A chance to strut her stuff

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Eileen Carrigan prepares to do the Shebeen Irish Pub proud with her first St. Paddy’s Day party

By Hannah Wallace

“Our mission is to become as close to a true Irish pub experience as one can get in this country,” said Eileen Carrigan, owner of the Shebeen Irish Pub and Kitchen on Midnight Pass Road. And there’s no better date to demonstrate a true Irish experience than March 17.
Since she purchased the Shebeen in September, this will be Carrigan’s first St. Patrick’s Day as a pub owner — and her biggest chance yet to prove the pub’s authenticity. In fact, because this year’s holiday falls on a Sunday, Carrigan has planned a whole weekend of celebrations. Live nightly music begins Thursday evening, culminating Sunday in an all-day festival of bands, Celtic dancers, and (of course) bagpipes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Naturally, menu specials will feature fish and chips and corned beef and cabbage. Dining tables will be moved just outside the door, onto Crescent Plaza’s shaded veranda, so there’s more room for general revelry inside.

Eileen Carrigan has a bagpipes blast at her Irish pub. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

Born and raised in an Irish-rich suburb of Philadelphia, Carrigan, a second-generation American herself, brings a strong pub pedigree to her work — though her formal, full-time restaurant training only began four years ago when she joined the staff of Pub 32 on South Tamiami Trail. There, then-owners (and Irish ex-pats) Ross and Louise Galbraith provided Carrigan with immersive training in the logistics and attitude of Irish hospitality.
“Louise and Ross are very gracious tutors,” Carrigan said. “Louise is almost to me the epitome of a gracious pub hostess. Her primary concern is everybody’s well being. And from Ross, he’s all about the nuts and bolts.”
In 2022, Carrigan followed the Galbraiths as they moved pub operations from the South Trail to a smaller space in Siesta’s Crescent Plaza, calling the new spot the Shebeen (essentially “tavern” in Irish). A year later, the couple decided to sell, and Carrigan was happy to accept the challenge. She said the new responsibilities “have very much been an adventure for me.” But the responses from patrons near and far have been more than worth it.
Carrigan said she regularly gets messages from Dubliners planning a vacation on Siesta Key and in search of a homey pub to visit while they’re here. She also described a pair of sisters recently reveling in the Shebeen’s live music, one even strumming air guitar on her cane, while their 94-year-old mother soaked in the atmosphere. “The smile never left her face,” said Carrigan.
“There’s no shortage of pubs and bars that call themselves Irish because they have an Irish name or serve Guinness,” Carrigan added. “But the heart and soul of an Irish pub is not about the food and beverages. It’s the way that you feel when you walk through the door. They’re rarely very fancy, often a bit dark. What you feel is that you are welcomed. People don’t go to an Irish pub for the same reason they go to McDonald’s or Applebee’s. They’re going for the experience.”
The Shebeen St. Paddy’s Day celebration will feature music from Kevin McGuire’s Fresh Air duo, Prodigal Sons (Dana Lawrence of Kettle of Fish and Tom McNulty), Ross the Piper, and Celtic fiddler Emily Ann Thompson and band.
Menu specials include corned beef and cabbage, and fish and chips.

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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