Claddagh Pub owner Mike Clarke is not Irish. He doesn’t serve Irish food. He doesn’t really even like Irish food. However, when he went to open up his first bar/restaurant in 1995, he could think of no better concept than an Irish pub.
“We always tell people it’s Irish hospitality with great American food,” Clarke explained. “We never got into Irish food. You never hear Ireland associated with great food, so I took the concept of the Irish hospitality and made a great Irish pub with American food.”
For the lifelong soccer fan with a passion for the sport and the restaurant industry, an Irish pub seemed like the perfect business opportunity.
“We’re a big soccer bar — soccer’s my passion,” Clarke explained, after noting that not only do his bars show English Premiere League games, but the NFL Sunday Ticket, as well — offering specials for both, including $4 Bloody Mary’s and mimosas every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After 21 years of success with Claddagh’s Canton-based location, Clarke decided to bring that concept to the beach, recently opening Claddagh on the Shore in Fenwick Island, at the former location of House of Welsh.
After a complete renovation of the entire building, Claddagh on the Shore now features a brand new dining room and bar setting, with wide open windows and a bright atmosphere to go along with their walls of televisions for sporting events and music selection. They also feature live music, which Clarke said is part of trying to create a lively atmosphere.
“We want an exciting pub. We don’t want a sleepy bar,” he said. “We do play good music. We’re always thinking about what music we’re playing. In Baltimore, we do very, very well until 2 a.m. every night of the week, and we’re trying to bring that same energy down here.”
While the Fenwick location won’t be able to stay open until 2 a.m., they will be offering late-night Happy Hour every night and stay open until 1 a.m. — featuring $4 Fireball shots and $2 Natural Light cans. They also offer a regular daily Happy Hour with half-price bottles of wine, as well as fresh-squeezed crushes, homemade sangria, and beer and food specials.
Clarke, who sold fine wines for years, said that an impressive wine selection has become a staple of Claddagh.
“Every wine is hand-picked. We have a tremendous wine list,” he noted. “Part of the battle is people walk in to an Irish-named place and they’re thinking Guinness and beer, but we’re very serious about our wines.”
Claddagh is also very serious about their Irish Rack of Lamb, which is one of their signature dishes and has garnered attention from chef Bobby Flay and been featured on the Food Network.
“It’s a New Zealand lamb rack, bone in, done in an Irish whiskey demi-glace, and it’s phenomenal it really is,” Clarke described of the dish.
Other menu items include Claddagh’s award-winning colossal lump crabcakes, their prime rib and what Clarke says are some of the best wings around.
“Our crabcakes are all colossal jumbo lump. They are the real deal — there’s no filler in them,” he said. “What’s unique about Claddaugh though, is that this is the same bar that you’re gonna get maybe the best wings on the East Coast. When you hear that from people from Buffalo, you know you’ve made it.”
While Claddagh is now establishing roots in the area during their first Fenwick Island summer, Clarke said he really plans to build relationships with the locals in the off-season. He also said that, in addition to NFL and EPL specials this fall, they’ll also be offering a price-sensitive feature each night, with specials including prime rib night and crabcake night.
“I plan to build relationships in the fall — that’s when I plan on growing roots in this town,” he said, noting that they also like to cater holiday parties for other restaurants. “That’s such a large part of our business in Baltimore. We want to do the same thing down here.”
Claddagh on the Shore is located at 1106 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island and is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day. To find out more, visit www.facebook.com/CladdaghShore/info or give them a call at (302) 537-4200.