Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 28, 2005

Kilts, Irish culture found at Delano pub

By Dave Cox

Patrons who step through the door of Scotty’s Irish Pub are transported to a world where storytelling and music are part of the culture; a place where the local pub is part of the fabric of daily life.

They might experience an impromptu Irish jam session or a Celtic serenade.

They will probably hear a story or two, some of which may actually be true. They might even see men in kilts.

This might have raised some eyebrows when Scotty’s opened in downtown Delano recently, but while it may provide a taste of the Emerald Isle, its appeal is definitely not just for the Irish.

People visiting the pub for the first time may find a new experience, but they may also get a feeling of coming home to a place they’ve never been before.

This comfortable feeling is no accident.

Scotty’s is a dream come true for co-owner Scotty Moorhead of Minneapolis.

The idea began in another Irish pub, Molly Quinn’s in Minneapolis. Moorhead fell in love with the culture and the atmosphere and vowed that some day he would open his own pub.

“I want this to be a place where people can come in and be comfortable, make friends, enjoy good food and have a positive experience,” Moorhead said.

Once he made the decision to move forward with the project, it took a couple of years to find a location and make it a reality.

“Matthew Lamphear was a big inspiration,” Moorhead said of Molly Quinn’s co-owner.

Moorhead had been looking for a location for two years before a business broker told him about a possible opportunity in Delano. He did some research, and checked out the building at 284 River Street then occupied by Little John’s restaurant.

He was unable to put together a deal to buy the building, but was later approached by co-owner Cyndee Turney.

Turney liked Moorhead’s idea for the pub and suggested a partnership in the new business. Moorhead bought out Turney’s partner, and Scotty’s Irish Pub was born.

The pub was transformed overnight.

“We came in with a crew of friends with paint brushes and hammers and nails, and invaded the place at 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and worked all night painting and decorating. We were open for business on Sunday morning,” Moorhead recalled.

Another friend from Molly’s was instrumental in the process.

“Bill Watkins has been a huge part of this. He has a company called Celtic Erections, and he has decorated several Irish Pubs in the area. He put everything up on the walls and got everything looking the way it is at this point,” Moorhead said.

“Wild Bill” Watkins is a writer, musician, and philosopher, and a co-owner of Molly Quinn’s. Those who have met Watkins or read either of his books, “A Celtic Childhood,” or “Scotland is Not For The Squeamish,” know that he can definitely tell a story, and things are never dull when he is in the pub.

Moorhead said that he wanted an Irish Pub because it provides something special.

“The culture, the atmosphere, there’s something magic about it,” Moorhead explained.

One thing that is behind the magic of the pub is the hard work and dedication of the staff.

One of the people responsible for creating the magic is Judith Vavreck-Vollmers. It is easy to see why Moorhead wanted to recruit Vavreck-Vollmers, who he knew from Molly Quinn’s, to be on his team.

A picture of style and grace, she works her domain with the unbridled energy of a mountain stream cascading down a canyon.

Passing drinks over the bar in front of her and slinging empty bottles and caps in her wake, she is constantly in motion. She has the ability to do three things at once while still managing to carry on a conversation with her customers. She makes it a point to remember everyone’s name and their favorite beverage. Her wit and enthusiasm keep things rolling, and she has been known to shake things up if it gets too quiet.

“We were both scared to death,” Moorhead said, “Judy left a pretty busy place, and she kind of came on faith. I told her that we just need to build up some nice business, and you are the person for it. If you can’t do it, it can’t be done. I believed in her, and she believed in me, and we took the leap together.”

The menu is still evolving at Scotty’s. Among the beer selections, the pub features Guinness, Boddington’s and Finnegan’s on tap. These may be new to some customers, but many people are entering into the pub spirit by trying new things and finding new favorites.

Moorhead recalls his first pint of Guinness. He sat down next to a gentleman at Molly Quinn’s who had just ordered a pint of Guinness.

“I watched them pour this thing, and I was fascinated just watching it cascade. I asked the guy if that was as good as it looked.

He said “I’ll buy you one, but you have to promise to drink three.” That sounded like a deal to me. The first one was OK. The second was a little better, and by the third pint, I fell in love,” Moorhead laughed.

A selection of bottled beer and wine is also available.

Another key element of a good pub is the food. When Moorhead was looking for a chef for Scotty’s, Turney suggested Steve Olson who had worked for her at Little John’s before leaving to pursue other opportunities. Moorhead talked to Olson, who said, “Let’s give it a shot,” and joined the team as head chef.

The menu is full of delicious food at reasonable prices. Among the highlights are a phenomenal Guinness Pot Roast, and a wonderful Irish Stew. For those who prefer an American classic, the burgers at Scotty’s are a great match for a pint of good beer,

The pub has an extensive breakfast menu, and breakfast is served daily until 4 p.m. There is a buffet on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Entertainment is also on the menu at Scotty’s. Moorhead hopes to have live music on Saturday nights and for special events. Plans for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration are being worked out.

More information about the pub is available on the web site, scottysirishpub.com, along with photos of the staff and other characters. Moorhead hopes to eventually have the menu and an events calendar posted on the site.

Another special feature at Scotty’s is the weekly Pub Quiz on Wednesday nights. Teams of up to four people compete for prizes “beyond the dreams of avarice.”

Quiz Master Keith Palm reads questions covering a broad range of topics including history, geography, current events, local knowledge, and arcane trivia dredged from the dark recesses of Palm’s own mind.

Each team records its answers and the scores are verified. In addition to prizes, the winning team each week gets its name on the Wall of Champions.

Palm, a friend of Moorhead from the original Molly Quinn’s, has also started a NASCAR fantasy league on Sunday afternoons. This has very little to do with an Irish pub, but it has a lot to do with getting together with friends to enjoy the afternoon.

“You’re only a stranger once,” is a slogan that Moorhead and his staff take seriously. They make a special effort to get to know the people who walk through their door.

Above all, Moorhead wants Scotty’s to be a place where people can feel comfortable.

“People are taking ownership. They are bringing in things for the walls, they are bringing music in, it’s wonderful,” Moorhead commented.

In spite of all the efforts that he and the rest of the staff have made to create the right atmosphere, he believes his customers are the most important element.

“A pub isn’t the walls, it’s the people that come in, that’s what it’s all about,” Moorhead reflected. “I want this to be a meeting place. That is what a local pub is—a public house.”

There is something special about Scotty’s. It goes far beyond the pints of Guinness lined up on the bar and the eclectic decor. It is the feel of the place, and the fact that at any time one can stop in and join a spirited conversation about politics or sports or any topic you could name. It is a place where you can feel at home but you can also experience new things and colorful characters.

Scotty’s Irish Pub is still evolving, but if you are looking for a place where you can expect a warm greeting and a positive experience, a place where people of all ages can feel comfortable, it is worth checking out.

Moorhead sums it up this way: “The only things we have are good food, good service, and atmosphere. It’s pretty simple.”

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