We opened in a blaze of fire," says Celtic Crossing owner and Ireland native D.J. Naylor, admitting that he wasn't quite sure in 2005 if they were ready to operate. But despite a suffering economy, Cooper-Young's Irish pub has managed to create and maintain a loyal following over the last five years.
"In all aspects, it's been a project of growth," Naylor says, adding that the pub has made significant improvements each year, from expanding the menu to renovating the restrooms. "If people are going to keep coming as regulars," he says, "they need to see that their money is being used to make progress."
The pub has been successful largely due to its devotion to traditional Irish fare, offering patrons a multicultural experience from corned beef boxty to bangers n' mash and shepherd's pie. And though there have been some unexpected turns — like the pub's becoming a haven for soccer fans at game time — it's remained true to their roots. "It's about the food, and it's about the music," Naylor says. "It's about having a good time and maintaining that authenticity."
Celtic Crossing will celebrate its fifth anniversary with the four-day Oyster Festival, featuring a scotch tasting, oysters imported from Ireland, and local music along with the Prodigals, an Irish four-piece from New York. The fun starts Thursday, June 3rd. Visit celticcrossingmemphis.com for more information.
Celtic Crossing, 903 S. Cooper (274-5151)
You might remember Shawn and Lana Danko's downtown restaurant by its original name, Big Foot Lodge. Though trademarking issues forced the 2008 switch to Kooky Canuck, the restaurant's essence has remained the same.
"The new name fits us much better," Lana Danko says. "My husband's Canadian and a little crazy."
That playful spirit is apparent in the restaurant, which offers eclectic favorites like poutine, a Canadian classic that combines french fries and gravy, and the daunting seven-and-a-half pound Kookamonga burger.
When they started in 2005, the couple wanted to create an experience that they hadn't found since moving south of the border. "We wanted people to come in and feel like they weren't in Memphis," Danko says. A lodge-like atmosphere was exactly what they were looking for, and by combining Canadian fare with classics such as burgers and barbecue, backed up the ambience with a consistently good menu. "Our goal is to make different food and a lot of it for the price," Danko says. "Everything's made in-house and fresh, and we use local vendors and recipes from friends and family."
Danko credits that welcoming atmosphere along with the unique experience their restaurant provides with keeping numbers up in a down economy.
"People are still going out to eat. They're just thinking through their choices more," she says. And with a newly trademarked name, plans to extend their retail line, and the beginnings of a few franchises, Kooky Canuck looks to keep expanding from here. "We're always tasting new food, adding new items to the menu," Danko says. "We've got a lot of things in the works."
To celebrate their anniversary, Kooky Canuck will thank their regular customers with a private anniversary party on June 16th and will be giving away a $25 gift card every day this month on their website. Find more information at kookycanuck.com.
Kooky Canuck, 97 S. Second (578-9800)