Gerry Glynn of EatDrinkJax.com interviews owner Mary Jane Culhane.
1. Tell us about Culhane’s?
We're a family business owned and operated by 4 sisters from county Limerick, Ireland. Since opening our doors in 2005, Culhane’s has captured the attention of both everyday diners and culinary critics. It landed a coveted spot on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and has been covered by local reporters fascinated by the pub’s distinctive menu and entertainment options.
2. What makes Culhane's special?
It’s the experience that you don’t get in a regular restaurant. Our Irish culture is rich in delicious comfort food, perfect pints of Guinness, traditional Irish music and friendly banter. Culhane's is very warm and hospitable. Our staff are engaging and friendly. Growing up in Ireland, the pubs were the central place to meet your friends and neighbors - a place for camaraderie.
Chef Chrissy and our culinary team create delicious daily specials along with whiskey, wine and beer pairings.
For big events like New Year’s and Valentines we have special a la carte menus.
We always have fun events going on. Every Sunday we feature live, traditional Irish music and Irish dancers. We have a very popular Pub Trivia on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday are for karaoke fun. Famous local and international bands like Celtic Thunder and Dublin City Ramblers also perform regularly.
Fish and Chips. Local cod fileted in-house, tossed in beer batter, and cooked crisp in peanut oil.
3. Is Culhane’s similar to what you’d experience if you went to a pub in Ireland?
I think we’re different. At Culhane’s we’ve spiced things up a lot - it’s comfort food with an attitude! Everything is made from scratch using fresh local produce. Corned beef is marinated for hours, slow cooked, and flavored with rich tasting stout like Guinness. We’ve brought an American twist to our food. Locals rave about it - even the Irish love it!
Shrimp and Grits
4. What sort of food do you serve?
Irish Pub favorites like Fish 'N Chips, Bangers and Mash and Shepherd’s Pie. We also feature rich, savory foods such as Dingle Fish Pie, Guinness Beef Stew and Bourbon Guinness Ribs. Weekend Brunch from 11am - 2pm features specialties such as Biscuits and Gravy, Farmer’s Irish Breakfast, and Oscar Wilde’s Whiskey Toast.
5. What would you recommend for someone new to Culhane's?
Fish ’N Chips is our most popular dish. We purchase the cod from a local fishery - Mayport C&C. Our chef filets the cod in house and tosses it in a light beer batter before frying it in hot peanut oil to give it a a crisp light texture. This is the real deal you find in Ireland! Guinness Beef Stew and Dingle Fish Pie are very popular too and were Guy Fieri’s favorite dishes.
For something a little different, and also very popular, I’d recommend trying our Reuben Egg Rolls. They’re made with won ton wrappers, like a traditional egg roll, but they're filled with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. For dessert I’d recommend trying our Paddy’s Bread Pudding.
Paddy’s Bread Pudding. Photo courtesy Amy West.
6. Is your Corned Beef and Cabbage a traditional Irish dish?
Corned Beef and Cabbage is not a traditional Irish dish. You will find restaurants all over Ireland serving this dish but mainly for the tourists and not for the locals. Corned beef is a popular dish amongst Irish emigrants who came to America around the famine years. Corned beef was a substitute for bacon in an attempt to recreate the authentic Irish dish of Bacon and Cabbage. They didn’t have money to buy bacon so they bought corned beef. That’s what they had for dinner. We purchase our corned beef from Thumann’s in New Jersey. It’s a very high quality corned beef and we pay top dollar per pound. It’s free of MSG, has no nitrates added, and is both gluten free and very lean. A lot of people tell us it’s the best corned beef they’ve ever had. We feature Thumann’s corned beef in many of our dishes. The Reuben Egg Roll is a popular appetizer. We feature Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup, and a Reuben sandwich in a wrap, quesadilla style. For Sunday Brunch we feature Corned Beef Hash.
7. What's your favorite dish?
Shepherd’s Pie topped with cheddar cheese - perfect with a cold pint of Harp!
8. Where do you get your recipes?
From our mum, Kitty Culhane, the sisters and from our chef, Chrissy Schneider. We’re all very hands on in the kitchen. All of us sisters love to eat. We go to Napa once a year and treat ourselves to fine food and wine. We always come back with lots of new ideas. We love changing our menu with the season so we can taste fresh local vegetables.
9. Many people would be surprised that you incorporate so much farm to table cooking at Culhane’s...
We visit the local fresh market on Saturday and enjoy supporting our local businesses. We purchase our fresh fish from Mayport C&C and our breads from Cinotti’s. We prepare our famous dishes with many root vegetables like carrots, cabbage, collard greens, peas, potatoes and seasonal vegetables - nothing out of a can, only from the ground. We grew up on a farm and always had the freshest vegetables. We never lost that. When we opened the pub we said everything must be made from scratch.
10. Are you getting more people requesting gluten free?
Yes! We try our best to cater to requests for gluten free dishes. I personally like to eat very healthy food and that influences me and our chef. We can’t guarantee to be 100% gluten free because of the setup of our kitchen - it’s just too small to support a complete separation of gluten containing and gluten free foods. But we do what we can. We have a lot of dishes that are made without gluten - meats and potatoes, along with vegetables. By request we'll make sure any seasonings we use are gluten free. Our house seasoning is gluten free. From the bar, we have many gluten free options, starting with a great selection of gluten free wines and Irish whiskeys. We have Mackenzie and Magner’s cider on tap and Omission Ale beer, which are all gluten free.
Our goal with our next restaurant is to build a gluten free kitchen and offer more gluten free items.