Many set to go green on a Friday St. Pat’s


Staff Writer

Friendly Sons, Blarney stones and a whole lot of corned beef.Local establishments are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day, which, since it falls on a Friday this year and coincides with March Madness, could bring out even larger crowds than usual.

“It’s wild,” said Rich Weber, owner of the Brunswick Grove Tavern on Milltown Road, East Brunswick. “Actually, our Fridays are crowded as it is, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like now on a Friday night on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Weber said the 72-year-old tavern is known for its food, so he expects the corned beef and cabbage – a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal – to be a big seller tomorrow night.

Likewise, Jennifer O’Neill, owner of J. O’Neill’s Place on Thomas Street in Sayreville, is preparing for what she hopes will be a big turnout at the Place’s first St. Patrick’s Day blast.

“I’m getting hundreds of pounds of corned beef in, so let’s hope it’s a big crowd, otherwise I’m going to be eating corned beef till next year,” O’Neill said.

Although J. O’Neill’s has only been open since July, O’Neill has already tested the St. Patrick’s Day spirit of her customers.

“In September we did a halfway to St. Paddy’s Day party, and people were just really receptive to it,” she said.

Tomorrow night, J. O’Neill’s will feature live entertainment, Coors Light models and the Place’s first-ever Irish Shot Wheel. After the wheel is spun, whatever drink it lands on will be $2 a shot for the next 15 minutes.

“We’re just trying to do new, fun things throughout,” O’Neill said.

Weber, who has owned the tavern for over two years, said its many loyal customers will likely come out in force tomorrow.

“We have a real strong repeat clientele that comes all the time, so they have a great time when they come,” Weber said. “Everybody knows everybody, so it’s a lot of fun.”

In addition to traditional Irish baked goods, Mendoker’s Quality Bakery in Jamesburg will also offer corned beef dinners, and the cooking was expected to start yesterday.

Ed Mendoker, the bakery’s owner, said the dinner comes with carrots, cabbage, potatoes and Irish soda bread.

“It’s more than one person can eat,” Mendoker said.

He said the bakery must get an early start to meet the demand for the corned beef dinner, which customers want to get as soon as possible.

“They look forward to it,” Mendoker said. “We get quite a response to it too. They get all corned beefed-out before the holiday hits. The only thing you need to go with it is green beer.”

And that’s no problem for O’Neill or Weber, who both said their establishments would be well-stocked with green beer.

For East Brunswick resident Edward Starace, the holiday symbolizes the connection between the generations of his family.

Starace is a member of the Old Bridge chapter of the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, which his late father, Edward Starace Sr., helped found more than 40 years ago.

“He was part of a group of charter members who actually laid the groundwork for putting the club on the map,” Starace said.

Starace said his wife, Dina Murphy-Starace, still has family in Ireland, and her grandparents were born there.

Additionally, Dina and her sister Sheila Murphy were named deputy grand marshals of the 2006 Belmar Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Friendly Sons’ Old Bridge building has traditional Irish food and music on St. Patrick’s Day, Starace said.

“A lot of families just like to get together over there, and it’s a nice atmosphere for the Irish Americans,” Starace said. “It’s a great day to be Irish.”

It is also the birthday of Starace’s son, Ryan, who will be turning 9 years old. The Starace’s also have another son, Kyle.

Starace, however, made it clear that his son’s birthday trumps St. Patrick’s Day every year. The son, it seems, takes precedence over the Sons.

But both occasions are cause for celebration, Starace said. The Staraces’ festive meal, therefore, will be what Starace called the “double-edged celebration” of corned beef and birthday cake.

“It’s one of those days that just warms your heart,” Starace said.

Local police will also be making sure that residents celebrate safely.

Old Bridge Lt. Robert Weiss said his police department will be adequately staffed to handle any increase in impaired driving on township roads.

“It is somewhat of a busier night, but we haven’t had a whole lot of problems here in Old Bridge in the past,” Weiss said, but added that the patrols will be “vigilant for drinking while driving.”

Because St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekend, Weiss said there will be patrols throughout the township’s roadways that will focus on drunken-driving violations.

East Brunswick Lt. William Krause said the police department will employ DWI roving patrols tomorrow night.

Though the specifics were not available, Krause said there will be increased patrols to enforce impaired driving infractions throughout the entire township.

Weber said the tavern does not usually encounter problems with patrons drinking and then driving.

“We have great clients, so we don’t really have any trouble, and everybody just has a real great time and is really responsible with what they’re doing,” Weber said.

Weber said he and co-owner Sheila Weber look forward to St. Patrick’s Day, and the opportunity to reward their customers with promotions and prizes.

“It’s a fun night for our people, and we give back a little bit with some of the giveaways and things like that,” Weber said. “We have a blast.”