Ushering traditional Irish pub fare into the 21st century is the idea behind the new Irish Times Bar & Grill in North Naples.
“The decorative components reflect a nostalgic artful mix of old and new to deliver a vibrant pub experience. We pride ourselves on delivering a warm atmosphere with fantastic plates and drinks,” notes the website of the local venue that debuted this week in the Pavilion shopping center, anchored by LA Fitness and Paragon Theaters on the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41 North.
Irish Times features elevated menus for lunch, dinner, late night and drinks. “It’s not fine dining. We like to call it an Irish gastro-style bar, which is quite common in Ireland and Dublin and the bigger cities. We wanted to bring that to Naples,” said Gerry McGovern, who co-owns the new business with Ciaran Mosley. Both men are from Ireland but met through the bar business in New York City.
“Both Ciaran and myself were born in Ireland,” said McGovern, whose Irish brogue obviously speaks for itself. “I came to the States in 1984 and Ciaran’s here about 12 years. Ciaran has managed a lot of fine bars and restaurants in Manhattan and I built a substantial amount of bars and restaurants and I have a construction company also.”
McGovern has had a Naples home since 2010 after visiting the area for decades. “I always had a vision of opening a bar down here of my own one day,” he said. His wife, Noleen, also is a co-owner.
This week’s launch was the end of a long road for the Irish Times team, which shifted redevelopment plans last year from downtown Naples to uptown Naples. The original plans to open in the former downtown space of Shea’s at Lansdowne Street fell through after a lease issue scuttled those intentions. Even when the Irishmen found another local venue, they encountered permitting and construction setbacks before they could finally create their vision of a modern Irish pub with traditional roots.
“We finally got the doors open. I think a lot of people in Naples thought we were never going to get to this point but we finally achieved it,” McGovern said. “It definitely took its toll on the bank account but, hopefully, it will pay off in the end. We’re looking forward to seeing all the locals and all the snowbirds and, hopefully, we’ll be able to accommodate everybody.”
Mosley said the launch was definitely worth the hassle and wait. What sets Irish Times apart, he said, is that it’s not a restaurant with a bar as is common at many local establishments. “We’re going to have it 50-50,” Mosely said, meaning the place is evenly split as both a bar and restaurant. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
The space has been extensively renovated from the previous digs of The Keys Bar & Grille. The former colorful Key West murals of Sloppy Joe’s Bar and the Conch Tour Train were replaced with exposed brick walls, dark woodwork and a more upscale vibe. New folding glass doors along the front give part of the new venue an open-air presence similar to Tacos & Tequila Cantina a few doors down on that leg of the shopping center fronting U.S. 41.
Irish Times’ 5,788-square-foot unit had been vacant for more than a decade since The Keys Bar moved out in mid-2011 but it previously was a local hospitality venue for many years. The space has been home to Legends Steakhouse, Reuben’s Place, Pelican Bay Pub and Spectators sports bar. McLean’s Irish Pub operated in an adjacent space in the 1980s and Grumpy’s Ale House used to be on the other side until 2015.
The menu features traditional Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and “The Best Shepherd’s Pie” with braised beef, carrots, peas in a rich gravy, mashed potatoes and Irish cheddar cheese.
“The chicken curry is actually a very popular thing in Ireland that has taken off in America, as well,” Mosley said. The Gaelic-style chicken curry features diced chicken, onion and pineapple in a rich curry sauce served with hand-cut chips and basmati rice.
“Lamb stew is another thing we specialize in and we’re also doing on the weekends an Irish breakfast,” Mosely said, noting that the unique dish includes sausages, Irish bacon, black and white pudding, beans and eggs.
Some menu items feature a unique addition to give it an Irish or British kick. For instance, the Dublin Angus Burger has Dubliner cheddar cheese, the Irish Style Shrimp Cocktail appetizer is tossed in Marie Rose sauce, and oysters are served with a pint of Guinness.
Speaking of dark beer, the pub has about 20 beers on tap, a wine list and an impressive selection of spirits with more than 35 whiskeys topping a menu with multiple choices for scotch, bourbon, gin, vodka, rum, tequila, cognac and rye. Jameson Irish whiskey and Minke Irish vodka are used to create craft cocktails such as Irish Coffee and Irish Strawberry Lemonade.
Expect the eventual addition of steaks and other menu items once the venue is smoothly operating. “We decided to walk into it slowly. We didn’t want to overwhelm the kitchen in the event that we got a large crowd of people coming in,” McGovern said. “I think we have something for everybody there, including some vegan stuff.”
Irish Times, 8939 Tamiami Trail N., is open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Live music is scheduled from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.