Offering everything from craft beer and barbecue to trivia and tequila, the cluster of bars surrounding O’Donnell Square in Canton provide choices for every type of barfly. But, despite all of the variety, Claddagh Pub manager Paul Sellers says that the drinking district lacks outdoor options.
That’s why he recently decided to revamp the Irish pub’s underutilized courtyard to feature its own bar, outdoor lounge furniture, canopies with water misters, TV screens, strung lights, and live music on the weekends.
“We realized that, in the summer Canton bars slow down because everyone is going to the beach, or to Fells Point to be near the water,” Sellers says. “That’s when we decided, we can be outside, too.”
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Although husband-and-wife owners Dennis and Vivian Clarke constructed Claddagh’s courtyard nearly a decade ago, Sellers says that, until last month, it only housed a few tables and was rarely used.
Taking inspiration from Cork—a city in Southwest Ireland—the newly redesigned space, aptly dubbed The Cork Yard Bar, pays homage to the Emerald Isle with decorative maps and imported furniture.
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere,” Sellers says. “You’re in a courtyard, but it almost seems like you’re somewhere else.”
In keeping with the laid-back vibe, the space hosts live bands every Sunday night (showcasing local musicians like Ernie Fowler and Steve Herrera), and offers seasonal drink specials including dragon berry mojitos and watermelon Crushes. The drinks are meant to pair nicely with Claddagh’s menu, which has been recently revamped under the helm of a new chef.
A few months back, management brought on Australian-born chef James Saftich to streamline kitchen operations. Saftich—formerly of Claddagh’s now-shuttered spinoff on Fenwick Island—has fine-tuned the pub grub to include everything from charcuterie plates and smoked kielbasa to pan-seared rockfish over grape tomato salad and an Asian duck entree.
“People are eating healthier, and their preferences are changing,” Sellers says. “Everybody in the square has a cook, but no one has a chef.”
Saftich will also debut a new brunch menu this weekend, highlighting dishes like open-faced strip steak on an artisanal baguette, stacked chicken and waffles, and “The Hangover Cure,” a play on an English breakfast that combines sausage, bacon, sunny side up eggs, beans, roasted tomatoes, and toast.
Sellers says that all of the changes are breathing new life into 24-year-old mainstay.
“Everybody likes something new,” he says. “We’re always trying to look ahead and change with the times.”