McKenna’s Cleans Up, Becomes Brown St. Pub

For years, McKenna’s Irish Pub at 24th and Brown in Fairmount has been known as a local bar, with a sometimes less-than-stellar reputation.

But two weeks ago–after months of literal and figurative housecleaning–owner Mike Hoffner changed the name of the place to Brown St. Pub and reinvented the place with a new crew (Hoffner had sacked most of the old staff over the past four months), and new chef (Bill Elmer, former exec at The Penthouse Club, and sous at Waterworks) and a new menu that shifted focus from the deep-fried to the fresh.

Elmer breaks down the chicken in the kitchen now. Mozzerella sticks and poppers are still on the board, but are now made from scratch. And the menu gained some depth with classics like seared wild-caught Atlantic salmon over linguine in crab sauce, fish and chips and bangers and mash. Elmer is also now bringing his steaks in from Indian Ridge Provisions in Telford, the same folks who provide Stephen Starr with some of his beef.

“All Irish bars have always been known as rough places,” said Hoffner, who claimed McKenna’s had come complete with its reputation when he bought the location 14 years ago. “We wanna make it more of an atmosphere for the community instead of a black-eye on the community. We wanna make it a place where you can bring your girl, or family, and sit and have a drink, a nice meal and relax.”

To do that, Hoffner took out the pool table and replaced it with tables and chairs, painted the place, hung new art (and is still seeking work from locals), and bought new kitchen equipment. And while his new bar staff has been instructed to keep the profanity to themselves, other house traditions–like Wednesday night shuffleboard and Thursday night Quizzo–remain. Plans also call for a DJ on Friday evenings.

“The neighborhood has changed,” he said referring to the scores of college students, young adults and working families who have transformed Fairmount over the past decade. “You try to do different things to bring people in… We’re trying to spark new life into it.”

Brown St. Pub [Official website]