A new neighborhood nightspot plants shamrocks on The Hill

When a neighborhood Irish pub in America attracts Irishmen five days a week, things are all right.

“During Masters Week, we had people from Ireland come in three, four, some came in five, days out of the week,” said Tricia Sheehan Beck, co-owner of Sheehan’s Irish Pub at the corner of Central and Monte Sano avenues. “They all felt like they were coming home.”

In fact, co-owner John Beck said he was told that they had just beaten out an investor from Ireland who wanted to open an identical concept in the same building.

“His friend was coming down this Masters from Ireland to look at it and he was seriously thinking about doing an Irish pub here,” he said. “A lot of times the location will dictate what you do.”

The couple remodeled the building that sits across from the former Squeaky’s Tip Top and opened the week before Masters. Every week, they said, has been better than the last. For 20 years, the building sat largely dark and shuttered, lit only by periodic flashes of life. Native Augustans may remember it as the old Moss & Wall butcher and grocer, which occupied the building for half a century.

“A lot of my clientele, that’s the first thing they say when they come into the building: ‘We used to come here when we were kids,’” John said.

The corner store was a part of daily life on “The Hill,” and the Becks hope to bring back neighborhood foot traffic. Already, evenings attract a  parade of locals ambling up the underused network of sidewalks in the area. Regulars roam the cozy interior, speaking to others and nursing one of the 12 beers on tap — usually Guinness — or one of the 10 single-malt scotches behind the bar. Newcomers to the pub inevitably run into their down-the-street neighbors.

“This place really is like ‘Cheers,’” John said, and Tricia nodded her head in agreement: “Everybody is walking around and sitting at other  people’s tables. It’s a lot of fun.”

The taupe-and-cream interior has been completely remodeled and brought up to code, a process not without its battles. Almost nothing but the patterned and painted tin ceiling remains of the building’s former existence. In its reincarnation, some ghosts of past lives resurface. For  example, fans of the former Chow on Broad Street will see the savory Stilton cheese grits and shrimp Creole. Other nibbles to nosh include a filet of beef paired with horseradish mashed potatoes and asparagus, fresh Apalachicola oysters fried in cornmeal batter with a Creole remoulade,
Prince Edward Island mussels in a champagne rosemary cream sauce and honey lacquered duck with fried green beans. At first glance, it may not seem appropriate fare for an Irish-themed pub.

“Most of the requests that I’ve gotten for food — supposedly Irish food — are actually British pub foods,” John said, like Shepherd’s Pie. Irish food is heavy on starches and frying — and with names like colcannon, boxty and crubeens, is not as recognizable or pronounceable as British food. But the venerable fish-and-chips occupies first place on the entrees list and a lovely salmon dish follows closely behind.

For Celtic connoisseurs, Sheehan’s is also one of the few places to serve Scotch egg, which is a boiled egg rolled in sausage then breaded and deep-fried, served with their spicy honey mustard and homemade chips.

“It’s a weird little dish,” John said, but he decided to offer it solely based on the strength of guest requests. “I think it was Pat Blanchard who said, ‘Do you know why there are 18 holes on a golf course? It’s because there are 18 shots in a bottle.’ That’s probably the same dude that came up with the Scotch egg.”

The menu may be more global than  strictly Irish, but it represents John and Tricia’s commitment to their pub and to its patrons.

“If people wanted and would support just Irish food, we would do it, but it won’t ever happen. People want other stuff too, lighter stuff,” John said.

That commitment extends beyond menu offerings to safety. Intent on being a destination that locals can call their own, they plan to offer a post-pub neighborhood shuttle service that is distinctively Augustan: a six-seater golf cart.

Sheehan’s is located at 1434 Monte Sano Ave. For information call 706-364-1234.

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