Irish Taco Tuesday” pop-up event last year at Concord Craft Brewing in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Within probably 48 hours of that scheduled event, the order came out from the governor’s office to shut in-house dining down, and I got stuck with 65 pounds of corned beef,” he said.
Natkiel would end up donating fully cooked meals of corned beef, red skin mashed potatoes and fried cabbage to Concord Hospital and Police Department workers. This year, he plans to run a similar special with dark Guinness bread that will be available for online ordering through the website. Pickups will be throughout the day on March 17.
“St. Patrick’s Day really kind of changed my vision of what we could be as a restaurant,” Natkiel said. “Since that time, we’ve dropped meals off at the grocery store, we’ve donated to other hospitals … and I did 75 free turkey giveaways for the holidays. None of that stuff would’ve been possible if not for how well the business has been. We’re a to-go only restaurant that, surprisingly, was structured perfectly to have a safe business model during a pandemic.”
More green cuisine
Beyond a plate of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, other creative offerings will grace the menus of local eateries this St. Patrick’s Day.
At New England’s Tap House Grille in Hooksett, chef Scott Patnode has created a specials menu of items available for three days from Tuesday, March 16, to Thursday, March 18. In addition to the traditional boiled dinners, you’ll also find panko-crusted Reuben balls blended with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, a beef medallion Guinness stew, a Baileys Irish cream cheesecake on a brownie crust with a whiskey sauce, and a Guinness-infused chocolate cake covered with ganache and layered with Irish cream frosting.
For those who believe that St. Patrick himself was Italian, Presto Craft Kitchen is offering family-sized portions of green clover-shaped five-cheese ravioli with red, alfredo, rosa or meat sauce. Grella is also offering several St. Patrick’s Day-inspired sweets, like Lucky Charm marshmallow-filled white chocolate cocoa bombs that turn your milk green, candy bars dressed up in edible gold and placed in a leprechaun’s pot, and handmade “end of the rainbow” sugar cookies. All items are available for online ordering.
At Patrick’s Pub & Eatery in Gilford, specials will include Irish lamb stew and bangers and mash, in addition to single- or family-sized portions of boiled corned beef and cabbage, plus a sticky toffee pudding from an authentic recipe owner Allan Beetle brought back from Ireland. There will also be drink specials like green beer available upon request.
“We’re going to start serving them the Friday before [March 12], and they’ll run all the way through to the 17th,” general manager Megan Page said. “We expect takeout and curbside pickup to be a huge part of St. Patrick’s Day. That part of the business is booming right now.”
Moving back outdoors
Expanded outdoor dining on public sidewalks and parking spaces downtown was a major theme for local eateries last year. With spring just a few weeks away, similar programs will be making a return for many cities and towns.
Last month the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved bringing back an expanded outdoor dining plan for restaurants on Elm Street. The program begins March 15 and will last through about Nov. 7, weather permitting. According to Lauren Smith, chief of staff for Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, the city’s Highway Department plans on reinstating jersey barriers in front of interested Elm Street businesses in mid-March, reserving around 20 of the 120 parking spaces downtown for expanded outdoor dining. Applications for the program are being accepted on a rolling basis through April 30.
Steve Tosti of the XO Bistro said the restaurant will likely apply for the extra space this year, following a successful summer of outdoor dining last year.
“We were filling up outside basically every Friday and Saturday night,” he said. “As soon as it’s nice out again, then we’ll be out there for sure.”
In Concord, the City Council during its February meeting approved expanded outdoor dining to return on April 1 and last through Nov. 15. Businesses interested in acquiring permits for the program can apply for one online through the Code Administration office.
City officials in Nashua are also expected to address the return of some sort of expanded outdoor dining plan on Main Street — as of March 1, that legislation is pending, according to city economic development director Tim Cummings.
In Derry, Foden said her staff has made great use of the restaurant’s four-acre space, adding a large tent as well as heated dining domes on its deck. The town’s Economic Development Committee sent out temporary outdoor dining applications to restaurants last May, and director Bev Donovan said they hope to replicate that process again this year.
Outside seating under tents in the parking lots of each T-Bones, Cactus Jack’s and Copper Door restaurant were also set up throughout the summer. Barreira said that will all be returning.
“We’re actually in the process of purchasing patio furniture and outdoor lighting … to have it be a much nicer experience outside than just a quick setup kind of situation,” she said, adding that this will likely start sometime in April.
Soulard said he’s also looking forward to bringing back expanded outdoor dining to his restaurant. Last year North Side Grille had implemented an outdoor patio spanning three parking spaces by its front door and there were additional seats under a tent.
