1. Hillsborough

Brandon neighborhood pub pays homage to proprietor's Irish roots.

Owners Mariely and Patrick Crowne recently opened The Forge, a neighborhood Irish pub in Brandon. [Photo courtesy of Mariely Crowne]
Owners Mariely and Patrick Crowne recently opened The Forge, a neighborhood Irish pub in Brandon. [Photo courtesy of Mariely Crowne]
Published Apr. 26, 2019

BRANDON — Mariely Crowne describes her journey from a single, New York City cocktail waitress to a married mother of two daughters and Valrico new business owner as one of fate.

She remembers feeling love at first sight when her now-husband, Patrick, visited the Times Square bar where she worked and ordered beers for himself and his brother.

"He came in and I immediately knew that he was the one," she said. "We exchanged numbers and that was it. We've been together ever since. It's crazy."

The couple recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary — by working in their new pub called The Forge, with Mariely working the day shift and Patrick in charge at night. It's a concept that pays homage to Patrick's Irish roots.

Judging by the response after less than two months in operation, the idea might not be so crazy — but the location might prove a challenge. The last couple of tenants at 109 W Bloomingdale Ave., The Mill and Sluggers Neighborhood Grill, didn't last very long. Crowne, who also is a real estate agent, says the location doesn't bother her because she is confident in the experience her patrons will enjoy.

"I think this area really needs a neighborhood pub with affordable prices, good food and good service," she said. "That's what we want to provide to our guests."

Patrick's uncle, Mick, pictured on the wall near the live band stage, was a farrier in Ireland toiling to make horse shoes; note the anvil in the center of the 150-seat restaurant under the digital fireplace motif. And Patrick's mom, Oonagh Cummins, flew in from Ireland to provide some of the traditional Irish fare on the menu, including Granny's Beef Stew and Mum's Chicken Curry, both selling for $12.99.

The Forge features live music on Fridays and Saturdays, including an eclectic mix of country, Irish and '90s bands. Local musicians, along with a bright sign, a social media presence, word of mouth and authentic Irish recipes, are the ingredients to success, according to Crowne.

Come test the flavor yourself during the May 4 grand opening celebration that will feature Redline Band and Matt Billor, of Beer Can Island song fame. There also will be a Kentucky Derby watch party that day. Local residents of the Brandon and SouthShore areas who are familiar with places like O'Brien's Irish Pub & Grill and the Salty Shamrock Irish Pub might be intrigued to know that those former and current establishments owned and operated by Sean Rice are indirectly tied to The Forge. Rice's wife, Aine, shares relatives with Patrick.

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