The Old Shillelagh goes local

New menu to feature Michigan-made products with an emphasis on non-GMO

Aug 12, 2015 at 1:00 am

Longtime patrons of Greektown's Old Shillelagh fear not: Though the Irish pub's menu may undergo a "local-first" transformation, it's still going to be the same place you remember.

That's the message from owner Shellie Lewis, who took over the establishment officially on July 1.

The idea to have Old Shillelagh emphasize a Michigan-made menu stems from Lewis' interest in buying organic, natural products.

"It's just something I'm interested in," she says. "I like to buy organic food for the family."

Lewis says she likes to eat non-GMO (short for "genetically modified organisms") products and "I don't want to support factory farms. I wanted to bring that aspect into my business."

So far, she says, the response has been positive.

The pub is using Ann Arbor-based Eat Local Eat Natural for food products; the restaurant and market supplier touts itself as "being committed to supporting a sustainable and thriving local food economy." To accomplish that, it says it seeks to work with farmers and processors that are located within 150 miles of its operation.

Beyond that, Lewis says, Old Shillelagh is using Detroit-based Avalon Bakery for its bread, Farm Boy for its corn chips ("They use GMO-free corn"), and the plan is to increase the number of beer taps inside the pub from 19 to 30. Lewis intends to dedicate those additional 13 taps to Michigan craft beers, which should be flowing by the end of July.

Currently, the bar doesn't stock Michigan wine. "That's what I'm working on right now," says Lewis. The Michigan-centric drink selection is expected to expand even further, as Lewis wants to include Towne Club Soda.

If you're not a beer and wine fan, Shillelagh recently added booze from local distilleries Two James and Valentine.

In addition, more fare on the menu is being made in-house.

"We're trying to do everything from scratch," says Lewis.

And while the bar still attracts a pregame crowd before sporting events and on the weekend, Lewis sees an opportunity to tap a growing market in downtown Detroit for lunch and happy hour.

"I'd like to get more people in for just lunch and happy hour, and I think there's a market for people who actually care about local products," she says, adding, "I'm trying to touch base on every aspect of the business. What can we do local?"

But overall, the pub will remain what it's well-known and appreciated for, Lewis says.

"We're still the Shillelagh," she says. "We're just going to offer better products. It's still a good time, we're not bougie or anything like that."