Mid-City is the hub for Irish pubs in New Orleans, with a circuit of neighborhood bars holding down different corners and sharing some of the same Celtic DNA.
Lately, there's been some flux among and between them.
The biggest change is a new owner for the Holy Ground Irish Pub, though even in this case the change came from within the neighborhood.
The owners of the Bayou Beer Garden and Bayou Wine Garden bought the bar at the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway in mid-July. After closing for a quick round of renovations, the Holy Ground reopened July 27 under the same name and with the same staff. There's a new coat of paint inside, and a few other cosmetic and behind-the-scenes changes. But when it reopened it looked and sounded much the same.
The Holy Ground was closed for less than two weeks, but still some regulars felt bereft by the gap. After one of them sent out a social media plea, about 30 people turned up at the nearby Parkview Tavern for a little "Holy Ground in exile gathering."
The new guard here has pledged to keep the Holy Ground true to its roots as a neighborhood pub. Their related and interconnected establishments — the beer garden and wine garden — both have their own followings and distinct atmospheres. They said they want the Holy Ground to keep its own separate identity.
One change on the drawing board, pending city approvals, will be a patio with a wraparound awning in front of the Holy Ground to spruce up its outdoor space.
The Holy Ground was opened in 2011 by Stevie Collins, a native of Northern Ireland who had been a founding partner of Finn McCool's Irish Pub just a few blocks away.
The Holy Ground's home has had a long history as a bar. For more than a decade preceding Hurricane Katrina it was the Dixie Taverne, which reigned as the city’s premier punk rock venue.
A generation earlier, it was a swanky piano lounge called the Lotus Room. In between it went by names including Boogie White’s Recovery Room, the Friendship House Lounge and Quenchers. For a spell after Katrina, when Mid-City was just scratching its way back from the flood, the bar here was a rough-and-tumble dive called Lookers.
For two other Mid-City pubs, recent changes have centered on the grub.
Rum & the Lash, the tavern kitchen inside Finn McCool's, uprooted itself early in July and reopened inside Mick's Irish Pub, about a mile away (as it happened, on the same day the Holy Ground reopened). Rum & the Lash was the first expansion from chef Michael Gulotta and his partners at MoPho, serving a menu of burgers, wings, fish and chips and one of the best fried chicken sandwiches around.
It now serves a similar menu at Mick’s Irish Pub, which is very close to MoPho in more than a geographic way. Sometimes, the bar can look like the after-hours MoPho employee lounge.
The menu here plays up the Celtic connection in the pub, keeping fish and chips in rotation and adding corned beef sandwiches, "Irish nachos" (made with potato chips) and "salmon fries" (fried strips of salmon, in a tasty nod to the legend of namesake Irish hero Finn McCool himself).
And because the wheel is always turning, the founders of Finn McCool's themselves have more changes in the works.
Pauline and Stephen Patterson, the Northern Ireland natives who opened Finn McCool's in 2002, sold the pub in 2016 to new owners, fellow Irishman Sean Kennedy and New Orleans native Anthony Macaluso. The Pattersons kept their second bar, the more modern lounge Treo on Tulane Avenue. Now, though, Treo is up for sale.
The Pattersons say the bar will remain open as usual until any sale. Treo is home to Clesi's, a boiled seafood specialist that runs the bar's kitchen. Clesi's also has its own restaurant under construction in Mid-City — coincidentally, at a Bienville Street location close to Mick's Irish Pub. That restaurant is slated to open in late summer.
The Holy Ground Irish Pub, 3340 Canal St.
Mick's Irish Pub, 4801 Bienville St.
Finn McCool's Irish Pub, 3701 Banks St.
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