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Bardstown welcomes Irish restaurant

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By Randy Patrick

Guests won’t likely hear a fiddler or warm themselves by a peat fire when they walk in, but Rylon Sweeney’s Irish Restaurant & Pub may be as close to Éireann as they could expect to find in Bardstown.

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The restaurant at 885 Pennsylvania Ave. has been quietly testing palates this week with a limited menu and opened its bar. Tonight it will go all out with a midnight countdown to Paddy’s Day and live music.

“It’s been a real family affair, and we want to reflect that in our menu and our ideas and service,” said Karen Kinser of Cox’s Creek, who owns the business with her fiancé, Wes Priddy. “It’s not just about Irish heritage … it’s about everybody’s heritage.”

Her sons, Spencer Parker and Evan Kinser, daughter-in-law, Summer Herring and brother Charlie Waters helped in getting it established, and they want their employees to feel like family as well. And they want to extend a warm welcome or failte, to those who come to take a pew and raise a jar.

The menu is a mash-up of traditional Irish pub grub and Kentucky country cuisine. One can get bangers and mash (sausages with onion gravy and mashed potatoes) or fish and chips, but there are also Angus-and-lamb hamburgers and such innovations as Irish nachos and bourbon pork wings.

“We’re big foodies,” Kinser said, and when they thought about opening an Irish restaurant, they went back into old family recipes and “modified them for American tastes.”

“If you want a taste of Ireland, we can give that to you; if you want American comfort food, we can give you that as well,” she said.

Kinser has been an office manager and human resources director for 30 years, and Priddy describes himself as a “jack-of-all-trades” who has worked in everything from construction to computer engineering, but has long wanted to run a restaurant.

They’ve been “waiting for the right time and the right place,” and think that Bardstown’s growth bodes well for what they want to do. Over the years, Priddy said, he’s hung around restaurants and bars and saw things he thought he could do better and wanted to try.

“We were actually going back and forth between an Irish pub and a German beer hall,” Priddy said, because Bardstown, which has many good restaurants, is always wanting “something new … something different.”

Rylon Sweeney’s is different.

The restaurant is named for Priddy’s grandfather, who was born around 1912, grew up in an Irish Catholic orphanage in Louisville and died before Wes was born, but the stories about him and his wife Nellie have been handed down for generations.

The couple looked at places downtown, but nothing felt right until the owner of the old El Camino Real showed them the building, they marveled at the elegant wooden bar and were sold on the location.

That bar is now stocked with Kentucky bourbons as well as Irish whiskeys such as Jameson and Bush, and the cold beer taps have Irish ambers, pales and stouts such as Smithwick’s, Harp and Guinness, as well as domestic brews including Yuengling and Budweiser.

The musical entertainment will include Nashville and local bands, but occasionally Celtic music.

Priddy just changed the restaurant telephone’s ring tone to a song by the Dropkick Murphys, an Irish punk band. The number is (502) 415-2671.

Kinser doesn’t want to go overboard with the Irish stuff.

“You’ll notice we don’t have a lot of leprechauns and shamrocks and harps,” she said. “It’s probably a good idea to lay back on that.”

“What it boils down to is, ‘Is it good food? Is it reasonably priced? And did you enjoy going?’ That’s our goal. That’s basically what we’re about,” Kinser said.

Hours of operation for the restaurant are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, and for the pub side, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Priddy said there will be a limited menu for the pub after the restaurant room closes down for the night.

Update: Rylon Sweeney's had planned to have a ribbon cutting and grand opening at noon Friday but postponed it for a couple of weeks while they wait for some of their equipment to arrive.