On St. Patrick’s Day, when parades, shamrocks and green beer are everywhere you look, it feels like everyone in Kansas City is Irish.
In reality, about 280,000 people in the metro area — a lucky 13.8 percent — claim Irish heritage, according to U.S. census data.
But here, you don’t need Celtic DNA to celebrate the culture of the Emerald Isle year-round. Kansas City has no shortage of Irish pubs such as O’Dowd’s Little Dublin, 4742 Pennsylvania Ave. on the Country Club Plaza, where you can feed your cravings for shepherd’s pie and corned beef sliders, and Kelly’s Westport Inn, 500 Westport Road, where you can tip back car bombs made by dunking a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream mixed with Jameson Irish Whiskey into a pint of Guinness beer.
The metro also boasts several shops and companies that sell goods bursting with Irish pride. Charlie Hustle Clothing Co., with a retail store at 419 W. 47th St. on the Country Club Plaza, recently released limited-edition T-shirts that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and “Luck of the Irish.” The vintage-style tees cost $32 and are perfect for a parade.
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And annual events such as Snake Saturday in North Kansas City (a parade and hoolie that starts at 11 a.m. Saturday), the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in midtown and Kansas City Irish Fest, held Labor Day weekend at Crown Center, reel in thousands of revelers looking for a not-so-wee bit o’ fun.
Want to extend the party past St. Paddy’s? Here are seven ways to celebrate Celtic traditions in KC.
Tuck into a traditional Irish breakfast
The traditional Irish breakfast at Browne’s Irish Marketplace, 3300 Pennsylvania, is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Picture plates loaded with plump “banger” sausages, thick-cut bacon, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes and beans. On the side: Bread baskets bursting with fresh-baked scones, shortbread, sugar cookies and raisin-studded soda bread. Drink selections include Barry’s tea, Roasterie coffee and (for an upcharge) Bloody Marys and whiskey-spiked Irish coffees.
The $11.95 breakfast is served from 8 to 11 a.m. every first Saturday of the month and on March Saturdays leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.
After breakfast, don’t forget to stroll around the 130-year-old store, the oldest continuously operating Irish business in the country. Popular items include tweed caps, pottery and KC shamrock shirts. Don’t miss the cute Browne’s Irish Marketplace trays ($37.95) and tea towels ($27.95) made by Tammy Smith Design. The giftable keepsakes feature whimsical illustrations of Browne’s along with other Kansas City sites such as the Plaza and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Explore your Celtic heritage
If your family tree has Irish roots, the Kansas City Irish Center might be able to help you unearth and honor them.
The nonprofit cultural center, which recently moved into new digs at Drexel Hall, 15 W. Linwood, offers genealogy workshops, Irish language classes, an Irish book club, knitting classes and concerts. Many are free or discounted for members; an annual individual membership costs $30, and an annual family membership costs $50.
The center, which toasts its 10th anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day, also has a new family-history writers’ group for people who want to record their family’s stories.
“It’s a great way to preserve oral traditions, and those can be lost in one or two generations,” says executive director Nancy Wormington.
The next session meets on April 22; for more info, go to irishcenterkc.org.
Chow down on pub-style curry fries
Want to sample some offbeat Irish cuisine? Dive into a plate of chips (or fries) coated with curry.
The fusion dish — a popular snack at pubs in Dublin — can be found locally at Llywelyn’s Pub, a St. Louis-based chain with outposts at 301 S.E. Douglas St. in downtown Lee’s Summit and 6995 W. 151st St. in Overland Park.
The Pub Curry ($11.75) tops wedge fries (or a bed of basmati rice, if you prefer) with yellow curry made with chicken or shrimp, onions, carrots, cabbage, garlic and sweet peas. The sweet and savory curry is the perfect foil to the salty, crisp fries. The dish tastes even better when you share it with friends and pair it with a rich, creamy pint of Guinness.
Shop for gifts shipped in from the Emerald Isle
Shopping at Sheehan’s Irish Imports, a family-owned store at 410 E. Gregory Blvd. in Waldo, is the next best thing to traveling to Ireland.
Owners Molly Sheehan Corkill and Katy Sheehan Morris — sisters who have operated Sheehan’s for more than 30 years — greet you at the door with a cup of tea. The smell of smoldering Irish turf incense adds to the cozy, welcoming vibe.
