It’s Always Time for the Wearin’ O’ the Green at Cascade Restaurant and Pub

by on January 5th, 2011
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The leaves don’t start greening up the Sawtooth Mountains that run along the North Shore of Lake Superior until about May every year, but it’s always green at Cascade Restaurant and Pub between Lutsen and Grand Marais, Minnesota. The first thing one might notice upon entering the establishment is the digital sign counting down the months, weeks, days, minutes, and seconds to the next St. Patrick’s Day.

The restaurant, an adjunct to Cascade Lodge next door, has been in operation since the 1930s and maintains its rustic Northwoods charm, but the pub just opened in 2010, replacing a gift shop. Owners Michael and Maureen O’Phelan decided to celebrate their heritage by going green with the renovated space. “It’s a lot more fun,” says owner Maureen O’Phelan.

“We’re both Irish,” O’Phelan explained. Her husband Michael’s father was instrumental in starting a big St. Patrick’s Day parade in St. Paul. “We’ve been to Ireland and we love the pubs,” she said. “Our vision was people go in and they sit at community tables.” Their vision has become a reality.

The pub has been become a local gathering place and hot spot for music. The second Thursday of the month during the cold months is “locals night.” Locals night doesn’t mean “unprofessional” night — this county bordered by Lake Superior, Canada, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is known as an arts community and is a landing spot for a lot of extremely gifted and accomplished artists and musicians. “We wanted to make a space where people would want to come and play and just relax,” said O’Phelan. Locals night might draw a dozen musicians playing everything from fiddle to drum to aboriginal Australian horn, and the audience is often made up of other musicians.

O’Phelan feels the support of the community for the addition of the pub. “This was a dry restaurant when we came here,” she said. “I think it’s taken off faster than we thought. The music part of it definitely brings people in. There’s so many great musicians here.”

The pub and the restaurant segue well into each other. The tables in the pub are striking – thick slabs of pine with bark still on the sides, harvested from a blowdown on the property. Green lights and green hats and Irish memorabilia leave visitors with no doubt what is being celebrated here, however. Live Irish music is performed throughout the week of St. Patrick’s Day. “We usually celebrate St. Pat’s for a week,” O’Phelan said. The HiB’s – Kate and Jode Dowling, a husband/wife duo playing Irish flute, violin, and drum – will return the weekend of March 16 and 17, 2012. People love them, O’Phelan said.

The St. Patrick’s week menu will be highly satisfying to those who have a taste for Irish fare, but deciding what to order might be difficult. Offered will be corned beef and cabbage, mulligan stew, lamb chops, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie, but those with a sweet tooth won’t be left out, either. For dessert, patrons can order Shamrock malts, peppermint bon bon ice cream, or according to O’Phelan, “our famous chocolate bread pudding with Bailey’s Irish Cream sauce.”

Cascade keeps six beers on tap, including Guinness and Harps, along with seasonal regionally brewed beers. They offer mixed drinks as well, and “a lot of different kinds of Irish whiskey,” said O’Phelan.

A good deal of effort is put into the regular Cascade Restaurant and Pub menu. “We’ve really tried to make our menu as natural as possible,” O’Phelan said. “Most is made from scratch — even meat bases and desserts. We’re working on new menus — I’m really excited.” They have “quite a few” vegetarian options, will be adding tofu dishes in the spring of 2012, and have some vegan dishes planned as well. The tofu Rueben they’re working on is “fantastic,” she said.

The O’Phelans want to cater to the local crowd as well as draw tourists visiting the area. “We’re trying to keep things affordable,” O’Phelan said. “We’re trying hard to keep costs in line.”

Cascade Restaurant and Pub is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (but until “about midnight” in the pub) during the winter months. In the summer, they are open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to “later” on the weekends, O’Phelan said.

Cascade Restaurant and Pub is right on Highway 61 with a beautiful view of Lake Superior. Whether one is looking for an escape from the doldrums of winter, celebrating The Wearin’ o’ the Green, or enjoying the height of summer on the North Shore of Lake Superior, it’s worth the stop.

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