Bruce Mahnke has deep Irish roots, and grew up enjoying his grandmother’s shepherd’s pie and other Irish dishes.
Mahnke, one of the owners of Ed’s Tavern on Lakewood Ranch Main Street, began to wonder after the Scottish-themed McAllister’s Restaurant permanently closed early in the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that might be a good spot for an Irish-themed restaurant.
McAllister’s, with a large dining room and kitchen, was one of the first businesses to open on the brand-new Main Street in 2006, and had been a popular spot for diners.
Mahnke, 48, and his partners made an inquiry with Schroeder Manatee Ranch, which owns the property.
“They (SMR) weren’t in a rush. They wanted something good for the community, and somebody who would give it a face lift and provide hands-on management,” Mahnke said.
While Ireland is not Scotland, an Irish theme would be similar to what had previously occupied the space, Mahnke reasoned.
“I grew up in an Irish family and I have a bunch of Irish recipes,” he said.
He spent two days cooking all of those recipes for his partners — Bob Bender, and Albert and Adam Myara — to demonstrate that a restaurant with Irish flair could succeed.
“Every single one of my grandmother’s dishes is made with liquor. I now know why grandma always liked cooking in the kitchen,” he quipped.
Chef Issac Johnson came on board and helped tweak the recipes and menu. In November, McGrath’s Irish Ale House opened at 8110 Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
“I think it is fantastic. The flavors were great from the get-go,” Johnson said of the made-from-scratch offerings.
Out of consideration for the pandemic, McGrath’s, named after Mahnke’s mother, added about 50 outside seats along a portion of the street that has been closed to traffic.
“We cater to a very broad audience,” Mahnke said, and the menu reflects the diversity of offerings.
At the top of the menu are savory pies, including chicken pot pie, $18, shepherd’s pie, $17, and steak and ale pie, $17. Entrees start at $15 and include wild mushroom stroganoff, fish and chips, roasted chicken breast, Herefordshire steak, bangers and mash, vegetarian curry, Verlasso salmon, and McGrach’s Irish beef stew.
A variety of intriguing sandwiches, starting at $10, are offered, including Main Street Salt Beef, Cod Father, Guinness Cheddar Burger and Lamb Burger.
Rounding out the menu are appetizers, such as Scotch egg, fried chicken wings, baked scallops and salads.
McGrath’s has an extensive spirits menu, including craft cocktails, wines, beers, Irish whiskeys, and beer. Happy hour is 3-6 p.m. daily.
“I can’t describe to you the incredible feeling of preparing and serving dishes I grew up with,” Mahnke said.
Sunday through Thursday, McGrath’s opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. On Friday’s and Saturdays, McGrath’s features live entertainment and closes at midnight.
For more information, call 941-210-4398 or visit mcgrathsirish.com.