Hibernian hospitality
Clarke Hotel Irish Restaurant brings Emerald Isle comfort food downtown

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Sept. 12, 2014

The Clarke Irish Restaurant had a soft opening last month. There will be a full grand opening sometime this fall.
 Matt Masterson/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Irish eyes are smiling on downtown Waukesha.

Less than four months after the Milwaukee-based Harp & Eagle Limited purchased The Clarke Hotel on West Main Street, its new Irish restaurant is open to the public.

Dennis Radtke, Harp & Eagle’s director of operations, said the restaurant had its soft opening late last month - as did an attached bar - with a larger grand opening planned for sometime later this fall.

“We are doing spectacularly,” he said. “The hotel is enjoying 70 percent occupancy rates through the summer, which is very good in this business. The bar and restaurant have been performing as expected. We couldn’t be happier being there.”

Through its first few weeks, Radtke said, the restaurant has been getting 30 to 40 diners during weekday hours and another 150 to 200 on weekends.

Those numbers are expected to go up even further once the restaurant begins serving lunch on Saturday and Sunday, with Radtke adding that a Sunday brunch may also be in the works.

Harp & Eagle Director of Operations Dennis Radtke said The Clarke Irish Restaurant could start offering lunch on weekends and a Sunday brunch.
 Matt Masterson/Freeman Staff

Radtke said the restaurant has been packed on Friday nights with Friday Night Live downtown and he has already received reservations for events in the hotel’s banquet hall.

The restaurant’s menu closely resembles that of the County Clare - another Harp & Eagle-owned restaurant in Milwaukee - and is built around Irish-American comfort foods with items like meat loaf, pot roast, corned beef and shepherd’s pie.

“We try to keep our food simple - simple in ingredients, simple in design,” said Troy Mueller, a chef at both the Clarke Hotel’s Irish Restaurant and the County Clare. “I think that speaks a lot to people. It is filling on the palate and it is good, quality food.”

Mueller said some restaurants will throw the word “Irish” in front of different dishes, but don’t provide real Irish food. He said The Clarke Hotel’s Irish Restaurant seeks to provide the most authentic cuisine possible while still maintaining a menu which appeals to American eaters, even going so far as to ship in some of its meats from Ireland, such as rashers - an Irish type of bacon more akin to a pork chop without the bone.

‘I think we do corner the market in some ways,” Mueller said. “We do offer some things that nobody else can offer.”

While Irish comfort food is the restaurant’s staple, Radtke said they have “all bases covered,” offering salads, vegetarian dishes and even gluten-free options.

All food is fresh and made to order from scratch.  And unlike The Black Trumpet - the hotel’s previous restaurant, which Mueller said targeted “higher-tier clientele” - anyone can have a good time at the Irish Restaurant, he said.

“It is an interesting location,” he said. “I think it is in the spotlight and I think people who want to be in the spotlight will be here, but we do open the doors for everyone.”


Email: mmasterson@conleynet.com