“It worked phenomenal for us. I was able to put more tables outside than actually inside at 100 percent [capacity],” he said. “We did trivia outdoors on Monday nights … [and] in the times of Covid when there’s nothing to do, it actually kind of became a Monday night hit.”
Rally for NH Restaurants
More than 200 eateries have been forced to close permanently due to the pandemic, according to the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association. Its Rally for NH Restaurants campaign, which continues throughout the month of March, is aiming to inform consumers on the ongoing plight of the industry and encourage them to make a positive impact.
“February and March in general are usually slower times of the year for restaurants, so when you pile the pandemic on top of that, it just compounds the issue exponentially,” Association president Mike Somers said. “So we’re trying to do everything we can think of just to engage with consumers. … Most restaurant staff are working extra hard to be as safe as possible.”
Visit rallyfornhrestaurants.com, where you’ll find a list of ways to help, as well as the most up-to-date reopening guidance and a directory of participating eateries by region.
Where to get your St. Paddy’s Day meals
From traditional boiled corned beef and cabbage dinners to other Irish staples like bangers and mash, Guinness beer, soda bread and sticky toffee pudding, here is a list of local restaurants and pubs offering St. Patrick’s Day food and drink specials or holding themed events.
• Atkinson Resort & Country Club (85 Country Club Drive, Atkinson, 362-8700, atkinsonresort.com) will run corned beef and cabbage specials on Wednesday, March 17, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Call for reservations or to place a takeout order.
• Auburn Pitts (167 Rockingham Road, Auburn, 622-6564, auburnpitts.com) will be serving corned beef and cabbage dinners and corned beef Reubens all week for St. Patrick’s Day, and hosting live music from 2 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, March 17.
• Averill House Vineyard (21 Averill Road, Brookline, 371-2296, averillhousevineyard.com) will serve its annual “St. Patrick’s Day Mystery” four-course food and wine pairing event on Wednesday, March 17, at 6 p.m. The dinner includes four mystery dishes prepared just for the occasion, plus wine selections from the vineyard. Tickets start at $59.
• Buckley’s Market & Cafe (9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522, buckleysbakerycafe.com) is taking orders for St. Patrick’s Day dinner boxes for two, featuring slow-braised corned beef with potatoes, cabbage, turnip and carrots, whole-grain mustard and horseradish sauces, Irish soda bread, and chocolate Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting. The cost is $50 per order, or $60 per order if you add a four-pack of Guinness. Order by March 10. Pickups will be on Wednesday, March 17.
• Casey Magee’s Irish Pub & Music Hall (8 Temple St., Nashua, 484-7400, caseymagees.com) will open early on Wednesday, March 17, at 10 a.m. for St. Patrick’s Day, serving a limited food menu featuring specials like corned beef dinners, Irish bangers and more. Live music from Steve DeLuca will also be featured from 5 to 9 p.m.
• CJ’s Great West Grill (782 S. Willow St., Manchester, 627-8600, cjsgreatwestgrill.com) is running a special corned beef and cabbage plate available all day on St. Patrick’s Day, featuring brined vegetables and homemade soda bread.
• Copper Door Restaurant (15 Leavy Drive, Bedford, 488-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033; copperdoor.com) will be offering several St. Patrick’s Day-inspired specials, like corned beef dinners, Reuben sandwiches and potato leek soup.
• The Cozy Tea Cart (104 Route 13, Brookline, 249-9111, thecozyteacart.com) will hold an Irish afternoon tea tasting on Sunday, March 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Gatherings at The Colonel Shepard House (29 Mont Vernon St., Milford). The cost is $39.95 per person and reservations are required.
• The Derryfield Restaurant (625 Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-2880, thederryfield.com) will serve corned beef and cabbage dinners and corned beef sandwiches as specials for St. Patrick’s Day, Wednesday, March 17. Live music from Eric Grant will also be featured from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
• The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille (40 Andover Road, New London, 526-6899, flyinggoose.com) will run several specials for St. Patrick’s Day, including corned beef and cabbage and bangers and mash, according to owner Tom Mills.
• Fody’s Great American Tavern (9 Clinton St., Nashua, 577-9015; 187 Rockingham Road, Derry, 404-6946; fodystavern.com) will run a St. Patrick’s Day menu from Friday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 17, at both locations, featuring items like corned beef and cabbage, corned beef poutine and Reuben pizzas. The eatery also makes Guinness-braised sauerkraut and house Guinness grain mustard, while its cabbage is cider-braised. Both locations will also be serving signature St. Patrick’s Day cocktails and will have live music and giveaways.
