From Phil’s to Brennan’s, a homecoming of sorts


The Foodie:

Last evening, my husband and I stopped in for a bite at Brennan’s in Youngstown. You cannot imagine how happy I was to be back in familiar surroundings. Annie was both our server and the bartender. It was not very busy so she was able to keep company with all. The entire room was filled with Halloween decorations which were whimsical and fun.

20120612-153226.jpgI had a creamy potato and bacon soup served in a pretty bowl with a saucer and doily. Wow – very uptown and very tasty. My chicken fingers that followed were generous and seasoned to my liking. My husband had a burger and fries and enjoyed every bite. This is not fancy food (although my soup did not know that), but pub fare.

I mentioned to Annie that I appreciated the brevity of the menu and she explained that it was by design. They decided to do a few things well and I commend them for that decision. Brennan’s is the perfect place to go watch Bills or Sabres games because they have food and drink specials during those events.

Greg Taylor, Youngstown native and Lew-Port grad and I chat a few minutes at the bar about Youngstown. Greg is a fan of the chicken fingers and is sure to stop by often to sit at the bar and visit with friends. Greg is a diehard below the falls guy and humorously complained he had to go all the way to North Tonawanda today. He can be seen dining and sipping at other BTF locations including the Brickyard and grabbing take out at Main Street Gas and Grill.

We also talked about the iterations of Brennan’s. I cannot imagine anyone from our generation not remembering Phil’s Place. I have very happy memories of that local tavern and immediately on arriving home put a plea on my Facebook page asking my friends to share their memories, too. Where else but Facebook can you get seven interviews without lifting a pencil?

Glen remembers playing pool and shuffleboard while drinking cases of OV splits. Glen, I remember OV splits at the Park Meadow (The PM) on Thursday nights back in the day! He also remembers the great wings and recalls Phil being a great guy. Becky remembers Phil’s having “the BEST wings ever!”

Phil was the uncle of one of my dearest friends from high school. Cindi notes that Phil’s wife, her Aunt Marion, likely “made those wings and all the other great food consumed there.” She waxed poetic about the best ever Easter brunches with family.

Dee Dee not only remembers Phil’s but the cue ball on the pool table. She says “Good ‘ol PHIL’s … Jimmy’s for breakfast, the Jug for lunch and then pizza and wings at PHIL’s with a side of pool! I still think if you played the cue ball slightly off center you had the advantage as everything tilted towards the river! Maybe it was after long days of teaching junior sailing!”

Shirley and Amy, two of this Foodie’s favorite people, have fond recollections of Tuesday night sailing and learning how to play pool. Daughter Amy says “I have great memories of when my BFFs Sarah, Jason and TJ worked there. I still have Sarah’s satin Brennan’s jacket!” Mother Shirley has a slightly different although very fond memory of Phil’s and of Amy’s days at the pub.

Shirley recalled “We had our first sailboat — a Catalina 22 that Pat sailed on Tuesday nights with our daughters, about 8 and 11. I was a little upset when I found out that our girls were “regular” pool players at Phil’s when all the sailors from the marina convened at Phil’s to drink.”

My most enduring memory of Phil’s is with my Lew-Port friends Mark and Cindi and a bunch of our friends back in the 1970’s. I think we were all home from college and gathered at Phil’s to hang out, compare notes and catch up on each other’s lives. I remember a HOT chicken wing eating contest which ended with Mark and I being the last ones remaining. In an act of surrender Mark ate a napkin. Random memory but true as true can be.

I will leave you with Mark’s words. “Phil’s was really a family run neighborhood tavern in the best sense of the phrase. We didn’t go there “for a drink,” we went there to enjoy the warmth of the Zaszucha family and old friends. Laughs and conversation, Genny Cream and hot wings, new romance and old heartbreak: these were the stuff of Phil’s Place.”

A few snips from my notebook:

Join Brennan’s as they celebrate their Grand Opening on Oct. 21. There will be a ribbon cutting, a pumpkin carving contest and drink and food specials.

Hallowine Murder Mystery Weekend Oct. 28, 29 and 30 on the Niagara Wine Trail. See for more information.

Hops n Vines is having a wine tasting on Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. It is limited to 20 so check out!/HOPSnVINES for more information

In memoriam:

A discussion about Youngstown would not be complete without a note on the passing of our dear mayor, Neil Riordan. Nowhere on earth was there a better embodiment of public servant and stand-up comedian. Neil, I will always remember your voice, your wisdom and your humor. You leave a hole not likely ever to be filled. My thoughts, sympathy and prayers go to his loving family, the village residents who loved him and my husband who lost his mentor. God rest you, Neil …