"Normally I use about 30 pounds of corned beef in a week. For our St. Patrick's Day week, I use about 900 to 1,000 pounds," says executive chef Jimmy Plante.
All that corned beef is a tall order -- one that has to get placed a week in advance -- as the Irish restaurant/bar prepares for its annual St. Patrick's Day celebration, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday. Like other Irish restaurants and pubs across the Island, bulking up on corned beef is a high priority this time of year, but it's only one detail in the weeks-long preparation that goes into gearing up for the four-day fest at Sullivan's Quay (pronounced "key"). Planning a special menu, ordering extra kegs of Guinness and additional plateware, putting up decorations that scream St. Patrick's Day and lining up entertainment to create a party atmosphere are ingredients as essential as the spice rub on the corned beef.
For St. Patrick's Day, Sullivan's Quay usually caters to a lunch crowd of about 175 people and a dinner rush of about 350, about two to three times its normal crowd. To meet the extra demand, the restaurant drops its normal a la carte menu for a set menu of Irish dishes, which includes shepherd's pie, fish and chips, Irish stew, chicken potpie and, of course, corned beef and cabbage.
"Because our St. Patrick's Day menu might be an eight- or nine-item menu, the food you're preparing is a quicker serve time. You're not going to be making everything to order. That's the only way you can manage the extra crowd," says owner Brian Barry.
St. Patrick's Day is also the one time of the year when Irish cuisine has its moment in the spotlight. "It's got a bad rep," says Plante. "They don't have that many different recipes like the rest of the world. It's a lot of homestyle stews and slow-cooked roasts. You don't have very specific dishes like you would in Chinese or Mexican cuisine. In Ireland, you've got a limited choice. But St. Patrick's Day is one of the most celebrated holidays in any culture."
All of those extra meals have to be placed somewhere, which means ordering more plates at least two weeks in advance. Likewise, additional glasses also have to be ordered to accommodate all of the drinks that will be poured.
"The bartender has ordered about one and a half times more than he usually does," says restaurant manager Nick Fischetti. "Obviously, you have to order a lot more Guinness and Jameson's. And wine is going to be a big seller." Patrons can expected green Guinness to be served.
Besides emerald-hued Guinness, there will also be plenty of entertainment on tap. Guitarist Vince Cuneen performs Wednesday night, musicians Two Too Many will perform classic Irish songs Saturday and Sunday and Irish step dancers from the Donny Golden School of Irish Dance will be high-stepping it all four days.
"You get a formula that works and that people expect, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel," says Barry. "They're expecting the Irish dishes, Irish music and dance. If you give them any less than that, they'll be surprised and I don't know what more we could do because sometimes it's a matter of space."
The formula seems to be working. Laura Sonnenclar of Port Washington has spent the past 12 St. Patrick's Days with friends at Sullivan's Quay, and this year won't be an exception. "When you're a regular it becomes a family. All the bartenders know you, and your beer is on the bar before you even sit down," she says. "On St. Patrick's Day, we usually get hear early, maybe 10, so we're sure to get a seat. It's the go-to place in town."
Sharin' of the green
Here are six Irish restaurants where they're sure to be celebrating St. Patrick's Day in grand style: