What do you do to add to nearly 27 years of success in your two Newton Irish pubs/restaurants?
If you are the O’Hara brothers, you expand your Newton Highlands location, O’Hara’s, and start serving Sunday brunch.
“Basically, this just gives people more opportunity to be here,” laughs Karl. “We open at 10 a.m. so you can get in early.”
John and Karl O’Hara have spent most of their lives in the restaurant business. Their father, Curt, was the longtime manager at Finnerty’s in Wayland. Both boys worked in the legendary restaurant (where, ironically, the O’Hara brothers and Dunn-Gaherins owner, Bob Dunn, first became friends), though neither originally thought they would become restaurateurs.
When the older O’Hara brother was laid off from a job in corporate America (“I hated it, so thank God I got laid off,” chuckles John), he decided it was time to go back to his restaurant roots. He and Karl and their father opened O’Hara’s in April of 1985, patterning it after his favorite Waltham pub, O’Reilly’s Daughter.
In 2002, the O’Haras opened a second Irish pub, Paddy’s Pub, in West Newton. While it might seem to be a questionable business decision to potentially divide your customer base between two locations, Karl sees the two restaurants as completely distinct, serving a different clientele.
“We get more families at Paddy’s,” Karl explains. “Here (at O’Hara’s) we get folks from the Wells Office Park, the professional crowd.” John adds, “But now that we have the new room, I think that more families will probably come in here, because the tables are larger.”
When Bead and Pearl closed its doors this spring, the O’Haras leapt at the chance to expand their Newton Highlands location. The opportunity for physical expansion might have been there before (there have been other vacancies on their Walnut Street block), but the O’Hara brothers saw another change that made 2012 the right time to grow.
“The Mayor and the City are really working with businesses and with the community,” explains John. “I would say the City is really pro-business right now. The Building Department was fantastic.”
With the increased space came another change: for the first time in its 27-year history, O’Hara’s is able to serve Sunday brunch. The brothers acknowledge that this means more hours at work, but they are happy to be able to provide this much-desired meal to their many loyal customers.
And being an O’Hara family member or a loyal customer has perks beyond delicious food and a friendly atmosphere: play your cards right, and you might be immortalized by having a dish named after you!
“Past employees, current employees, family members,” says Karl as he peruses the menu and sorts out the origins of the names of dishes like Eggs Uncle Benny (named after John’s wife’s uncle) and Roon’s Combo (named after a longtime employee).
The menu at Paddy’s is identical to that at O’Hara’s, though John laughingly acknowledges that, “Some customers say ‘I love the food at O’Hara’s more!’ or ‘I love the food at Paddy’s more!’ when it’s the same food.”
Yet Paddy’s distinguishes itself in an unusual way: it is the home of Paddy’s Road Race.
This annual 3-miler, also called the Shillelagh Shuffle, benefits The Newton Special Athletes’ Program. It is the final race in the popular New England Runner Pub Series, a six-race series open to anyone and focused as much on fun as it is on competition. Winners in the series are crowned in a number of age- and skill-related categories for both men and women. Prizes include corporate swag from sponsor New Balance and cash awards.
But you don’t have to be a runner to win big at Paddy’s Road Race.
Haley’s Basket of Sweet Potato Fries is an item on the menus at both O’Hara’s and Paddy’s. Named after a Paddy’s Road Race raffle winner, the popular appetizer gives a now-forgotten little girl a distinction usually reserved for family members, friends and employees of the O’Haras’ restaurants.
So whether you come for Sunday brunch at the newly-expanded O’Hara’s, go by Paddy’s with your family or run in Paddy’s Road Race, make sure to introduce yourself to John and Karl O’Hara.
You might just come back and see your name on the menu.