Chandler pub serves up authentic Irish fare - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler pub serves up authentic Irish fare

June 23rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler pub serves up authentic Irish fare
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By Melody Birkett
GetOut Contributor

Since opening in March 2003, Fibber Magees in Chandler has been the East Valley’s destination place for anyone in search of an authentic Irish pub and fare.

“One of the reasons we feel we can claim to be authentic is we got some Irish ownership,” bragged owner and General Manager Matt Brennan, one of four managing partners.

“Two of the original founding partners were born and raised in Ireland and one of those is still the remaining partner of the four of us,” he added. “One of our partners is an Irish-born citizen and carries an Irish passport. It lends us a certain amount of authenticity.”

“When making decisions about how the pub operates and the kind of offerings we have, what we’re trying to accomplish with the business, we’re doing it with the idea of would this be authentic to a pub in Ireland,” explained Brennan.

“If we’re going to make a decision to show sports, is this something you could see in an Irish pub in the countryside for all of Ireland? We think those kinds of things lend to the authenticity.”
The food certainly adds to the authenticity.

“Corned beef and cabbage have become synonymous with Irish so it’s not something eaten in Ireland or wasn’t historically,” said Brennan. “It was something the Irish immigrants started cooking when they first settled in America and were living in major cities amongst some of the poorest populations. The brisket was a meat that was popular with those communities because it was inexpensive but not necessarily easy to cook.”

Brennan added there’s not a lot of beef consumption in Ireland with most of the bovine population being dairy-centric. He said, “They don’t commit a lot of resources to grow cattle for beef – much more with lamb, pork and even chicken than beef.

“To that end, we have our shepherd’s pie which is very traditional to the Irish, a stew made of lamb we get imported traditionally from Australia, which has some of the highest quality of lamb in the world. Then it’s cooked into a savory stew with carrots, leeks, and peas and put into a shallow dish covered with mashed potatoes and baked.

“That’s very traditionally Irish. We also have fish and chips which is traditional late-night drinking food all over Ireland and the UK, in general. No good night doesn’t end with a trip to the chipper as they call it.”

The most authentic item, Brennan said, on the menu is the Irish breakfast or as they call it, Irish fry up.

It’s usually enjoyed on a weekend or special occasion and consists of a plate of eggs cooked to order, Batchelor’s brand of Irish baked beans and rashers which is Ireland’s version of bacon (pork loin as opposed to pork belly, cured but not smoked, and more similar to Canadian bacon).

Also included is black and white pudding which is a mixture of meat, spices and grains, like a sausage. And bangers or house-baked Irish brown bread is served, too, as part of the breakfast along with grilled tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms.

“Everything is imported,” said Brennan. “We bring in the real ingredients from Ireland to make sure we’re offering the most authentic plate of food we can.”

While burgers aren’t considered authentic Irish food, the Rasher Burger is a popular item and comes with Irish bacon as opposed to American bacon for a little twist.

“The Belfast Burger is one of our signature burgers with sautéed onions and mushrooms, garlic aioli, onion ring, choice of cheese on a brioche bun,” said Brennan. “Nothing particularly Irish about it other than its name but it’s one of our most popular burgers.

“We’re an Irish pub but we’re still in Chandler and we have to give the customers what they want. People who go out to a pub are still expecting pub fare and burgers certainly fall under that.”

When it comes to popular Irish beers, Guinness is usually what comes to mind.

“It’s not to say there aren’t other brewers in Ireland but Guinness is going to be represented by about 80-percent of all Irish beer sales or more,” Brennan said.

“Currently, we have a Guinness draft stout available here at the pub. We are actually the reigning Perfect Pint Champion for 2022. Every year, Guinness brewery collects the bartenders from the top Guinness accounts throughout Arizona, and gets them all together to compete in a round-robin tournament,” he continued.

“Whoever is the last person standing gets crowned Perfect Pint Champion. That was our bar manager Mike Fisch. This is the third time we’ve been the champion. We’re the only pub in Arizona that has won three times. So, we take the Guinness pouring very seriously.”

The pub also offers four Irish beers on draft – an Irish red ale called Smithwick’s, Harp, Irish logger, and Irish cream ale Kilkenny. An Irish cider is served, too, which Brennan said is also popular. “The Irish nationals that come to the restaurant drink the cider almost exclusively.”

The restaurant also owns its own brand, called Boyle’s Beer Company. It’s made under contract by a local craft brewer and represents a marriage between old-world-style Irish beers and American craft beers.

What differentiates Irish beer from other beers is water, according to Brennan.

“Water in Dublin is quite hard and mineral-rich and when you use that kind of water to make beer, it leaves a very distinctive flavor to the final product that people have come to love over the years.

It’s one of the reasons Guinness tastes the way it does.

“Brewers in America, where we have a different water source, try to treat the water by adding minerals and salt back into it to replicate that Dublin-style water.”

Brennan is originally from Chicago and worked in the beer business for over 20 years, including owning a Chicago pub and neighborhood bar and grill in Chicago. As a professional brewer, he has sold beer wholesale, marketed beer and worked for distributors.

“I was not part of the original ownership group at Fibber Magees,” said Brennan. “I was hired in 2013 to be the general manager and within 1 1/2 years’ time I worked out an equity deal with the partners where I would become a partner …and I’m now the majority shareholder of the company.”

“I always wanted to turn my interests and my passions into careers if I could,” explained Brennan. “If you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life as the saying goes. So, I was passionate about craft beer and the hospitality industry. You need to have some infinity for it because you won’t last long if you don’t.

“It’s a tough business – never more so than these days. If you don’t enjoy doing it, it doesn’t lend itself to being successful. You need to be hospitable. If you’re not in a good mood it’s impossible to be hospitable.”

Survival during the shutdown was the result of being an established member of the community.

“We were well supported,” Brennan explained. “Carryout helped us retain key kitchen staff we didn’t want to lose. But we were able to move a lot of liquor inventory both in selling full bottles and custom-made cocktails to go. The type of liquor license we hold allows us to do it.

“The timing of the shutdown was four days after St. Patrick’s Day so for us, it was a crushing blow,” he added. “We didn’t know until the last minute that we weren’t going to be able to hold our traditional St. Patrick’s Day, which is a large outdoor event where we block off the parking lot and extend our premises so we can have a capacity of over 1,200 guests. But we thought we would so we bought $10,000 worth of food and liquor in preparation for the event which never happened.”

In addition to serving food and beer, the pub offers live music, bar trivia and bar games and hosts a craft beer festival each July.

Information: fibbermageespub.com, 480-722-9434.