By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants, and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers.
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What does St. Patrick’s Day mean to me? Already a redhead with green eyes, there’s not a drop of Irish in my DNA profile. It’s fun to watch the New York City Parade on TV or look for shamrocks in my garden.
I’m extremely literal, so my first thought was to get into the spirit of it all by decorating myself in green. Not with a wacky leprechaun sweater, but with a green pedicure. It’s not sandal season yet, but I know those green tootsies are under my socks. My favorite pedicurist, Catalina Condor from TLC Relax Station, did a great job choosing a green that didn’t look like nail fungus, or was too summery or neon for the occasion. The final color was a dark forest green. I relaxed over a cup of coffee as Catalina tended to my feet, and got a great foot massage, too. Once the polish dried and I was back in my shoes, I decided to get more serious about this being green thing.
It takes a brave or crazy woman to have green hair extensions in her long red hair in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s what I decided to do. I’m offbeat enough to get away with it, in case people question my sanity or color choice. Erica Ludwig, my gifted regular hair stylist at Parlor Hair Studio, custom-dyed six hair extensions for me in advance of my visit for a color and blow out session. Not surprisingly, the extensions didn’t come in green. Erica used her talents and came up with a mixture of green and yellow to get the bright kelly green outcome.
After having my hair washed and conditioned, Erica blow-dried my extremely thick and curly hair into straight submission, and then attached the green hair strands one by one on my head, using a special tool to place them near the roots. Less is more with so much green, so a head full of it would have overwhelmed. My hair is inches longer when it’s straight, and the bright green strands were very dramatic touches on my head. I adore a topsy-turvy ponytail, which only works when my hair is stick straight, my choice for going out into the dreary, rainy day. I made a run for it to the next stop on my list.
EVERYBODY IS IRISH
What exemplifies St. Patrick’s Day in Montclair, with both a menu and bar stocked with Irish whiskeys and beer? My favorite Irishman, Rich McMahon, joined me during my visit to Tierney’s Tavern to introduce me to the owner, sample a wee bit of the Irish, check out the decor, and enjoy food and drink in an atmosphere that’s authentic and friendly.
Owner William (Bill) Tierney grew up in the family business, established in 1934. Tierney’s was a speakeasy during Prohibition (1920-33), and was built by Swedish shipwrights, who also built the Robin Hood Inn Clifton, Friar Tuck Inn Cedar Grove, Pals Cabin (permanently closed) West Orange, Bow and Arrow in West Orange, and Great Notch Inn in Woodland Park.. Architecturally, Tierney’s is an unusual five-sided building. Bill is a fourth-generation tavern owner. He lives just steps away next door, and it’s all things Irish all the time for him.
It was a bit early in the day for me to tipple heavily, so I appreciated a tutorial from bartender Frank Gowen about the most popular Irish drinks enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day, or any day you wish. The most popular drink is Smithwick’s with a Guinness head. A pint is topped by the stout, giving it a bubbly head. Both are red in color and it makes for a good-looking and good-tasting drink. For later on in the day, Irish whiskeys, which Bill said are the number-one imported spirits to the U.S., were lined up on the bar for me. Some are up to 50 proof (45 percent alcohol), with Jameson’s being the most recognizable to me. I discovered Black Band and The Kind, the working man’s shots of whiskey. Rich taught me to say “neat” instead of “no ice” when ordering whiskey. I wanted a potent Irish coffee, but I hadn’t eaten anything yet. It was time to explore Tierney’s downstairs bar menu.
It’s not a trendy, artisanal dining room, but it definitely has some good eats. Where’s the corned beef and cabbage, you ask? Tierney’s always has a well-stacked corned beef sandwich on the menu, prepared by Edward Robert Tierney, better known as Buddy, Bill’s brother. The secret to the melt-in-your-mouth beef is that it’s brined in pickling spices and butter. It might be the best and richest thing you’ve ever eaten, as Rich and my photographer Neil Grabowsky agreed. Steak sandwiches and juicy Buddy burgers hit the spot (Buddy’s special recipe), and I couldn’t pass up french fries and onion rings. On March 17, you’ll be able to order more corned beef sandwiches, or enjoy corned beef and Irish soda bread on a platter. Patrons line up to celebrate from early morning on that day, to sit around, drink and eat in a place where everybody knows your name. Say hello to Bill’s daughter Grace for me, whose hair is bright pink. She’s a fifth-generation Tierney and might have green hair, too by St. Patrick’s Day.
An Irish blessing for you:
“May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may troubles avoid you
Wherever you go.”
In this column:
- • TLC Relax Station
27 South Park St.
- • Parlor Hair Studio
220 Glenridge Ave.
- Tierney’s Tavern
136-138 Valley Road