Irish pub opens in Blaine

A touch o’ Irish has made its way to Blaine.

J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub recently opened its doors just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. At 5 p.m. on March 12, a bagpiper’s reedy tones drifted in front of the nascent business.

Blaine resident Niall MacCafferty is co-owner with Dermot Cowley (not pictured) of the newly opened J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub. The pub is located at 10400 Baltimore St. in Blaine. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Blaine resident Niall MacCafferty is co-owner with Dermot Cowley (not pictured) of the newly opened J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub. The pub is located at 10400 Baltimore St. in Blaine. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Rev. Kevin Kenney blessed the pub before a crowd of guests. As tradition would have it, Kenney also blessed the bar, the kitchen and he wished the owners good luck.

The pub and restaurant at 10400 Baltimore St. N.E., just off of 105th Avenue N.E. and Central Avenue N.E., is now open for dinner at 4 p.m. Plans are to serve lunch starting in early April.

The 8,000-square foot pub, formerly The Club Sports Bar and before that, Time Out, is owned by Dermot Cowley of Drougheda, Ireland, and Niall MacCafferty of Blaine.

The Life caught up with MacCafferty last week in the pub’s first week of operation.

“The Irish pub business is something I love to do,” MacCafferty said. “I like the activity and the connection you get with the guests with an Irish pub. It’s definitely a social gathering spot.”

MacCafferty, a St. Paul native whose upbringing was steeped in the Irish tradition, pointed out the pub’s amenities and design.

Everything Irish

A main bar area, fireside room, parlor and mezzanine with nooks and crannies seats about 180.

The decor and furnishings are imported from Ireland or are Irish-oriented.

A large five-piece copper still is suspended above a copper-top, soft V-shaped bar, about 35 feet in length, with a seating capacity of about 30. Stained-glass is abundant throughout the pub.

A hand-made map of Ireland crafted from wood is to the left of the main entrance.

High-backed booths, common in Ireland, offer a bit of privacy or, if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of room for spacious dining on whisky-barrel table tops or tables made from wood imported from Ireland.

J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub opened March 12 in Blaine. Photo by Elyse Kaner

J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub opened March 12 in Blaine. Photo by Elyse Kaner

The pub is decorated with antiques, porcelain whiskey dispensers, crocks, books, baskets and signs. A fieldstone fireplace is the focal point of the fireside room.

A Five Crosses authentic wooden sign that once hung outside an Irish pub in Dublin naming the establishment now hangs on a wall just behind J.J. Murphy’s bar.

‘Pub favourites’

As for the food, a peek at the menu reveals such “pub favourites” ranging from shepherd’s pie to corned beef and cabbage to Gaelic steak, an eight-ounce, choice-cut flat iron steak in a Jameson’s Irish whiskey marinade, grilled to order. Fish and chips are the best sellers in J.J. Murphy’s sister restaurants.

Cork corned beef, a prime beef burger and the James Joyce, a toasted whole wheat bread, brushed with olive oil and layered with grilled tomatoes, farmer’s cheese and sauteed onions are some of the hot sandwich offerings. Appetizers, salads and soups are also on the menu with a soup of the day made fresh daily.

Prices for meals range from about $8 to $14.

A full-service bar features 20 Irish whiskeys. Beers (on tap or bottled) are imported or locally brewed and range from $3-$4.50. A wine list is available.

Happy hour is from 4  to 7 p.m. daily. Happy hour prices are $3 for house wines, house cocktails and imported draft beers. Domestic beers are $2.50.

The pub, which employs 10 full-time and 10 part-time workers, also books private parties. An outdoor dining area seats 80. Starting next month, live music is planned for the weekends.

Owner Cowley has been in the restaurant business his entire life, he said. For him, the most gratifying part of the business is chatting with people.

“On any given night, I get 200 people giving me a hug. How can you not love that?” Cowley said.

‘Warm and inviting’

MacCafferty, who declined to give hard numbers, said startup costs for the pub were “a substantial investment.” The business is financed with personal funds, he said.

The biggest challenge is to make a new restaurant feel warm and inviting, he  said.

“I think we did it,” said MacCafferty, whose workweeks can be as long as 70 to 80 hours.

MacCafferty, 35, whose parents were both born in Ireland, was raised in St. Paul. His father owned MacCafferty’s Irish Pub on Grand Avenue. MacCafferty spent summers in Northern Ireland as a child.

Today, he continues to visit pubs in Ireland to glean traditional Irish concepts and food trends to bring back to the men’s restaurants.

“We’ve always got our ear to the ground,” he said.

He made his goal

MacCafferty got his start in the pub business in 1999 as a server at O’Donovan’s in Minneapolis. He has run kitchens and managed restaurants, working his way up to proprietor.

About 12 years ago, he said he wanted to open a pub by the time he was 35.

“I turned 35 this year, so I made my goal,” MacCafferty said.

MacCafferty notes whether it’s a wedding or a funeral or a sporting event, in Ireland the people meet their buddies at a pub.

“Before there was social media, people went to the pub to make announcements,” he said.

He launches into a history of Phillip Laddie, the first settler in Blaine. Irishman Phillip Laddie.

“We think the north metro deserves to have an Irish pub,” MacCafferty said.

MacCafferty lives in Blaine with his wife, Melissa, and their two sons Eoin, 3, and Eamonn, 5.

J.J. Murphy’s Pub is the fourth restaurant in a stable of restaurants of Irish Born Hospitality, including O’Donovan’s Irish Pub in Minneapolis, Lola’s Lakehouse in Waconia and Jake O’Connor’s in Excelsior.

MacCafferty invites customers to stop by and experience some Irish hospitality.

“We want to become part of the community, to be involved and embraced by the community,” he said.

J.J. Murphy’s Irish Pub is located at 10400 Baltimore St. N.E., Blaine. It is open for dinner at 4 p.m. seven days a week. Lunches are starting in April. For more information, call 763-398-0674 or visit www.JJMurphysPub.com.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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