St. Patrick's Day Dining: 12th Avenue Grill and other Honolulu spots

We hate to be the one to tell you this, but corned beef and cabbage isn't really Irish. Nonetheless, it's on menus all over town this St. Patrick's Day

"Am I Irish? With a name like Kevin Patrick Hanney, what else would I be?" asks Kevin Hanney, chef-owner of 12th Avenue Grill.  "My mother’s maiden name was Kathleen Mahoney.  I’m 100 percent.  We always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day."

For most of Honolulu’s out-and-abouters, St. Patrick’s is, ahem, a liquid celebration.  If you’re looking for a place to drink and party, there’s no shortage.  See Christine Hitt’s nightlife roundup here.

Hanney (below) will be serving black-and-tans Thursday night (a pale ale and Guinness in the same glass), but 12th Avenue’s celebration is more about eating.  "We do a nice dinner for people who just can’t face a block party." 

Dishes include griddled Dublin prawns and Irish soda bread, Guinness Fried Rock Cod with herb-baked chips, and lamb brochettes marinated in Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and frisee salad with Irish whiskey vinaigrette.  Not to mention a Guinness float with chocolate mint ice cream for dessert.

"I hate to libel my own countrymen, but it’s hard to think of the Irish without beer and whiskey," says Hanney.

Or, in America, without corned beef and cabbage. 

For the last three weeks, Hanney and chef Bob McGee (himself part Irish) have been prepping brisket from Kulana Big Island beef for corned beef and cabbage, with  Waialua Twin Bridge Farms potatoes.

"We have to have it," says Hanney, "even though it’s not really Irish.  If you go to Ireland and order it, they look at you blankly." 

Corned beef and cabbage arose not in Ireland, but in New York City, where Hanney grew up.  "It’s a culinary collaboration between the Irish in New York and Jewish deli keepers.  Still, in America, there’s nothing more Irish than corned beef." 

Despite its dubious antecedents, corned beef is on menus all over town this Thursday. 

Kahala Resort executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi, who no one ever suspected  was Irish, has been brining his beef brisket for four days.  Thursday he’ll braise it for  four to six hours, and serve it with Kahala’s special three-mustard blend, cabbage from Kunia Farms, heirloom carrots, and Yukon gold potatoes.  Available at lunch and dinner at the Plumeria Cafe and the Veranda and for dinner only at Hoku’s, $15.

The Willows is adding corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and parsley potatoes to its lunch and dinner buffets.  Guinness on special for $4.

If you can brave the $2 green beer drafts at Apartment3, proprietor Flash Hanson promises corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, and, in a bit of Irish culinary indecision, either fish and chips or shepherd’s pie.

If you are willing to brave the block party, Murphy’s Bar & Grill will be pumping out vast quantities of corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, shucked oysters, steamed clams, sauteed shrimp, crab cakes and oyster shooters.  Don Murphy, generous Irish soul that he is, will donate $2 for every pound of corned beef sold to Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation.

St. Patrick’s Day is essentially a religious holiday in Ireland.  Up until the 1970s, Irish pubs weren’t even allowed to open that day.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that Dublin had its own St. Patrick’s Day parade, modeled, you guessed it, after New York City’s.

Still, I’ve always suspected that the canny Irish created a major celebration on their patron saint’s day because it allowed them a major feast right in the middle of the otherwise austere Lenten season.  Eat hardy.