There’s a new kind of music playing in the soundtrack of my life, and it’s coming from a wonderful little pub in Riverdale called An Beal Bocht Cafe, where Irish singer Mary Courtney holds court on Friday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mr TBTAM and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at An Beal Bocht with dear friends this past September, and last night I joined a few old and some new friends there to help Mary and her band Morning Star celebrate the release of their new CD (and, coincidentally, my birthday)….
An Beal Bocht is a magical place – a real Irish pub, without a TV (except during the World Cup), with a house theater troupe (The Poor Mouth Theater Company) and with waiters and waitresses whose names you learn your first night there and who might even plop down next to you for a little chat. There’s always a small kid or two dancing or sitting on a parent’s shoulders, and everyone seems to know one another. I’ve only been twice, but I feel like I belong there too, thanks to my friend Tony, whose Dad’s Irish ancestry, barely a generation removed, gives us all membership to Mary’s inner circle. Of course, being the green-eyed daughter of one Patsy Ford, that place in the circle feels just a little bit like home to me.
A steady string of performers grace the place on weekends, including a Sunday afternoon set by John Redmond that I hear is fabulous. But it’s Mary Courtney who gives An Beal Bocht its heart, lighting up the room with her smile, easy conversation and welcoming ways that make you feel as if you’ve come into her living room for an evening. We’re all in her inner circle when we’re listening to her music, and no one is left out. Everyone at the bar seems to have a favorite song that she’ll play for them from her repertoire that ranges from the Irish ballad to sailor and soldier’s tales, with the occasional drinking song or wild Irish reel. Hang around for the whole set and she might even treat you to a Beatles tune or two, or my personal favorite, Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?
The beer on tap at Al Beal Bocht is Bass Ale, and there are no fries here, folks, just chips and salad with your burger. Of course, there are the standard Irish staples, including Shephards Pie and Bangers and Mash.
Bangers and Mash
But my favorite were the baskets filled with tiny Irish bangers that Mary and her band sent over to our table last night. Steaming hot, cooked to perfection, with a crisp skin and moist innards that went perfectly with a beer. And if you hold the little banger just right, you can double dip without getting the bitten part into the ketchup.
Now that I’ve celebrated both an anniversary and a birthday with Mary, I feel like she’s family, and that no upcoming significant event will be complete without a Friday night visit to An Beal Bocht. Next time I’m bringing the lyric sheets I’m working on so we can join in on the choruses to Dingle Bay and Tom Crean. I’ll let you know when I’m going, and maybe you’ll join me there!
You can listen to a few songs from Mary and Morning Star at sonicbids.com