Irish pubs, restaurants in southeastern Wisconsin prepare for the holiday

By Eileen Mozinski Schmidt - Special to Conley Media

March 14, 2019

 Tap offerings at The Clarke Hotel and Five Points Pub in downtown Waukesha. The business is expecting additional visitors on Saturday and Sunday in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Eileen Schmidt/Special to Conley Media

TOWN OF ERIN — Bars and restaurants in the area are gearing up to celebrate the annual St. Patrick’s Day holiday, with an emphasis on the food, music and traditions of the Emerald Isle.

Southeast Wisconsin has a wealth of businesses boasting Irish-style offerings ready to host patrons celebrating the 17th of March.

“We just pride ourselves on great service, great food, great atmosphere,” said Jessica Turner, bar manager and sous chef at Tally Ho Restaurant & Bar in Erin, noting the “killer Reuben” on the restaurant’s menu, which also includes non-Irish fare.

The business is housed in a building that is 148 years old, and has been home to a variety of occupants, including a general store, hotel, hall and saloon, and a post office, Turner said.

Tally Ho has been in the location for over 60 years, and is currently locally owned and operated by Mark and Rebecca Meinhardt, who became the owners in December of last year, according to Turner.

“There’s a lot of love in this place,” she said.

What is it about the atmosphere of Irish pubs like the Tally Ho that draws customers in, not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but throughout the year?

Turner and others in the business say there is an air of social ease.

“There’s a friendliness component,” said Josh Grossmeyer, general manager of The Clarke Hotel and Five Points Pub in Waukesha.

“In Ireland, ‘pub’ stands for public house, which is a place of conversation, a place of stories,” he said.

 Mark Knudsen talks with a customer this week at 5Points Brew & Sweets in downtown Waukesha. Businesses like 5Points are also preparing to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday with select menu offerings and drink specials.
Eileen Schmidt/Special to Conley Media

Conversation, music and food

At Five Points Pub, Grossmeyer said, bartenders converse with patrons to spark conversation and continue that tradition, introducing people to those around them while pouring pints.

He added that the music at Five Points Pub is played at a little lower volume to foster the conversational atmosphere. But he emphasized that the music is a key component to the feel of an Irish pub and at Five Points, so is the food.

“We have top-notch Irish food,” said Grossmeyer, noting the menu’s corned beef and cabbage and Reuben.

WalletHub, a credit score and reporting site, recently released a report naming metro Milwaukee as the 11th best city in the nation for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The report assessed holiday traditions, cost, safety and weather in the nation’s 200 largest cities. Chicago topped the list and Madison was ranked third.

But even within the Milwaukee metro, there are regions known for the local celebrations.

In Erin, people will often line up hours before the annual parade, according to Turner, who said attendees will come from around southeast Wisconsin for the event.

“People actually rent out buses and come out for the parade,” she said.

“Erin is a very Irish area in general,” said Turner, noting both the family heritage of many area residents and street names like Shamrock Drive.

Turner said the parade ends at Tally Ho, where an outdoor heated tent will house live music, along with food and drink offerings. This year, the band The Boogie Men will perform twice over the St. Patrick’s day weekend.

 A view of the bar at Tally Ho Restaurant & Bar in the Town of Erin. The area has a variety of annual celebrations recognizing the St. Patrick's Day holiday, including a parade that ends at the Tally Ho, said Jessica Turner, bar manager and sous chef.
Submitted photo

Waukesha a hot spot

And Grossmeyer said Waukesha has become a hot spot for St. Patrick’s Day revelers, with several Irish pubs in the area. The Five Points Pub also draws visitors from around the region for the holiday, in part thanks to the adjoining Clarke Hotel, according to Grossmeyer.

Other area businesses also plan to embrace the spirit of the day. At 5Points Brew & Sweets in downtown Waukesha, Mark Knudsen is planning some St. Patrick’s Day fare for the menu and will offer an Irish red by the area Explorium Brewpub on tap, along with other drink specials.

He said the business, which opened last spring at the downtown location, will open earlier than usual at 8 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s our first year and we’re going to get into it,” said Knudsen of the holiday.

“We might even do green pancakes,” he added. The Five Points Pub will open at 10 a.m. and music will start at 11 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, with a counter service for restaurant orders and bagpipers and an Irish dancer arriving later in the evening, according to Grossmeyer.

While the holiday will draw the biggest crowds, with St. Patrick’s Day landing on a Sunday, he said Saturday will also be busier than usual.