McGrath’s Irish Pub & Restaurant

Words and Photograph by Jadrian Klinger

Downtown Atmosphere with Neighborhood Charm

Situated in the heart of Harrisburg’s Restaurant Row, just a few steps from the corner of N. 2nd and Locust streets, stands a downtown hot spot with a cozy neighborhood feel.  With two floors, a hip laid-back atmosphere and a wide selection of drinks and dining options, McGrath’s Irish Pub & Restaurant attracts everyone from the youthful 20-something crowds to the political-minded folks of the capitol.

“The food is good, we have a nice cozy atmosphere, and it’s a real downtown bar restaurant where everybody knows everybody,” describes owner Tom Scott.  “I know it sounds cliché, but it really is true here.  We get a real mix of clientele.  It’s the young people who are just learning how to drink, and we get the legislature and staffers and lobbyists – so if you’re coming in here, you get a little bit of everything.”

Husband-and-wife proprietors Tom and Amy Scott opened McGrath’s (named after Tom’s mother) in 2002 and have been going strong for the past 12 years.

The friendly, inviting environment coupled with ever-flowing pints of Guinness make up just part of the equation at McGrath’s, something the pub’s growing legion of fans know well.

As an Irish pub, McGrath’s offers plenty of Emerald Isle-inspired cuisine specials, but the menu is also filled with a variety of other patron favorites courtesy of Chef Joe Mesarick, who has been pleasing palates for the past eight years at the pub.

McGrath’s advises beginning and ending every meal with a perfect pint of Guinness, which is certainly sage counsel, but aside from the delicious, creamy, dark brew, diners do not go wrong with one the many tasty appetizers – McGrath’s Baked Potato Chowder (slow-cooked with potatoes, carrots, leeks and lots of cream, topped with bacon, aged cheddar cheese and scallions), Irish Nachos (crispy fried potato skins loaded with melted cheddar cheese, scallions, bacon, banana pepper rings, served with a dollop of sour cream and salsa), Crab Stuffed Portabella (oven-roasted, hickory-smoked portabella mushroom, topped with their signature crab Imperial and provolone cheese, nested on a bed of greens tossed in white balsamic vinaigrette) and Blarney Bread (a creamy four-cheese and garlic-blend with a touch of Irish Mist liqueur smeared on a toasted baguette broiled until golden brown).

In a town and state where the standard of chicken wings is high, McGrath’s more than lives up to expectations with their Celtic Wings, which come in a variety of sauces, such as Celtic, Guinness honey barbecue, hot garlic habanero, Dublin, Carolina gold, golden curry and – eaten at your own risk – “Unit 2 Reactor Melt Down.”

For the salad-loving folks, McGrath’s also has you covered.  The leafy-green standouts include: McGrath’s Farmhouse Salad (fresh field greens with cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, carrots, cheddar cheese and croutons with a side of the dressing of your choice) and the Salad 202 (crisp romaine lettuce topped with onions, banana peppers, red onion, tomato, black olives, croutons and feta cheese, served with Greek dressing) – both of which can come with grilled or blackened chicken, flat-iron steak, Scottish salmon, broiled crab cake or chicken tenders.

After a foamy Guinness and one, or maybe more than one, of McGrath’s meal starters or salads, there are numerous entrées as well as hand-held delights from which to choose.

Hand-held highlights include: McGrath’s Irish Pub Burger (8-ounce beef patty loaded with cole slaw, Thousand Island, melted Provolone cheese, bacon, red onion, lettuce and tomato), Blarney Crab Cake Sandwich (blend of snow, jumbo lump and claw meat broiled and then topped with a touch of Blarney cheese spread, with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce) and McGrath’s Open-Faced Rachel (smoked turkey or corned beef, coleslaw, Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss cheese on toasted thick-sliced marble rye).

Entrée must-haves include: Fish & Chips (basket full of batter-dipped salmon and pub chips, served with cole slaw and tarter sauce), Cottage Shepherd’s Pie (seasoned ground lamb and beef with carrots, onions, peas, corn and gravy, topped with Irish mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese), Angus Reserve Delmonico Steak (16-ounce on the bone, grilled and paired with champ – creamy, scallion mashed potatoes – and vegetable), Bridget’s Irish Meatloaf (wrapped in bacon and topped with Guinness gravy over Irish mashed potatoes and the day’s vegetable) and Espresso-Chipotle Braised Beef Short Ribs (braised in espresso coffee with chipotle and ancho chiles, brown sugar, aromatic vegetables and herbs, served with cheddar mashed potatoes and buttered vegetables).

To wash it all down is, of course, Guinness, but there’s also much, much more when it comes to McGrath’s selection of liquid merriment.  There are 30 beers on tap and 70 in bottle – everything from American craft brews to sophisticated imports to other Irish standards, like Harp and Smithwicks.

McGrath’s also boasts a fine selection of Irish whiskies and scotches.  Other favorites include an espresso martini and the Moscow Mule, which features Tröegs ginger beer, vodka and fresh lime juice over ice, served in a metal cup.

For more information about McGrath’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, call (717) 232-9914 or visit