5 courses with: Mickey Crawford, Owner of the Druid

Even after the St. Patty’s Day madness has settled down,owning an Irish gastro-pub is no easy task. You live upstairs from the bar. Late nights are devoted to sorting out “issues,” and early mornings are spent at the Boston Fish Market getting the fresh fish for the handmade fish and chips. When you ask Mikey Crawford, the owner of The Druid, about himself, the first thing he says is, “I’m Irish.” He doesn’t say much after that.
It’s like pulling teeth to get him to talk — until he starts to pour a pint of Guinness. Then the conversation begins. The stout settles, the foam turns to black, and then, with skill developed over 20 years of pub work, Crawford tops it off and deftly decorates each glass with a perfect little shamrock sitting pretty in the foam. Guinness art, Irish style.

Is it hard to teach a bartender the correct way to pull a pint? Yes, it is. Some never get it. Like Michael over here. He’s still working on it. Been training him for years. Didn’t take me long. I caught on to it as a kid — at fourteen, I was working in my aunt and uncle’s pub in County Clare. But here’s the thing. You have to have the touch. You pour the glass about three-quarters full, then you wait, take a breath, let it go black, increase the pressure on the spigot, and add in the foam. When I make my shamrocks, I always start with the leaves. Never the stem.

Why did you get in to the pub business? I dunno. Never did anything else. I started picking up dirty glasses in the pub when I was ten, moved on to bartending, and then went to hospitality school for a few years in Ireland. Came to the United States fourteen years ago, thinking I was here for three months on my way to Australia. I came for the winter; people told me to stay for the summer. And I’m still here. I spent eight years at The Burren. But it was always my ambition to own my own place.

Does an Irish pub need to have good food? I really like to eat. And I figured that if I served good food — not bland and greasy, not a lot of choices but all good choices... shepherd’s pie made with real lamb, Irish seafood stew, fish and chips with fresh cod and hand-cut fries, really good burgers and steaks — people would come for the drink and stay for the food. I’m very careful about the recipes and the products we
use. Most of the recipes come from the family. The soda bread is my grandmother’s. Every house in Ireland has a loaf of brown bread sitting on the windowsill to cool. Funny. All the recipes are from Ireland, and the chef is from Brazil.

What are black pudding and white pudding? They’re always on Irish menus. One is white and the other is black. Funny, eating it my whole life and never thought to ask about what’s in it. Wait, let me ask someone else... okay. Here’s the answer. The white sausage is made with oatmeal and herbs and spices. The black is a blood and meat [sausage]. We sell tons of it, especially on Sunday when we make the Irish breakfast for brunch. Our brunch is huge — there’s no way I could finish a big breakfast like that myself.

Who’s Irish here? Me, all the bartenders and servers, and none of the guests. Even our regulars, the people who come in here religiously, every week for trivia nights and twice a week for Irish music, are not Irish.