By Kathianne Boniello
What began over good Irish coffee at the 1964 World’s Fair has made restaurateur Frank Mockler one of Little Neck’s royalty — and he’s got the castle to prove it.
“The one thing that really put us on the map was Irish coffee,” Mockler, 74, said in a recent interview. “We took up on that and expanded from there.”
That expansion resulted in one of Northern Boulevard’s institutions and most distinct buildings: Patrick’s Pub, Restaurant and Café, a large structure at 252-12 Northern Blvd. complete with small turrets, just like a medieval castle.
For nearly 40 years Mockler’s restaurant, which began as a small storefront before growing into two neighboring businesses, has been like an Irish embassy on the edge of the city.
Whether one is enjoying a serving of Shepherd’s Pie or Irish Lamb Stew at Patrick’s or browsing in the nearby Claddagh Shop, a haven for lovers of all things Irish, there is no escaping the charm and good feeling inspired by the Emerald Isle.
Mockler’s vision of his restaurant as a low-key, friendly haunt helps Patrick’s Pub stand the test of time.
“We just completed 37 grand years,” said Mockler, a native of Galway, Ireland who describes his eatery a hybrid. “It’s a cross between a restaurant and a bar, where you can get good food at a casual, happy place.”
And Mockler is quick to point out the menu is healthy.
“We’re a stickler for good wholesome food,” he said. “Every effort is made not to deep fry anything.”
Although the menu at Patrick’s features everything from classic Irish dishes such as the Shepherd’s Pie as well as Reuben sandwiches, seafood, salads and desserts, it was the coffee which set the restaurant apart, said Mockler, who came to America in 1946 when he was 18.
He bought the property that would become Patrick’s in 1965 after working in a restaurant in Manhattan, and enlarged the eatery from a storefront to the entire building about 30 years ago, he said.
Mockler decided to become a businessman on the advice of his stockbroker, he said.
“He told me ‘there’s never been a stock printed that’s as good as going into business for yourself,’” he recalled.
One of the faded newspaper clippings lining the walls of Patrick’s attests to Mockler’s coffee-making expertise: between photos of charity events and Irish memorabilia one yellowed, framed picture shows a young Mockler at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, churning out cups of the famed brew.
When asked what makes the Irish coffee at Patrick’s so good, Mockler said “it’s the blend that we have — a little secret.”
One of the well-known facts about Patrick’s is the proud Irish heritage, evident in everything from the hand-carved wood decorations that the owner describes as Irish Romanesque to the stained glass windows.
Shamrocks are everywhere one looks in the restaurant, as is copper which is featured prominently in a hand-hammered copper railing lining the bar.
In addition to the bar, Patrick’s features an ample dining room, a glass-enclosed atrium in the rear of the building and an upstairs party room for special occasions. The parking lot in the rear of the property, Mockler said, also brings in customers.
The Claddagh Shop, just one door down from Patrick’s Pub, has an array of Irish gifts on hand ranging from jewelry and Galway crystal to sweaters, shirts, sun catchers and plaques with Irish sayings.
Mockler began the pub with his brother, Patrick, and now works with his daughters Franceen and Bette. The Little Neck resident said he owns the eatery with his nephew John and his niece, Patty.
Reflecting on nearly four decades of owning Patrick’s, Mockler seemed content.
“Coming to work is always a pleasure,” he said. “I feel good in the neighborhood. It’s always nice to be solid in one place.”
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.