Though traditional public houses focus only on serving pints and quarts (hence the phrase, “mind your p’s and q’s”), today, many pubs have become as much about serving good food as ale. Yet its most important element hasn’t waned: bringing locals together for a hefty dose of spirited interaction.
Wilmington offers its citizens a new “home away from home” thanks to Masonboro Loop’s Irish public house, Halligan’s. Owned and operated by B.T. Corrigan and Randall Willard, they opened the old Bouchée location last fall. Response has overwhelmed them in all the right ways.
“To me, an Irish pub represents a place where family and friends can get together, and have good food, good drinks and good times,” he says. “I feel we have captured this because of the amount of repeat business we are getting.”
With the Corrigan family rooted in County Mayo, Ireland, keeping their neighborhood pub Irish-inspired came without second thought. Since Corrigan had helped his brother open Irish pubs of the same name in their home state of New York, it made sence for Halligan’s to carry the family tradition south upon Corrigan’s move.
When walking in the restaurant, dark wood emits a cozy mien of hearty indulgence and light-hearted camaraderie. Beer signs and sports regalia hang on the walls, alongside the family crests of both owners.
“The crest was designed by my sister-in-law,” Corrigan says, “and represents our Irish heritage and my three brothers who are all New York firemen.” In fact, the pub’s namesake refers to a tool firemen use for forcible entry into buildings.
Working in the restaurant industry for 20 years, Corrigan clearly had the foresight to choose key players to help his restaurant succeed. On Halligan’s team is Chef Aaron Cannon, who actually is no stranger to the restaurant’s kitchen. Cannon worked in the building when Mason’s Haunt resided there two years ago. His return has ensured many praises from customers thanks to his classic Irish-American menu.
“My personal favorite is the Philly cheesesteak,” Corrigan notes. Yet he shared that most customers adore Halligan’s Reuben and lollipop chops, both of which proved favorites during the encore Lunch Bunch held a few short weeks ago. The corned beef fell apart in chunks, exactly the way the brisket should when cooked properly. (Pressed corned beef doesn’t do justice to the classic sandwich, in my opinion.) Piled high with sauerkraut on marble rye, with a classic Russian dressing, Halligan’s version easily ranks in the top of Wilmington’s best.
“It tastes just like how I would make it at home,” Kris Beasley, encore’s ad rep and self-claimed foodie, food-lover and cook, notes. Corrigan also noted the delectability of Halligan’s corned beef and cabbage, served once a month or so as a special.
The lollipop chops at Halligan’s could rival any five-star restaurant’s delivery. Cooked with perfect care, a nice medium rare, the chops are grilled over an open flame and served with a garlic-herb lemon sauce. Consisting of about four ounces each, the meat tenderly melted in every bite.
Naturally, fish and chips made an appearance at our table—what would pub grub be without the staple? Comprised of Atlantic cod, they were served crispy from the light and tangy Harp lager batter. Irish-cider-glazed salmon came braised with an apple cider ale and rosemary butter sauce, while the Masonboro pasta dish kicked up the spice, thanks to sweet Italian sausage sautéed with chicken and served in a fresh spicy herb tomato-cream sauce over al dente penne. Though the Gaelic steak came more well done than preferred (our bad for not specifying temperature), the Irish whiskey and peppercorn cream sauce made up for it in flavor: piquant, rich and earthy.
Of the side items served with most dishes, including a potato of the day, vegetable medley and French fries, Halligan’s sweet potato fries cannot be matched. Cut somewhere between shoe-string and steak fries, they maintained the crispiest texture of any we’ve tasted before them. The flavor wasn’t masked by extra sweetness either—a la brown sugar, maple butter or cinnamon-anything. Chef Cannon stuck to allowing the potato’s natural sugariness shine. Kudos for doing it right!
“A doctor came in one day and ordered them as his side,” Corrigan shares, “and he called later to tell us they still tasted exceptional three hours after they’d be sitting untouched.” Whatever Chef Cannon does to ensure their dead-on crunch needs to be patented.
Though the Lunch Bunch wanted nothing more than to delve into Halligan’s ale menu, mid-workday duties called. However, with an expanded, covered outdoor patio to host an overabundance of happy customers, Halligan’s beckons many a return. They serve 12 beers on tap, like McSorley’s or Smithwick’s Irish Ale, as well as offer half-price wine-bottle Wednesdays. Though they’re located near Pine Grove and Masonboro Loop roads’ numerous housing developments, the heart of the restaurant appeals to all of Wilmington, not just its surrounding suburbanites. As anyone would imagine, they have a massive St. Patty’s Day celebration coming up next month, too. Stay tuned for the details.
Until then, Corrigan may have his dream come true: good food, good friends, good times.