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If you live on the southwest side of the area, for the past 13 years, there’s a good chance that Mulligan’s Irish Pub & Grill has been your St. Patrick’s Day party site.
Opened by Brian and Jennifer Francis in 2009, Mulligan’s, 8933 S. 27th St., in Franklin, puts on one of the biggest annual bashes anywhere in town.
“St. Patrick's Day is the busiest day of the year for us, obviously being an Irish pub, and we are the only Irish pub on this side of town,” says Brian Francis. “We basically do about two weeks worth of business in one day. Oh, it's huge.”
This year, the party starts at 6 a.m. on Thursday, March 17 and you can enjoy a full Irish breakfast, housemade corned beef hash and eggs until 1 p.m.
There’s a giant heated beer tent (though forecasters are predicting a high of 53 degrees on Thursday) that will host live music beginning with Ian Gould at 11 a.m.
Bushwood will perform at 2 p.m. and Clove closes out the music beginning at 6 p.m.
There will also be specials on shots, on-site bagpipers and a variety of Irish food specialties. And, of course, Guinness.
The star of the show, however, is likely to be the corned beef.
Francis says Mulligan’s sells 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of it on St. Patrick’s Day.
How long does it take for the kitchen to normal shift that much corned beef?
“Usually about seven weeks,” says Francis. “We sell about 10 cases of corned beef a week and on St. Patrick's Day we prepare about 70 cases.”
Francis has high hopes for St. Patrick’s Day 2022, after two years of pandemic-affected celebrations.
“We were able to do it last year, but in 2020, they shut us down on St. Patrick's Day,” he recalls. “It was devastating. We count on that revenue to get us through the slower months because being out here it's kind of opposite of downtown.
“Downtown gets really busy during the summer and out here in the burbs it slows down quite a bit. At least that's how it's been in the past. Except last year, we were much busier in the summer than we had been in years past.”
Mulligan’s was able to host a St. Patrick’s Day bash last year, but it wasn’t the same and it hurt the bottom line again.
“The numbers were down quite a bit last year,” Francis says. “Usually our tent is jam packed until the last band is finished, which is usually about 10:30. And we only had about maybe half the amount of people in there last year.
“So it wasn't as busy, but we are anticipating a very, very busy St Patrick's Day this year. The weather's looking like it's going to cooperate, and I think people are just anxious to get out. This party usually kicks off the spring/summer season.”
But, remember, that, of course, St. Patrick’s is just one day a year. Mulligan’s is a destination all year long.
Ian Gould performs the first Tuesday of every month, and there are trivia nights, as well as a number of special food nights, too, including a Friday fish fry.
“We've got some award-winning food here,” says Francis. “Our Irish lamb stew won the Taste of Ireland five years in a row. It's voted the best Irish stew in Milwaukee.
“And then we all also won the Milwaukee Chili Bowl, which is no longer going on, but we won that basically 10 years in a row.”
And, if you’re insane, there are two food challenges that are so daunting that you count the number of folks of have met each challenge on your fingers ... in one case on the fingers of just one hand.
“Our burger challenge, we call it the Paddy's Lament burger challenge,” says Francis, “and the burger itself is three pounds and there's a pound of corned beef on it. There's lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and cheese, plus a pound of beer battered fries.
“So far there's eight people now that have beaten that challenge.”
And that’s arguably the easier one.
“The other one is our shepherd’s pie challenge, which is basically eight pounds of shepherd’s pie and four pieces of our Irish stout bread. Molly Schuyler came in and did it in three minutes and 48 seconds.
“She absolutely annihilated it. She's got the record. She's probably the number one female competitive eater in the world. We had a couple other competitive eaters come in and do it, but right now there's been a total of four people that have beaten it. It's an insane amount of food.”
But you don’t have to eat that much. Mulligan’s has pizza and wings and all kinds of food that you can enjoy in moderation, alongside a beer, wine or cocktail.
It’s a comfortable, welcoming place, and that’s just what the owners tried to create. And now in their 14th year, it seems that they’re doing something right.
“Yeah, so far,” says Francis. “The goal was to make this a neighborhood gathering place and be involved in the community and we've had tremendous support from the community, especially during COVID. So I feel like we're doing something right.
“We try to give people a very good high quality meal and very welcoming atmosphere with great service.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.