DOWNERS GROVE – Irish singers, Irish dancers and flowing Guinness – what more could someone want for the perfect St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Why, St. Paddy himself, of course.
For a dozen years, Phil Cullen – who is 100-percent Irish – has been doing St. Patrick’s Day right. As owner of Ballydoyle Irish Pub & Restaurant in Downers Grove, Cullen pulls out all the stops, devoting a solid week to the most beloved of Irish holidays.
Festivities kick off at 8 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day and run until 2 a.m. March 18.
“At 8 a.m., we have kegs and eggs, our Irish breakfast buffet with black and white pudding and Irish sausage,” Cullen said. “Then we have bangers and rashers. Bangers is Irish sausage, and rashers is Irish bacon."
Entertainment is pretty much nonstop. At 9:30 a.m., it’s the Oswego Pipe and Drum Corps, followed at 11 a.m. by the McNulty Irish Dancers. At noon is Irish singer Aidan O’Toole from County Mayo, with fiddler Chris Bain.
At 3 p.m. are the Whiskey Brothers, a band that plays Irish drinking songs. At 4 p.m., the McNulty Irish Dancers perform again, followed by Flatfoot 56, playing upbeat Celtic rock, starting at 5:30 p.m.
At 7 p.m., the McNulty Irish Dancers perform again. A procession with the Knights of Ballydoyle winds its way through the pub at 9 p.m. Bagpiper Mike Courney plays at 9:30 p.m. At 10 p.m., the American Rogues, from Canada, headline the day’s entertainment.
“They’re just a great showband,” Cullen said. “They really just rock up the place.”
The McNulty Irish Dancers are a favorite, which is why they perform several times.
“They’re huge,” Cullen said. “They get people really involved. It’s pretty amazing. The fun thing is it brings in a lot of people who love to see the traditional Irish dance on stage. They’re very talented kids. They do a great job.”
Families and kids typically take part until about 2 p.m., when the pub starts to lean toward the “raucus” side, Cullen said.
The menu, of course, includes corned beef.
“We go through about 3,000 pounds of it during the first 17 days of March,” Cullen said.
Ballydoyle also pours a lot of Guinness – “the proper way,” he said.
“It takes a couple of minutes. You have to pour it three-quarters of the way until the head of the beer sets, then add the rest of the liquid without nitrogen in it, so it makes a perfect head and a smooth, even taste, how they serve it in Ireland," Cullen said.
Irish whiskeys abound, as do "Irish car bombs,” another drink.
St. Patrick and his bishops even make an appearance.
“It’s festive throughout, with hats and Irish garb. It’s just a lot of fun the whole day,” Cullen said. “It’s a time when everybody gets together. They’re not in a rush. They laugh about old times and share memories. It’s a family tradition for a lot of people.”
If you go
What: St. Patrick's Day celebration
When: 8 a.m. March 17 to 2 a.m. March 18
Where: Ballydoyle Irish Pub & Restaurant, 5157 Main St., Downers Grove