For over two decades, the Irish Restaurant Company (IRC) has served Irish hospitality at their three local restaurants in Anne Arundel County. In 1998 Galway Bay was founded on Maryland Avenue in downtown Annapolis by Michael Galway. Anthony Clarke soon joined him as a partner, and together, they grew their business to open Killarney House in Davidsonville (2001) and Brian Boru in Severna Park (2007). Their fourth restaurant, Pirates Cove, serves seafood fare dockside in Galesville (2015).
Shared plates and Whiskey flights are popular at Galway Bay. Image courtesy of Irish Restaurant Company.
Galway Bay is synonymous with the well-known County and Town of Galway in Ireland. It is also owner Michael Galway's last name, which made it a fitting choice for their first restaurant in Annapolis. Brian Boru was the first almost Emperor of Ireland. A High King that bore the title for only a short time but spent decades working his way up to the top from the beginning as a minor King of Munster along the Shannon. And Killarney is a town on the shores of Lough Leane in southwest Ireland's County Kerry. It's a stop on the Ring of Kerry scenic drive.
While you can find Irish favorites and drinks on all three restaurants' menus, Anthony Clarke says, "Each of our restaurants have their own character and identity which is made up of the people. Michael and I are very present when we open a new restaurant, and then the people we hire begin to develop their own culture." Many of their managers started as servers, and at Galway Bay, some employees have been part of the team for 20 years. Melanie, Kerry, Heather, Patrick...visiting one of their restaurants means you will end up on a first-name basis with the staff, and your favorite drink will hit your table before you've even ordered.
Happy hour on the patio at Killarney House. Image courtesy of the author.
Chef Steve Hardison oversees all of the food items. All three restaurants have Irish favorites (Fish and Chips, Shepherd's Pie, Irish Breakfast, Corned Beef, and Cabbage...to name a few) and consistent supplies of genuine Irish products. Entrees and specials vary based on the local community, and each Chef is given the flexibility to do so. Galway Bay's menu is slightly different from the others. Clarke says the restaurant added more shared plates with specialty appetizers and whiskey pairings when redesigned their dining room. At Killarney House, a small farm on the property cared for by staff grows fresh herbs and vegetables that make their way onto the specials board.
"There's also a secret menu," Clarke says. (On a personal note, my secret menu item at Killarney House is the Dublin Pub Sandwich made with chicken instead of the typical fish.) long-time customers notice when a menu item changes or leaves, but the entree stays in the computer system for special requests as long as the restaurant has the product.
Friendly faces greet you at every Irish Restaurant Company location. Image courtesy of the author.
In addition to the food, what stands out to any patron of an IRC restaurant is the feel of the community. "Both Michael and myself are very about that train of thought. Being involved with the community and being environmentally conscious are important," says Clarke, who's served on the board of Visit Annapolis, sat on the City Dock Advisory Committee, and speaks on environmental practices for the restaurant industry.
For example, a visit to Galway Bay is likely to include a Colonial or two with a pint; Watermark's colonial-attired tour guides are given a discount if they show up in their garb, and they often do after work. And each restaurant regularly hosts charity dinners for local non-profits, with Brian Boru leading the charge with one or two weekly. Even the aforementioned farm at Killarney has brought a sense of community to regular patrons and the staff who care for it.
It's not St. Patrick's Day without Corned Beef and Cabbage! Image courtesy of Visit Annapolis.
Killarney House in Davidsonville also has a farm where much of the garden's bounty ends up on the diner's plate! Image courtesy of the author.
For this year's St. Patrick's Day, they had more time to prepare and have a plan that will protect their community and provide your corned beef fix! Guests can reserve a space (reservations required) for lunch or dinner and choose from a set course menu. People can even pre-purchase a seat at the bar at Brian Boru and Killarney House. With limited capacity for in-person dining, the restaurants will have a full drive-up/carry-out service with ordering available online and by phone. Sláinte!