Growing up with the last name Kilduff, it never took much convincing to celebrate my Irish heritage with a day of drinking green beer in shamrock-adorned shirts. When I was 14, I learned that there was a Kilduff castle in Limerick about two hours southwest of Dublin.
Often, I catch myself daydreaming about traveling there, grabbing a pint of Kilkenny and seeing if they will let me crash on the couch. There are at least two problems: 1) The castle has been in ruin for more than 300 years, and 2) even if it weren’t, I’m not sure if castles have couches.
With my dream vacation on hold, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day will just have to consist of meeting up ith Chase Van Cotthem, the owner of Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub, and eating the best Irish fare in town. Van Cotthem grew up next door to the O’Donnell family.
The family friends raised their children to be friends, so it was no surprise that he went to work at their successful Seattle restaurants. When I asked him about what has made the transition into the Spokane market so successful, he didn’t have to search far for an answer.
“It’s a mix of quality and atmosphere. The recipes we use have been crafted and honed for over 30 years,” Van Cotthem said. “Our corned beef is brined in Guinness and a house-made pickling spice and cooked for six hours every day.”
That means Shawn O’Donnell’s kitchen on Monroe Street is up and running long before people are even thinking about rallying to find a reuben that could rival the Cliffs of Moher.
Shawn O’Donnell’s menu features traditional Irish fare like Guinness beef stew, bangers and mash and my personal favorite shepherd’s pie that is a delicious mix of ground lamb, carrots, parsnips, peas, corn, celery and onions and then topped with browned colcannon potatoes.
As for the atmosphere, it was easy. Van Cotthem said as soon as they stepped foot in the 96-year-old building that once was home to Milford’s Fish House, they knew it was fate. Giant vaulted ceilings, wood-crafted walls, the space has a huge window-paned bar, a perfect sitting room for families and plenty of nooks and crannies to escape to for a little more intimacy.
Experiences have long been what Spokane needs more of in the culinary industry. We have lots of restaurants but few and far in between that cultivate a sense of magic, especially now as we head toward Phase 3 of the pandemic. Van Cotthem agreed.
“The Irish are a people who have always endured. Slavery, poverty, famine. For centuries, the culture has always been about celebrating that no matter what. Tomorrow will be better,” he said. “At Shawn O’Donnell’s, even after a tough year, we want to have that same enthusiasm.”
If you go: Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub, 719 N. Monroe St., (509) 326-7251 and shawnodonnells.com
Here are four other options for Irish fare in town:
O’Doherty’s Irish Grille
It wouldn’t be St. Paddy’s Day without a trip to Spokane’s oldest Irish bar. O’Doherty’s has been a staple of the Lilac City for more than 30 years. Any day of the week, it’s not strange to see soccer fans enjoying a pint, standing on tables and singing to customers.
What to order: The Hooligan & Hannigan Reuben with onion rings
If you go: O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., (509) 747-0322 and odohertyspub.com
Waddell’s Neighborhood Pub
What some might consider to be more of an American pub, Waddell’s still has highlights of its original Irish flair. It is a neighborhood gem that has even received some shine nationally when it was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
What to order: Squirrelly seasoned fries and Kiss Me I’m Irish Cheesecake
If you go: Waddell’s Neighborhood Pub, 4318 S. Regal St., (509) 443-6500 and waddellspubandgrill.com
Conley’s Place Restaurant
With what could be the biggest menu in Spokane, Conley’s Place has a bit of everything. All you have to do is step foot in the Spokane Valley eatery to see its Irish roots. The Conley family, who also owned the iconic White Elephant stores, deliver amazing diner-style eats and some of the best pie in town.
What to order: Irish-Style Eggs Benedict
If you go: Conley’s Place Restaurant, 12622 E. Sprague Ave., (509) 924-5411 and conleysplacerestaurant.com
Poole’s Public House North
Owners Scott and Lisa both grew up in Spokane, so Poole’s has always been an amazing reflection of the community. This classic Irish sports bar is making elevated bar food, and it’s great for a date night or after-work drinks with friends. It’s one of Spokane’s most versatile establishments, and its South location is at 5620 S. Regal St.
What to order: Coldsmoke Beer Battered Fish and Chips
If you go: Poole’s Public House North, 12310 N. Ruby Road, (509) 413-1834 and poolespublichouse.com
Kris Kilduff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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