Sheehan’s shelves and walls are packed with treasures such as cut crystal vases, fine china decorated with dainty shamrocks, hand-knit sweaters and jewelry adorned with Celtic crosses and knots. The store also sells sparkly St. Patrick’s Day garb, emerald green baby onesies, Guinness glasses and T-shirts with funny sayings such as “I can’t keep calm, I’m Irish.”
Regulars gravitate toward the food section, which is stocked with pantry staples such as whiskey-infused mustard, HP Sauce, Heinz beans and mushy peas. You can also find snacks such as Hula Hoops (loop-shaped chips that taste like Pringles) and a wide variety of creamy Cadbury chocolates. Don’t miss the refrigerator, where you can find delicious imported “banger” sausages ($9.95 for a pack of 10) and loaves of dense, sweet soda bread ($5).
Plan a trip to Ireland with the Elders
Since forming in 1998, the Elders have gained an international following with their unique blend of Americana and Celtic folk rock music.
Every year, the Kansas City band presents a sponsored tour of Ireland. This year’s excursion is set for Oct. 16-27; the packed schedule includes stops in Dublin, Belfast and a variety of natural and historic sites across Ireland, including castles, cliffs, waterfalls and (of course) historic pubs and distilleries. The trip costs about $2,500 per person and includes airfare from New York City, hotel accommodations, rides in a motorcoach, admission to many sites, three dinners and a full Irish breakfast every morning.
The Elders will also sprinkle performances throughout the trip. For more info, go to eldersmusic.com.
Can’t swing an international vacay? Head to the Elders’ 15th annual hoolie at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Knuckleheads Saloon, 2715 Rochester. Tickets cost $25, or $60 with access to a VIP meet-and-greet.
Sip on Irish-style whiskey made in North Kansas City
Exactly one year ago, Mike and Benay Shannon opened Restless Spirits Distilling Co., a distillery at 109 E. 18th Ave. in North Kansas City that specializes in Irish-style whiskey. The project was personal.
“My family escaped Ireland from the Great Famine and has been here five generations,” Mike says. “We’re trying to create a product that honors that heritage and the connection between Ireland and the United States.”
Restless Spirits’ best-seller is Stone Breaker Whiskey, which blends imported, aged Irish whiskey with malt whiskey distilled in-house by Benay in a 500-gallon copper pot still. A 750-milliliter bottle costs $45.99 at the distillery, which is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. You can also buy Restless Spirits products at liquor stores across the metro.
The North Kansas City distillery also has a seasonal release just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Pádraig’s Rebellion Poitin (pronounced po-cheen), named after Irish poet and rebellion leader Pádraig Pearse, is a strong malted barley spirit that will sneak up on you like a leprechaun. It’s 115 proof, or 57.5 percent alcohol by volume. Mike recommends pouring it into coffee or mixing it into a cocktail with citrus juice. A 375-milliliter bottle costs $23.50 at the distillery.
Want to learn more about Restless Spirits? Check out the March 23 installment of the Distiller Series at Seasons 52, 340 Ward Parkway, featuring complimentary small plates and spirit tastings. For more info, go to seasons52.com/events/distiller-series.
Tap into an Irish-style red ale
Across the street from Restless Spirits Distilling Co., you can sip pints of Irish-style red ale at Cinder Block Brewery, 110 E. 18th Ave., North Kansas City.
Cinder Block’s new limited-release 99 Hops Red Ale is exclusive to the North Kansas City brewery and 99 Hops House, a craft beer bar and restaurant inside Argosy Casino in Riverside. According to brewery founder Bryce Schaffter, the lightly hopped beer’s malt and yeast flavors take center stage, with notes of honey and toffee shining through. He says the easy-drinking beer is a “nice style to transition us into the spring season.”
The red ale debuts at Cinder Block on Wednesday and at 99 Hops House at 6 p.m. Thursday with a hoolie that features Irish songs by KC musician Eddie Delahunt.
Thirsty for more? Try Boulevard Brewing Co’s Irish Ale, a spring seasonal that’s in stores and bars through the end of this month. Six-packs of the rich, toasty beer, which pairs well with barbecue and pizza, are packaged in shamrock-green cardboard boxes. Slàinte!