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movers and shakers: three-legged mare

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Three-Legged Mare, you may have noticed, is no longer an Irish pub — at least not fully. Yeah, you can still get bangers and mash, corned beef and a proper room-temperature Guinness, but the Arena District watering hole has evolved beyond its original premise since opening four years ago.

“People think if you are an Irish pub, you have to be completely traditional,” said Michael Darr, co-owner of Three-Legged Mare. “We started off that way, then when we expanded our menu we went with the ‘European sports pub’ look.”

Through it all, from conception to evolution, RDP foodservice was there to help. That relationship started, Darr said, when his other Arena District business, R Bar, started selling pizza from another company and then realized a year later the hockey bar had sold $200,000 worth of pizza in the first year.

“So I said, ‘Why the hell do we not have a kitchen?’” Darr said.

We recently caught up Three-Legged Mare to talk about this evolution, their relationship with RDP and why you might want that next pint of beer served at room temperature.

Why “Three-Legged Mare”?

My wife came up with the name. She made a list of names, of Irish terminologies, from the “Wonky Donkey” — I still really like that one — to her maiden name, “Connors.”

Three-Legged Mare is another name for a bar stool, which isn’t very safe — we looked at them and said that most of our customers will be on the ground. And then in the medieval times, it was a hanging device. The reason we settled on it was that you’ll leave here like a three-legged mare, stumbling out. We’ll get you nice and toasty.

What’s your favorite part about being in the Arena District?

Just being downtown — this is the hub of Columbus. It’s just not hockey — you get to experience Columbus. You get to see presidential candidates come through, great concerts, conventions where you meet so many different people. The conventions are so small that they aren’t listed on the brochures, but those end up being the best ones because the group can go out together. And you meet some great people that way.

People primarily identify the Three Legged Mare as an Irish place. Why the change?

I’ve always loved going to Irish pubs and always thought European beers where the best. Since American microbreweries have established so well, especially in Ohio, this is one reason we didn’t want to say Irish only. We want to focus on local microbreweries; we have 32 taps here rotating, Beer of the Month and all that. It gives us a little leeway.

We were really afraid if we stayed marketing “Irish Pub” that it would limit us on things that we could do. The American bourbon and whiskey culture has grown so much that we wanted to be able to expand on that. We carry a lot of different bourbons, a ton of Irish whiskey, and a ton of Scotches too.

It’s not that we are trying to stay away from it — we just don’t want to limit us.

What can you tell us about the actual bar?

It was here when we moved in and then we modified it a little bit. Most Irish pubs are very closed off, sectional. Which is one thing we wanted to break away from. We have to move people in and out to be successful down here. That was one thing that we had to work on and it’s one of the biggest changes. We opened it up a little bit to create more space and the other is that we added a lot of TVs because we wanted to be able to show a lot of games.

Why does Guinness need to be served at a certain temperature?

We have to go back a little bit before we even get into Guinness. American beer has always been served extra cold to hide the flavor — when something is cold it doesn’t bring out the flavor. European brewers have always served beer warmer because they didn’t have a refrigeration system back in the day. (Serving at room temperature) gives you a lot more flavor, a lot more aroma, and you really get to appreciate the coffee and chocolate of the Guinness instead of it being really cold.

People who really enjoy Guinness — I have regulars who come into Columbus and just come in here. We’ve had Guinness ambassadors in here and we’ve been rated one of the best places for Guinness out there. Our staff goes to classes to learn how to properly pour and drink Guinness. To drink a beer properly, you lift the cup to your mouth; you don’t lean down to sip it. The head of the beer is the aroma and the body is your palate. That is why you want to separate it and you want to lift you head up.

What’s your most popular menu item?

I would say there are three mainly. The One and One, just because it’s traditional. Our Reubens, especially after we went from a deli-style corned beef to a home corned beef. We made that change last year maybe. Also our chicken tenders. We use free-range chicken for that.

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Do you bread them yourself?

Yes, everything is battered here with a Guinness batter. It has a very unique flavor.

You still serve a lot of Irish food though, from fish and chips to shepherd’s pie. What does Irish fare mean to you? What is the thing that you really want to accomplish with your food?

I think you have to have a strong corned beef. RDP has really helped us with that. Bangers were one of the hardest things to do. I don’t know how (RDP) found them, but I think it was a place in New York that does true traditional Irish bangers. My Irish regulars have told me they are the best bangers around.

We just had Bonerstink McCartney here the other night and I forget how many fillets we went through, but my staff was like, “This is ridiculous.” I think each case is 25 pounds and we went through over 100 pounds of fish. It’s a full fillet and a side of potatoes. One potato, one fish — that’s how we came up with the name One and One.

How long have you been with RDP?

When we built the kitchen at R Bar, we reached out to Cisco, GFS, and all these companies. The only one that called me back was RDP. They showed up the next day and said, “Let’s figure this out.” They brought all these samples, a couple hundred dollars worth of samples, and said, “Try this, do this, I recommend this,” and we started going through it.

When we started looking at taking (Three-Legged Mare), we said, “We want you guys to do it, but you’re a pizza thing.” They said, “Yeah, but we do other stuff too, but nothing like this. We’ll figure it out.” They put their buyers on it and got us pricing that competed against all the big boys. They’ve been our partner ever since.

I call if I have an issue, and they are right out here. I like how they are so local and their warehouse is right here. That was always my worry with the other locations: If I need something, how long would it take?

Tell us about a time RDP went above and beyond.

We’ve had some major events down here — the NCAA, the All-Star game — and RDP brought semi-trucks in to withstand our refrigeration. They always are on it. You call them up and say the lettuce is bad and they’re bringing new lettuce that day. It’s not, “OK, we will credit you.”

What are some of your favorite things about working with RDP?

There’s a whole bunch. The group is great from the top down. We are literally a phone call away and it’s great. I really appreciate how hard they work and what they do for their customers. Every time I’m talking to a friend who owns a restaurant or business, I ask them who they use: “Have you ever talked to RDP?” Every challenge I have ever given them, they have stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun. I don’t even worry about them.

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