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Ann Arbor Gets a Taste of Irish Tradition at Conor O'Neill's Pub

By Elisha Neubauer

A full-blown social experience awaits you at Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub and Restaurant, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you've never visited an Irish Pub before, or even if you have, O'Neill's is a one-of-a-kind, yet traditional, Irish Pub, complete with everything that an Irish Pub should entail, designed and built in Ireland, only to be assembled here in the States.

Everything from the walls, flooring, and décor screams Ireland. The music, the food, the drinks, and most importantly, the atmosphere transports you directly into the world of the typical Irish Pub, a concept revered for hundreds of years worldwide. According to their website, "Irish Pubs are more than just a place to drink. They are a social experience; part theatre, part debating chamber, and part living room." And it couldn't be truer, especially at Conor O'Neill's.

O'Neill's got its start in the way many things do, grown from a need or necessity. Caroline Kaganov, General Manager of O'Neill's, told us a little bit about how the popular pub came to be. "Well, Tom Murray and Colm O'Neill (the owners) are friends who played Gaelic Football together," she detailed. "After playing Gaelic football, they wanted to go for a pint, but all the places in Ann Arbor at the time where either restaurants or younger college hangouts, and they were in their early thirties and just after playing sports. Colm is from Co. Cork in Ireland and Tom's father is from Co. Sligo in Ireland, Tom's father owes a pub in Sligo and Tom spent summers there working in the pub. So, they decided that Ann Arbor could do with an Irish pub." Ann Arbor seemed to agree.

The friends and business partners knew they had to do the job right, if they were going to bring traditional Irish pub culture to Michigan. To do so, they fought hard to ensure a true, authentic experience for everyone who entered the building. "We brought everything out from Ireland," explained Kaganov.

"All the bric-a-brac, the stain glass, the entire bar and back bar, everything. We had Irish Artists come directly from Ireland and they hand painted everything. We brought stone masons from Ireland and they laid the slate for our Cottage area of the pub. We also brought that slate and stone directly from a quarry in Velantia Island off the coast of Kerry."

The menu is crafted in the fashion of an Irish Pub, as well, ensuring the experience continues long into the meal. "Fish and Chips is our biggest seller," stated Kaganov. "We serve it with a spicy malt vinegar sauce and it is fantastic." While Fish and Chips seems to be a crowd favorite, Kaganov has her own go-to meal.

"If I was to recommend a dish it would be the Shepherd's Pie, which is also the dish that I feel captures the essence of the pub." For those unfamiliar with the traditional meal, it is created from ground beef and lamb, with peas, carrots and onions all simmered together in a bass ale grave and topped with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with cheese then baked to a golden brown. "It's a perfect dish," she said. "It is also available as a Fisherman's pie with salmon, shrimp and cod in a dill white wine and mushroom sauce, again topped with mash?for the fish lovers."

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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