Celebrating St. Patty’s Day

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 14, 2007
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Don Murphy
Don Murphy

When I first came to Hawaii, I was absolutely baffled by St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Having spent three decades in Scotland, with dozens of trips across the pond to Ireland, I’d never seen green beer or shamrock-shaped cookies. Our St. Patrick’s celebrations centered around the church (I think way back in the ‘70s we went to mass to start off the day) and its annual ceilidh (kay-lee), an occasion my sister and I anticipated with unbridled glee.

One year I remember being treated to a new dress, and I was so ridiculously excited about going to the ceilidh that I spilled orange juice all over myself before we even left the house. Preparations for the dance consisted of chairs in the church hall being pushed against the wall and a couple of giant tea urns filled with gallons of strong, black tea stood on Formica tables steaming and hissing the whole night long. The tea was in part to soak up the almost inedible cheese sandwiches served as repast, and in part to sober up any of the adults who’d sneaked a flask of whisky into the church hall. One of my lasting memories is of a sign on the wall beseeching smokers “when the floor is full, please use the ashtrays.”

But I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed many a cheerful evening on St. Pat’s since then, and this year I’m looking forward to introducing our children to a wee bit of their heritage.

We’ll be doing it down at Murphy’s, of course.

Murphy’s Bar and Grill has been hosting St. Patrick’s Day inside and outside the Nuuanu location since 1987.

“That’s a lot of beer,” says owner Don Murphy, who takes upon himself the mammoth task of organizing the annual event. “When we started, we had a couple of hundred people stop by for lunch and dinner. The next year we figured we should probably close off the street to make a bit more room in case anyone else showed up!”

Twenty years later, the faithful are showing up in droves. More than 12,000 people celebrated an evening filled with great street food, live entertainment and the best pint of Guinness on tap. There’s none of that fake green stuff down at Murphy’s, where no one’s putting food coloring in the beer or making cocktails from that icky crème de menthe. What you’ll get, on this, the Irish corner of the Pacific (O’Tooles Pub is directly opposite), is a taste more similar to something you’d get in Dublin or Killarney.

“This year we’ll have fresh oysters at an oyster bar, steak sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, and the usual selection of great beers,” says Murph.

Don’t miss the dessert tent, where Guinness cheesecake and Marion Murphy’s version of the classic Italian tiramisu (renamed Tir O’ Misu in honor of the day and made with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson’s Whisky) will be sold.

But it’s the family aspect of this St. Patrick’s Day that has the Murphys most excited. The Bank of Hawaii parking lot will be transformed into a children’s area on Saturday afternoon, with bouncy castles, face painters, balloon-makers, and a storytelling tent. Irish-themed coloring books (created by the Murphys) and crayons will be given to the first 100 children to arrive.

“We’re excited this year to open the festival up to the entire family,” says Murph, “for anyone who has Irish roots, or who wants to experience some fun from a different culture, we’re encouraging them all to come on down.” Cotton candy and ice cream will be free - and mini keiki plates will be sold, with proceeds going to the Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation.

For more information, to make reservations for lunch on the 17th or to pre-order a cheesecake, call 531-0422.

Happy eating!

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