When Conor Hartnett opened Mary Carroll’s in Babylon in 1997, he had no interest in food. The Limerick native’s goal was to establish a bar that resembled as much as possible the pubs he’d left behind. “Most of the bars in Ireland didn’t have any food at all,” he recalled, “and that seemed right to me.”
When Hartnett sought to expand the bar three years later, the village insisted he put in a small kitchen. “The idea was that food would be a civilizing influence,” he said, “so I put in the smallest kitchen possible.” In that tiny kitchen at the end of the bar, either the bartender or the bar backs would handle the mozzarella sticks and burgers.
Time passed and Hartnett developed a stronger affinity for dining while drinking. A few months ago, he engaged the much-lauded chef-around-Long Island Michael Meehan (currently overseeing the kitchen at the Huntington gastropub Vauxhall) to consult on a menu. He also hired Lauren VanDenise, previously sous chef at Barrique in Babylon.
Together VanDenise and Meehan have put together an imaginative menu that doesn’t stray too far from pub food: nachos made with Tater Tots ($10.95), shepherds pie “skins” with mashed potatoes ($9.95), autumn salad with arugula, beets, butternut squash, apples and Gorgonzola ($12.95), lobster BLT with lemon aioli ($16.95), cheese steak with whiskey butter ($16.95), mussels in Thai coconut curry with fries ($15.95) and the kitchen sink burger with fries, onion rings, Pepper Jack cheese, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing ($15.95).
The bar and dining room (which really do make you feel like you are in Ireland) have been spruced up, and the 10 beers on tap have increased to almost three dozen. “Craft beer is really taking off,” Hartnett said. “We had to catch up.”
Mary Carroll’s is open every day from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m. The kitchen serves from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.
121 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-587-6181, marycarrolls.com