Wednesday, May 13, 2009

K.C. Branaghan's for Strength

Things have been quiet here at Dine and Travel, but this is certainly not an abandoned blog! Trust me, I spend plenty of time daydreaming about all of the things I would love to write about if I didn't have quantitative strategies running through my head day and night. I've been hitting the books studying for a pesky standardized test to get into grad school, but soon you'll be hearing from me more often.

Today, however, I just can't pass up the opportunity to tell you about K. C. Branaghan's, my favorite local pub. Since it opened last year, it has become something of a neighborhood staple. Branaghan's features the best fish and chips in town, a perfect Guinness pour, and the vibrant community feel that any decent Irish pub should have. In fact, if the hardwood floors weren't so sparkling clean, and the walls hadn't been freshly painted, and you added a room full of red-faced men in overalls with Irish accents instead of the typical Belmont Shore prepster crowd, it might almost seem authentic.

Okay, relax. I said almost. Maybe if Branaghan's is around in 400 years like this one, you'll let that comment skate by.

What is authentic about K. C. Branaghan's is the community. Public houses have been community gathering places for hundreds of years, but it takes something special to make one a place where people want to go week after week, month after month and year after year. Branaghans' owner, George, clearly has worked hard to make this the case. The first time I visited, he personally greeted my friends and me when we came in looking for vodka tonics (the one thing missing from this pub's drink list: anything hard. I'm still crossing my fingers for that liquor license). We ended up with crème brûlée and Guinness and, while I'm not sure that pairing will go down as the most sophisticated, it made for a memorable night.

Since then, I've been back to Branaghan's on a regular basis, and have seen George every time. I've even joined George's e-mailing list, a move which I intermittently regret and rejoice over depending on how full my inbox is at that moment. But they work. Not only have George's e-mails succeeded in bringing me in more than once, but they also remind me that there is a world beyond my car or my desk (or the stable, but that's a whole other story), and it makes me happy to think that there are carefree people sitting at the bar drinking their Guinnesses for strength at that very moment.

That's exactly how I felt today at 5 p.m. when George's message about the K. C. Branaghan's Stimulus Package appeared. After I got past the overused buzzword of the year, I was pretty impressed with the idea. Here is George, in his own words:

I will put $100 weekly into a drawing pool. Each Tuesday nite, one number will be called. If the winner is present, they will receive the $100 cash. If the winner is absent, the $100 goes back into the pool and the following week is $200. This sequence is repeated weekly until there is a winner, or the pool reaches $1,000.

If there is no winner at $1,000, the pool is reduced to $500 and numbers are called until there is a winner. The remaining $500 is put into the pool for the following week's drawing and the sequence starts all over.

All that to say, I think Branaghan's has what it takes: fantastic food (about the best pub food that I've found anywhere...and that includes Ireland), good drinks and community. This is a place you'll want to go after a long, hard day at work, on a Saturday morning for a hearty brunch or even as a stop along the way during a pub crawl down Second Street.

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