By Carol Masshardt
This is a story of an old bar with a decidedly South Boston history, now an updated pub by new owners, John and Anne Lydon, and a chef who saw an opportunity. The Shamrock Pub is on the corner of H. and Eighth, formerly Touchie’s, and is as close as it gets to a comfortable spot that knows familiar tastes while stretching into a more diverse neighborhood.
First, John and Anne saw that the place was for sale, and it happened to be the location that John’s grandfather, John Clougher, owned in the early 80’s. They both still shake their heads about the leap but seem to smile easily with pleasure when talking about the decision.
“I’m an attorney, said John, “I mean I have clients!” And Anne is an accountant, surely a handy skill, but “I didn’t imagine myself owning a bar,” she said. They bought the place in November and did some thoughtful updating, opened in January, and hired Rory Lee, formerly of Capo, in early May. That became the new team along with a small and appreciated staff of bartenders, a few other cooks, and support staff.
“I grew up in South Boston and went to boarding school, then came back to Southie High and dropped out, and started working,” said Rory Lee. “I worked at Sully’s, KO pies, Moona, an Arabic restaurant, and then Capo in 2019. I guess you could say it’s my thing and I worked up from the line to sous chef to head chef.” Along the way, he ruled out other things that could have engaged his mind and ambition, but he settled into something he also happens to love. “I really don’t know how the whole thing started but I did watch my mother and grandmothers cook and bake and I asked if I could help,” he recalled.
Rory Lee is 35, and with experience from Sully’s onward he has a quick grasp on the pros and cons of work environments and is clear why he made this move.
“There is a lot of opportunity here to build something. John and Anne have a good plan, a good location and we can have fun here,” he said.” I want their input and they give it, but I can also try things. We have a simple menu now, but for example I do a Falafel burger, even though they weren’t so sure,” he said with a hint of pleasure. “It’s a simple and good menu and will be expanding as we go,” he said confidently.
It also seems there’s an ethos of welcome at the Shamrock Pub. The owners give credit naturally and genuinely to the people who work there, and that inevitably extends to and from the chef and customers. “I have learned you don’t have to be rough to anyone, and everyone is important. We work hard, and it may not always be glamorous but it’s fun and there’s respect,” Rory said.
The cooking space is small and would not be suited to someone who wants to be far away from the crowd. It may be stressful, but one gets the sense that this chef observes, cooks, talks and learns simultaneously. “Not much escapes you here,” he said, looking at the two stoves in the front room. It doesn’t give you much space, but you can interact with everyone and that is good. It’s a really cool place and has a touch of refinement,” he said.
Rory Lee looks forward to learning and helping the owners expand and when not working spends as much time as possible with his 7-year-old son, forages for mushrooms in the Blue Hills and plays the guitar. He summarized his commitment and goals as the beach crowd moved past and the hockey crowd was expected on a warm June day. “I don’t do anything I’m not passionate about, and I am about this. I just need a bigger oven and I will make the best strawberry upside-down cake,” he said.
Shamrock Pub is still unpretentious, but this new iteration has energy and welcome. “It’s a really cool place and it has a touch of refinement,” said Rory Lee, and his opinion, not surprisingly, seems on target.
(Carol Masshardt can be reached at email@example.com)