By Brian Schwartz & Nicky Omohundro
Sometime around the turn of the century, Brett Rehorn, an affable restaurant contractor with 17 years in the business, decided to build the grandest Irish pub in T-Town – a bar and restaurant so magnificent it would be known around the world.
“The entire block,” he told a reporter in 2001, “will look just like a street in a typical Irish town.” He put a million dollars and years of his time into the project. A Dublin designer drew up the plans. Flooring, cabinetry, furniture – all were shipped from Ireland. A long and beautifully worn bar, 100 years old, came from Dublin. The massive carved wood back bar was lovingly built in Ireland’s capital, and you’d swear it was as old as the bar. On opening night, a young woman named Patti Stevens proudly stood behind the bar, welcoming in new customers into Kilkenny’s Irish Pub.
Twenty years and more have rolled by and there’ve been some changes. The Irish antiques and memorabilia that cover every available inch of space have changed. Rehorn is an inveterate collector, constantly buying more antiques, which he swaps out for those already there. The menu, already huge, has gotten a lot bigger. Often, the chefs will create a special, and Rehorn loves it so much it stays on the menu. Gatherings at Kilkenny’s for Saint Patrick’s Day have grown more popular overtime; check the restaurant’s social media pages for 2023 updates.
There are so many Irish dishes you’ve probably never heard of. There’s boxty, colcannon, coddle and champ. Boxty are stuffed potato pancakes, colcannon is a mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage, coddle is bacon and sausages mixed with veggies, and champ is mashed potatoes fortified with butter and cream. All delicious, and there are also many chicken, steak and seafood dishes ranging from hearty stews to subtly sauced filets.
Quite a few of the chefs have been there since opening night – that’s why the food is so good. If you go in during early evening, there’s a good chance that you’ll see Patti Stevens behind the bar, chatting with some of the regulars whom she first met on opening night.
“Oh, not me,” says one loquacious customer, “I’ve only been coming since 2009.”
Some of the regulars who have since died are memorialized by little metal plaques on the chairs and walls.
“Oh, this was a great guy, he always ordered half-and-half,” recalls Stevens, pointing at one plaque, referring to a drink made of a light beer topped with Guinness.
And why is Stevens still here?
“Oh,” she says, “Brett’s a good guy to work for.” – B.S.
O’Connell’s Irish Pub and Grille, located in Campus Corner across from the University of Oklahoma campus, offers an authentic taste of Ireland with a vibrant atmosphere and delightful menu. Since its opening over 50 years ago, O’Connell’s has become a beloved landmark for locals seeking hearty grub and visitors looking to experience traditional pub culture.
In the month of March, O’Connell’s celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with gusto; so much so that they have become known as one of the most popular St. Patty’s Day events in the state. In years past, they’ve hosted an array of gatherings, including an early morning breakfast, live music throughout the day, and gallons and gallons of ice-cold, emerald-hued brew. This year, O’Connell’s will be celebrating the event for the 55th time and they are sure to put on a celebration that won’t soon be forgotten. Check their Facebook page for the latest details.
A true year-round hotspot among locals and college students alike, the Irish pub offers a wide array of options for dinner, such as sandwiches, wraps, wings and seventeen different burgers. Often dubbed one of the best burgers in Norman, O’Connell’s Ranchhand burger offers a juicy patty topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and ranch dressing. Of course, no visit would be complete without trying one of the restaurant’s signature pub entrées like classic beer-battered fish and chips made with Atlantic cod.
On Wednesday nights, O’Connell’s gets even livelier when it plays host to burger night plus karaoke. You can build your own burgers starting at $5.50, pair them with a pint of beer, and then take the stage when karaoke starts at 9:30 p.m.
No matter what time you visit, O’Connell’s atmosphere is always abuzz with cheerful conversations, clinking beer mugs and good vibes. The staff has created an inviting environment that makes it feel like you’re walking into an old-fashioned Irish pub – right in the heart of Oklahoma. – N.O.