SOUTH ST.—Paul Byrne and Christy Page seemed like most of the other patrons as they nursed some Guinness at the end of the bar at James’s Gate Restaurant & Pub on the corner of South and McBride Streets.
But it was quickly obvious they are the proprietors as nearly everyone who passed by stopped to chat or warmly waved, congratulating them on “The Gate’s” 10th anniversary this month.
The two boyhood friends from Dublin thanked customers by name in their soft-spoken brogue. Each time they did, another strand was woven into the fabric of the community.
“This has really become at meeting place and an anchor of the neighborhood,” said longtime patron Leah Pettway, who lives nearby.
“I actually found the place by accident,” Pettway went on to say. “It was a cold day nine years ago and the snow was freezing. The Gate looked warm through the windows so I went in. The fireplace was going and the staff was very friendly. I’ve been coming here regularly ever since.”
Pettway recommended any of the sandwiches, the quesadillas, mussels and particularly the artichoke fritters. “They’re amazing,” she said.
Relative newcomer Cricket Kaminski also touted the fritters. “They’re incredible,” she said as she dined with a friend on the outside patio.
“This is great, especially in the summer. It’s one of the few places you can eat outside. And the food is really good. The chips and curry were a nice surprise. The Gate is one of the best establishments in JP, not too pretentious,” she said.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a terrific staff and customers over the years,” said Byrne, who tended bar at the Brendan Behan Pub for almost a decade before starting the Gate. “Christy and I work together well. It’s been a good partnership.”
“Paul is like a brother. I trust him a lot,” said Page, who also owns Killian Corporation, a commercial and residential construction firm. “I go in after work, but for the most part, Paul runs the place. And I guess the number of long-time staff like (server) Jose Palma is a testament to how well he does it.”
Head chef Brian Seymour called his menu “eclectic and comfortable… without the attitude of downtown.
“I think people are interested in trying new dishes, but don’t want to be scared away. I like to take different influences that have a broad appeal and add a twist, like our tuna tempura. And I don’t hide natural flavors with heavy sauces,” said Seymour, who also assists with marketing and overseeing the staff of 23 with dining room manager Andrea Jaun.
Dishes rotate with the seasons, he said and the new menu will be out soon.
“We can also modify orders for people with special dietary needs like allergies to nuts or shellfish,” he said.
Seymour went on to say that since most of the food is made in-house he can keep the prices reasonable. On the dining room menu, appetizers run from $7 to $11, with entrees $15 to $22. The pub fare ranges from $5 to $11. Both menus are available on the outside patio.
But Seymour said the real secret to success in a crowded field of good local restaurants is “personal connections with our customers. Everybody knows each other. We have groups like the Carpenter Poets here on Thursday nights, softball teams, local organizations. I try to come out of the kitchen when I can to visit with our patrons. It makes for a lovely work environment,” he said.
The Gate also hosts wedding parties and events on Monday nights, and offers a constantly rotating gallery of shows by local artists, curated by server and artist Brian Adams.
“We want to give artists a chance to have their work seen, and it changes the ambience every few months,” said Byrne.
“We couldn’t be in a better place,” said Page. “The neighbors and community groups have been great. So has the city, from the Mayor’s office on down. And it helped knowing a lot of people in JP before we started the business.”
As with many start-ups, there were hurdles along the way, not the least of which was the dicey reputation of the former business there.
“During the [community] meetings before the renovations, we had to convince the neighbors we’ll keep a respectable business,” said Page, who, along with his partner, put $500,000 and two years of work into the Gate, the façade of which replicates the Guinness brewery in their hometown of Dublin.
“The beginning was a learning process. We made some mistakes, but were willing to work with everyone to make it happen. We’ve been very lucky,” said Page.
“My only plan now is to continue providing good food, drink and service for another ten years,” said Byrne. “Most of all I want to thank the community and our workforce. Without them we’d never make it.”
For restaurant hours call 983-2000. To contact Adams about an art showing call 983-1760.