Beloved by some and maligned by others, corned beef and cabbage makes its glorious annual return this month. Just as daffodils nudge their heads above ground, chefs and cooks in Irish pubs and restaurants are boil brisket in waters laced with salt, aromatics and pickling spices, turning out rosy-pink piles of meat by the ton (literally) in the days fore and aft St. Patrick’s Day. And while that holiday that was in effect canceled in 2020 (lockdown began on March 16) the traditions of the day, culinary and otherwise, march on.
The Irish have been salting and exporting beef for centuries — though not necessarily eating it — but pairing the meat with cabbage is a fundamentally Irish-American custom, one shaped on these shores in the 19th century as scores of Irish descended on the East Coast and bought cured beef from Jewish butchers. Much more recently, corned beef has sneaked into spring rolls, poutine, empanadas and quesadillas, the kind of fatty snacks for which beer and whiskey are made (or vice versa). Below are a few of the more expressive forms that corned beef can take, as well as a couple of traditional plates worth seeking out this March and beyond (and a few St. Patrick’s Day deals thrown in for good measure).
Irish breakfast at Connolly Station (280 Hempstead Ave., Malverne): Breakfast for dinner is one of life’s great pleasures, and an Irish breakfast ($18.95) takes that principle to another octave. At Connolly Station, which abuts the Malverne LIRR Station, a plate heaped with fried eggs, rashers of Irish bacon, a crispy potato cake, baked beans and buttery toast also comes with the essential black and white pudding, which are actually coin-shaped sausages. Don’t worry too much about what’s in them. Anyway, no matter where you choose to sit — the romantic high wooden booths, or the cozy bar — the French onion soup ($5.75) is also a must. On St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage ($19.95) will appear in ample quantities, too, both on premises and as takeout, as will Irish soda bread. More info: 516-887-5160, connollystationli.com
Irish egg rolls (followed by fish-and-chips) at Carney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant (136 Broadway, Amityville): When you pair corned beef with fried dough and molten Swiss, magic does happen. With a thousand-island dipping sauce at attention, too, Irish spring rolls enable you to work on your waistline while simultaneously indulging, perhaps, in one of the several iterations of Jamesons (or a tamer pint of Smithwick’s or Guinness). The copper-topped bar at Carney’s has room and partitions for such acts of St. Patrick’s Day devotion. Continuing on the fried-food front, Carney’s beer-battered cod and chips (thick and overlong, as you might find at an Irish chipper) are also very much worth the calories. For St. Patrick’s Day, Carney’s will also offer $75 takeout dinners for four of corned beef, cabbage, and Irish soda bread. More info: 631-464-4445, carneysamityvillage.com
Poutine at The Irish Times Pub (975 Main St., Holbrook): The culinary traditions of the Quebecois and American Irish converge in this $9 plate of chonky French fries slathered in onion gravy, melted beer cheese (make that IPA cheese) and chopped corned beef. In 2020, the restaurant marked 20 years in business — a bittersweet anniversary given the circumstances — but entered that next chapter with an undulating marble bar, sleeker lines and an atmospheric stone patio. For St. Patrick’s Day, both The Irish Times and its sister Patchogue restaurant, James Joyce, will box up family meals for two, four or eight people ($80-$265) which include potato soup and a choice of apps, mains (think corned beef and cabbage, salmon or Irish stew) and not one, but two Baileys-laced desserts (a brownie sundae and cheesecake). More info: 631-467-4330, irishtimespubny.com
Bangers & mash chased by an Irish mule at Green’s Irish Pub (436 Plandome Rd., Manhasset): Tommy Maloney pork sausages perched and glistening above gravy-slathered mashed potatoes is about as traditional as it gets. However, a Moscow Mule made with Jamesons Whiskey in place of vodka, aka an Irish Mule ($11), isn't. Take them together, and you might belt out a verse of "Dirty Old Town." On St. Patrick's Day, Green's will run specials such as Reuben egg rolls and Baileys cheesecake, and stream live Irish music via social media. More info: 516-570-6220, greensirishpub.com
Reuben quesadilla at The Shamrock (138 New York Ave., Huntington/Halesite): Reubens abound on Long Island, but how many corned-beef quesadillas do you know personally? This fusion of corned beef ($14), melted Swiss and sauerkraut, between tortillas, is a star-crossed marriage between two of the great Catholic countries of the world. Don’t ask too many questions, though, as The Shamrock is more a place for action (in this case, eating and drinking) than words. More info: 631-427-4221.
Irish baked clams at Buckley’s Irish Pub (386 Main St., Center Moriches): Irish food shines particularly bright on the shellfish and seafood front, but bacon is also its lingua franca. Holding its own in the land of clams Oreganata and casino is this $10 Celtic twist — chopped middleneck clams tumbled and baked with Irish bacon, minced onions, peppers and sausage. The truly, deeply hungry can segue to traditional Irish dishes such as shepherd’s pie, or bangers and mash, and the care for the Guinness kegs and taps runs high here. More info: 631-427-4221. buckleyspub.com