(from October 09 Celtic Connection) “I”ve been drinking in this pub a month before it opened,” says Glen Eastwood, of Fado. “I know this pub very well.” He says this while sitting at the long, curvy wooden bar in one of Fado”s snug little drinking and dining spaces. He”s managed this Irish pub and restaurant for the last eighteen months, just one parking lot away from Coors Field in downtown Denver. It”s been twelve years since those opening days in January 1998. Eastwood has gone on to work at other Irish pubs in town like Casey”s and Darcy”s, but now he”s back at Fado, and running the place. Glen Eastwood is a man who”s found his home. “There weren”t many Irish in town,” says Eastwood of the late nineties. That was a time before Casey”s, before Darcy”s, before just about all of Denver”s existing Irish pubs. He would visit Fado”s for the creature comforts of home”snacks and food from Ireland that just weren”t available anywhere else. For the homesick, it was a treat to re-experience a familiar taste. “Word got out pretty quick,” he says, when the new shipments of Irish stuff arrived: candy bars, sausages, bacon, and bread. And beer, too. Too many beers to recall, too many pints of Guinness over the years, right there at the bar in a pub Eastwood calls “one of Denver”s originals.” It certainly feels original, with old-time antiques and handcrafted storefronts, plucked from Ireland”s quaint towns and cities and reassembled”with Irish hands–here in America. There”s lots of warm wood and wistful memories. But Fado is also a chain of fourteen restaurants from Austin to Annapolis, and ours is almost as big as the ball field next door. That proximity to the dugouts sometimes threatens to turn the place into a crowded sports bar on game nights. Through it all, Fado”s new manager strives to maintain the pub”s Irishness, and he does, with his indomitable enthusiasm, and his willingness to adapt a centuries-old cuisine to modern tastes. “We”re not a baseball pub,” he maintains. “We’re an Irish pub that”s next to a baseball field.” “The menu held this place back for so long,” says Eastwood. “The food was not great. We”ve come a long way.” As he says this, three plates arrive at the bar, fresh from the kitchen. Everyone does fish and chips, and shepherd”s pie, he says. But these three inspired fusion appetizers are what will make Fado more accessible, but still Irish. The first is what he calls “Irish sushi.” What looks quite like a plate of sushi rolls is in fact a plate of five corned beef rolls topped with slivers of sliced cabbage. It doesn”t come across as yet another dish where coned beef finds itself unwittingly married to another culture or cuisine. It”s just another way to eat corned beef. In fact, it”s very Irish: the meat is wrapped in a tender skin of boxty, the Irish potato pancake, then cut into segments. The boxty is light and fluffy, prepared with a skilled hand. The whole dish is topped with a little bit of creamy horseradish sauce. The smoked salmon on the second plate sits atop small fried rounds of boxty. The diced fish is mixed with capers, red onion and lemon juice. It doesn”t last very long. Fado”s boxty becomes the foundation of the third appetizer Eastwood presents. In this one, called the flatbread, the boxty sits on a long, thin plate, and is topped with mozzarella, onion, tomatoes and a chiffonade of chopped fresh basil. The whole thing is then drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction and heated so the mozzarella melts and spills over the side of the bread. “It”s a different spin on Irish cuisine,” says Eastwood. “It”s what we do to step away from everyone else and differentiate ourselves.” He”s done a great job at re-envisioning the cuisine in a fresh, modern way that makes it, or elements of it, more accessible to a wider audience. “Previous teams had lost the focus on Irishness,” Eastwood says. “They got too dependent on the baseball crowds.” He says this in a year that saw the greatest turnout for the season”s baseball opener, but also the greatest numbers for Fado”s Saint Patrick”s Day festivities. In the end, how can you not feel Irish at Fado”s? The restaurant”s concept is brilliant, though most likely overlooked. The entire restaurant is one giant wheel of Irish history. When you enter, turn left. In a clockwise motion from the entrance, periods of Irish history unfold. The first of four period rooms is “The Brew,” dressed up like brewery-style Ireland. It”s a tiny little snug enclosed by old Irish pharmacy fa”ade and enough turf-scented atmosphere to make you want to stay all night. Next is “the cottage,” a dining area with a crackling fireplace that evokes the hearthsides of Ireland”s thatched-roof days. It”s where the musicians meet for sessions on Monday nights. Stone walls and wooden tables complete the ambience. The Gaelic area is reminiscent of the era of druids, warriors and the Gaelic language. This was the age of metals, reflected in the metal bar in the room. Last on your journey around the pub is the Victorian room, which brings you up to the modern age. Modeled after a modern Dublin-style pub, this is the room where the bands play. The sleek feel of the room creates the feel of “an Irish pub from a different generation,” as Eastwood says. The room was renovated two years ago. “We spent a lot of money on that room to give people what they were looking for,” he says, “without losing the Irishness.” And the list of bands that have played there is impressive: KT Tunstall, Glen Hansard, Tim Burton, and young Irish rock band Seneca. “We have the ability to be all these things at once,” says Eastwood of Fado”s four different spaces. It”s as easy to think back on those old days in Ireland as it is for Eastwood to remember all those days he spent in this pub, way back when. But he”s here now, and while he”s present, he”ll keep making sure that Fado”s future is still rooted firmly in its past.

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