You have to give some credit to the owners of Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub — they’re certainly not lacking any confidence.
It’s one thing to open an Irish Pub in the small world of Franklin Street only weeks after a likewise restaurant (Kildare’s) closed its doors; it’s another to open that Irish Pub in the very same building.
The move stops just short of saying, “They couldn’t do it? Well, watch us succeed.”
It’s a confidence that fits right in to the scene of Chapel Hill eateries — a scene that’s notoriously difficult to break into. The town is well known for doing things its way; not only culturally, but with business too. Chapel Hill has its own vibe, its own rules, and as an area still dominated by its illustrious university, its own ebbs and flows to the busy season.
In other words, success is hard to predict on Franklin Street. It takes a certain attitude, a certain atmosphere — one that this young writer will not claim to fully understand. But we all know it’s there.
Confidence, attitude — these are uncommon terms to most foodie articles, but they say everything you need to know about a business. I’ve known within 30 seconds of every restaurant I’ve ever stepped foot in whether it was going to be a good experience. With a bad restaurant, the management is shy — suspicious when you tell them you have a few questions. They’re worried. But a great restaurant? The manager’s face lights up when you start asking around. The chef can’t wait to come talk to you, to tell you where he gets his local produce or maybe how he cuts all his meats in-house.
Their confidence (or lack of) says it all.
In that regard, Fitzgerald’s checks out. The managers pounced on me the moment they realized I was interested in what was going behind the scenes. They talked about their scratch-kitchen, their meticulously crafted fry batter (heavy on the dry, light on the wet), and how they truly live up to the “gastropub” reputation.
Gastropubs came about in the early 90s throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom as an alternative to pubs with subpar food options. And much like their cousins across the pond, Fitzgerald’s does a fantastic job of toeing the line between high-tech sports bar and cozy eatery.
There are Irish staples like Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef & Cabbage. And as the self-proclaimed “Home of the $5 Dollar Car Bomb” naturally there are bar classics such as made-from-scratch mozzarella sticks and hand-breaded calamari.
Like any fresh spot in Chapel Hill, Fitzgerald’s breaks out a few surprises. The Sesame Crusted Tuna is as close to sushi as the Irish are ever going to get (it is fantastic), and there’s an entire section of the menu devoted to a variety of mix-and-match mini sliders.
But as with any true “pub” experience, you simply have to go try it yourself. Just remember that the atmosphere is almost as important as the food. And, yes, there is Guinness on tap.