Food & Drink

Dinner Is Served … at the Irish Center

Little neck clams. Irish stew. Guinness braised brisket and cabbage. Roasted half chicken. Pan pizza. Vegan meatloaf. Homemade brownies with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Save your whetted appetite for a new restaurant, opening in the cozy Fireside Room at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center (the Irish Center). It’s called The Commodore, and it’s opening for a soft launch October 29 and November 1.

All of those delicious dishes and more are on the menu. And, of course, you are cordially invited.

This is a “soft” opening, meant to refine the concept, with plans to open on a regular basis afterward.

“These soft openings are openings with a limited menu and limited timeframes in order to really test the menus and get the process working right,” says board member and vice president Lisa Maloney.

The kitchen will be operated by the owners of the Circles + Squares in Fishtown, the Bourbon & Branch in North Liberties, and Pizza Plus on North 12th Street. All are highly regarded eateries. Pizza Plus, in particular, is well known for their tasty pan pizzas.

The meals for the soft launch are fixed price—$15—including an appetizer, entrée, sides and dessert. Bookings must be reserved in advance online. (Details in a moment.)

The bar will also be serving up all the center’s usual brews, whiskeys, wines and cocktails, but you can expect an array of new specialty drinks as well. These must be ordered and paid for separately. There’ll be no seating at the bar.

“There will be new bartenders who have been trained in these specialty drinks,” says Maloney.

As with other restaurants, The Commodore will be operating under Philadelphia’s pandemic restrictions. No more than 35 or 40 patrons, a limit of four per table, and masks must be worn except when seated at table. You’ll also be expected to sign in.

“There’s a dual purpose for that,” explains Maloney. “The sign-in is for tracking our members, but it’s also for contact tracing during this Covid time. This would be a good time to remind people that anyone who has given during our recent fundraising campaign has automatically been entered into our system as a member for 2020 and 2021. So if you were a previous member or if you’ve donated, there’s no membership fee. If you come to the soft opening and you aren’t a current member, you will be added to the member list as a thank you for coming to the soft opening. So everybody’s welcome to the soft launch, up to the limit we have.”

The center’s operators will also be thoroughly cleaning the room each night after closing in accordance with CDC guidelines.

On Thursday the 29th, there are openings for 5, 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m. For Sunday the 1st, there are openings for 5 and 6:30. (5:30 and 6 p.m. are already filled.) Make your reservation here.

So far, Maloney says, the response has been very good.

“It’s been good for the weekends,” she says. “We’re trying to open up the weekdays to more neighborhood people (Mount Airy).”

At some point beyond the soft launch, The Commodore will be open for takeout and delivery, with a bigger menu.

The folks now operating the kitchen have also been selected as the center’s in-house caterers. “This is a service that we’ve wanted to provide for our members who decide to rent the place,” says Maloney. “It’s much nicer to have a consistently good caterer for our events and I do think people will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food, and we’ve really hard to keep the prices down.”

The Commodore is all part of a plan to gradually re-open the center to meetings and events—albeit within Philadelphia pandemic restrictions. There have already been some small-scale events.

There are also going to be more virtual events, including music, history programs and book readings.

For now, though, The Commodore is the jewel in the Irish Center’s crown.

“Hopefully, the dining is attracting people and showing people that we want to open while still being safe for everybody,” says Maloney, “and we’re trying to get them excited for when we can re-open fully.”

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