• Frederick’s Pastries (109 Route 101A, Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 647-2253; pastry.net) has several St. Patrick’s Day-themed goodies available to order, like Baileys Irish cream torte, double chocolate chunk cookies with shamrocks, Guinness cupcakes and tortes, mint chocolate chip cupcakes and Irish flag shamrock cookies.
• Georgia’s Northside (394 N. State St., Concord, 715-9189, georgiasnorthside.com) will be running a special meal for St. Patrick’s Day that will include corned beef, red skin mashed potatoes, fried cabbage and dark Guinness bread. Online ordering will be available through the website for pickup at the restaurant on Wednesday, March 17.
• Grill 603 (168 Elm St., Milford, 213-6764, grill603.com) will serve corned beef dinners as dine-in specials for St. Patrick’s Day, as well as pre-orders for takeout.
• LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinerynh.com) will host a St. Patrick’s Day beer dinner with Merrimack’s Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. on Saturday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. The four-course meal will include confit chicken thigh, grilled romaine salad, grilled petite filet and chocolate stout cake, each with wine and beer pairings. Tickets will be sold by the table only (price breakdown is $75 per person).
• McNulty & Foley Caterers (124 E. Hollis St., Nashua, 882-1921, mcnultycatering.com) will be offering a special St. Patrick’s Day meal on Wednesday, March 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring slow-cooked corned beef and cabbage, carrots, potatoes and Irish soda bread.
• New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com) will be offering a specials menu for St. Patrick’s Day that will be available from Tuesday, March 16, through Thursday, March 18. Items will include a traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner, panko-crusted Reuben balls, Guinness stew, beer-battered fish and chips, Guinness-infused chocolate cake and Baileys Irish cream cheesecake.
• North Side Grille (323 Derry Road, Hudson, 886-3663, hudsonnorthsidegrille.com) will be offering single-serve corned beef dinners the week of St. Patrick’s Day, in addition to meals for two and meals for four, featuring cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Dine-in and takeout will both be available.
• Patrick’s Pub & Eatery (18 Weirs Road, Gilford, 293-0841, patrickspub.com) will offer several St. Patrick’s Day specials from Friday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 17, including a traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner, bangers and mash, Irish lamb stew and sticky toffee pudding, available for dine-in or takeout. Patrick’s will also be opening early on St. Patrick’s Day, at 11 a.m.
• Presto Craft Kitchen (168 Amory St., Manchester, 606-1252, prestocraftkitchen.com) is taking orders for corned beef dinners for St. Patrick’s Day, featuring potato, carrot, cabbage and soda bread; as well as Guinness pie with beef tips, mashed potato and vegetables; “end of the rainbow” cookies, gold-coated candy bars, and “cake”-sicles (flavors include Thin Mint, Oreo truffle and carrot cake). Order by March 12. Pickups are on Tuesday, March 16, and Wednesday, March 17.
• The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant (909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, shaskeenirishpub.com) will open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, serving first pints and a breakfast menu during the morning hours, and a limited dinner menu until 9:30 p.m. Tables and seating will be limited on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations).
• Soel Sistas Catering & Meal Prep (Nashua, 943-1469, soelsistas.com) is taking orders for braised corned beef and cabbage dinners for St. Patrick’s Day, with options of turnips, carrots and potatoes or rice. Single meal orders and family-style meals for a family of four are available. Order by March 10.
• T-Bones Great American Eatery (25 S. River Road, Bedford, 641-6100; 404 S. Main St., Concord, 715-1999; 39 Crystal Ave., Derry, 434-3200; 77 Lowell Road, Hudson, 882-6677; 1182 Union Ave., Laconia, 528-7800; 311 S. Broadway, Salem, 893-3444; t-bones.com) is running a special corned beef and cabbage plate that’s available all day on St. Patrick’s Day at each of its locations, featuring brined vegetables and homemade soda bread.
• The Village Trestle (25 Main St., Goffstown, 497-8230, villagetrestle.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day for dine-in and takeout, featuring corned beef dinners, Reubens, lamb stew and other specialty items.
• Zorvino Vineyards (226 Main St., Sandown, 887-8463, zorvino.com) will host a four-course St. Patrick’s Day dinner on Saturday, March 13, featuring a pub salad with cucumber-wrapped leafy greens, seared Irish sausage, braised corned beef and cabbage with roasted carrot and turnip, and bourbon pecan tartlets. A cocktail hour will be held from 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $70 per person and includes two wine samples.
Feautred photo: Corned beef brisket from Presto Craft Kitchen in Manchester. Courtesy photo.