You don't have to be from Ireland to appreciate a good ol' Irish pub. That's true for Charlottean and restaurant owner Maynard Noble, although his wife is an Irish lassie who undoubtedly has influenced his love for the Emerald Isle. Noble is one of three owners — there's also Tommy Timmins and Kevin Devin, an actual Irish lad. The trio, who also owns and operates Dandelion Market, Tyber Creek Pub and Prohibition together, opened The Workman's Friend in June. Located in the heart of Plaza Midwood, it occupies the space that formerly housed No Grease Barber Shop.
The restaurant/pub name is inspired by the title of a Flann O'Brien poem, which you can read for yourself on the outside wall. One line reads, "A pint of plain is your only man," meaning that a cold brew is there for you through thick and thin. And while the pub always has Guinness and other Irish and European brews, it also has craft cocktails, local craft beers and even Budweiser on draft. The Workman's Friend also has a lengthy menu featuring Irish/Southern fare and entertains patrons with DJs on weekend nights and live music during Sunday Sessions.
Creative Loafing: Why do you think brunch is so popular these days? Also, what would you say the brunch staple is at The Workman's Friend?
Maynard Noble: I think one thing that makes brunch so appealing to people is that it's basically lunch with an excuse to drink. Brunch gives you a little more relaxed environment with a little more of a social aspect. I don't know if it's so much about eating breakfast after noon, but that could have something to do with it, too. We have a traditional Irish breakfast and that's one of our brunch specials. It's a hearty, savory breakfast and it's big with a lot of different components to it.
There seem to be some Irish and Southern mish-mashes on the menu. Can you tell me about the food concept and a good example of a dish that combines Irish and Southern tastes?
Our focus was to make a modern Irish menu with some Southern flare to it. A good example would be the pork and beans. The house-made sausage uses some of the same herbs and spices that you would find in an Irish sausage, but we take that one step farther and use an Irish brand of baked beans called Batchelor's Beans. It's a product that's imported from Ireland, so it's just another way to take pork and beans — which is kind of a Southern dish — and add that Irish influence to it.
You guys have an old bike at the entrance and it's also a logo for the restaurant/pub. That's interesting, considering that biking and walking is being highly encouraged by local initiatives as an alternative means of transportation.
It's a vintage High Nelly bike — many were used for deliveries — and it speaks to the more traditional Irish pub. It's not unusual in Ireland to see bikes parked out front of pubs in Ireland. We keep the bike out there and it's meant to be welcoming. A lot of pubs in Ireland would have a bike just like that sitting outside in front with maybe a flowerpot in it or their name on it. We've got several bike racks on the side of the building that we put in. It's a great change that the community is making, not only in Plaza Midwood but in Charlotte in general, in being more bikeable and walkable. It's a good thing to see people riding bikes more.