When I walked in to the Garth Road Inn on a blustery Saturday recently, I was greeted by a scene of warm, familial, controlled chaos – a tableau that I imagine is quite familiar to regulars at the Inn.
The new owner, Sharon Crowley, was halfway up a ladder near the bar with a small electric drill; her husband, Miles Crowley, was working on the restaurant’s computer system, and their son was scampering around and collecting spent candles. A few patrons sipped beers at the bar and chatted with staffers as they put finishing touches on a morning’s worth of buffing and polishing.
Sharon Crowley took over the bar from long-time owner Leslie Potter on Dec. 17th, and she and her family are in the midst of redecorating, modernizing and revamping the operation.
But regulars shouldn’t panic: The Crowleys are no slick philistines set on giving the Inn a Hollywood facelift. There will be no $9 glasses of biodynamic wine, $18 Pat LaFrieda blend truffle burgers or $15 green tea chocolate volcano cakes popping up on the pub’s traditional Irish menu any time soon.
“Miles and I want to keep the Inn as it’s always been – a family-friendly place where young families can come out for dinner and eat good food, dine on nice tables with linen tablecloths and feel like they’re treating themselves without spending a fortune,” Sharon Crowley said in her Irish lilt. “We’re updating things a bit, but we want to keep the spirit of the place intact.”
The Crowleys are probably better suited for that task than anyone; Leslie sold them the Inn when he and his wife were ready to retire, and after Sharon Crowley had put in about a decade behind the long, wooden bar.
The Inn reminds Sharon Crowley of pubs in her old neighborhood in Cork, Ireland, another reason she and her husband want “the spirit” of the Inn to remain intact. (They may have sentimental reasons as well: The Crowleys met at the restaurant almost a decade ago, when Sharon was a bartender and Miles was working as a bread wholesaler.)
Like the previous owner and most of the rest of the staff members, Sharon Crowley moved to America from Ireland in pursuit of that elusive, ephemeral thing, the American Dream.
“These people are my family now,” she said, gazing over at her staff and regulars, who were all getting ready for the busy afternoon and evening ahead. “And the customers, they’re family too. Kind of like our cousins – we’re a big, crazy, happy bunch.”
Like Cheers, the regulars at the Inn are a heterogeneous crowd: on an average evening, cops, lawyers, architects, cab drivers, doctors – and probably even the occasional ne’er do well – will all settle in for a quaff or two of reasonably priced tawny. Outside of our own living rooms, where else can one get a $6 Grey Goose Martini and sit down with a bunch of old friends these days?
And anyone craving a wee bit of down-home Emerald Isle cookery should look no further than the Guinness Beef Stew or the bangers and mash. “We’ve kept most of the menu items, but we’ve added a few new twists,” Sharon Crowley said. “The chef is creative and I’ve given him the rein to express himself and experiment. He’s going to change the specials more often than we’ve done in the past, expand the sandwich options and work in a few new items.”
In addition to shaking up the menu, the Crowleys will be hosting a wine tasting soon.
“We’re going to offer a few new wine options and we want our customers to be happy, so we’re letting them choose their favorite two or three,” Sharon Crowley said. “We’ll have a free wine tasting soon and whichever wines win, they’ll show up on menu. So no one can complain!”
The wine tasting will happen “at some point soon” – most likely in March or April. The Inn is also set to launch its first website, and is resplendent with a repainted exterior and some amazing art. Keep your eyes peeled for the vintage Harley – a gift from a customer, which is set to be unveiled in a special spot above the bar very soon.
In the face of exciting changes though, some things are sacrosanct. “The burgers here are unbeatable – I would have a burger throw down with anyone in Westchester. There’s no way they could beat ours,” Miles Crowley said. “I wouldn’t change the burgers for anything. Or the steak! The quality is fantastic, and $21.95 for 28 to 32 ounces makes it an affordable luxury. A family of five can eat here and shell out about $100.”
The Crowleys provided Patch with the recipe for their Irish Coffee, another perennial customer favorite, so you can make your own version at home – and perhaps even become tempted to come into the Inn to try the Crowley’s brew for yourself!
The Inn’s Irish Coffee
8 oz Jameson
16 oz Good, strong coffee
Two generous dollops whipped cream
Method: Pour Jameson into large glasses, add coffee, stir. Add dollops of whipped cream and serve.
And how is Sharon Crowley's quest going? “I am the American dream,” she said, her eyes shining. “I’m living the American dream; buying the Inn from Leslie sealed the deal.”
The Garth Inn is located on 96 Garth Road, and can be contacted by calling (914) 722-9472. The bar is open until 4 a.m. every night.