St. Pat's equals hard work at Harrington's

March 17, 2010 3:34:59 PM PDT
For many people St. Patrick's Day means wearing green and eating corned beef and cabbage. But for Harrington's Irish Deli on the Northwest Side, St. Patrick's Day means one thing-- hard work!

Harrington's on North Milwaukee Avenue has been famous for its corned beef since the 1950's. They used to just cater parties but now a new deli serves walk-in customers. On Wednesday, of course, the action is behind the scenes in the kitchen where corned beef and cabbage fill boiling-over pots. It's all headed for St. Patrick's Day dinners.

"Very busy. Yeah," said Ken Harrington, owner, who says St. Patrick's Day starts early for him. "The middle of February (to)? the end of March? Yeah, five weeks."

Harrington's grandfather, Ray, started the business in 1951 and their secret corned beef recipe has been working Irish magic ever since. As most Irish know, corned beef and cabbage is not from Ireland. The immigrants of the 1850's found it here in America with another ethnic group.

"They found corned beef. The Jewish people had corned beef ... and they removed the seasonings and made it to their own tasting," said Harrington. "Ever since it's been Irish American."

On March 4th, 1861 at Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural dinner, guess what he served? Corned beef and cabbage. It's not that old Abe was Irish. He wasn't-- but he was very thrifty and he liked an inexpensive meal. That's why the poor potato famine Irish made corned beef a part of their immigrant diet. It was cheap and they just cooked it without the garlic.

"Garlic in our corned beef is more an enhancer than a flavor," said Harrington.

Here, st. Patrick's day is a five week season and the pounds of corned beef add up.

"About fifteen to twenty thousand pounds," said Harrington. "Yeah, that's what it takes to service it for the four or five weeks we're going strong."

Harrington corned beef can be purchased here at the deli or at Jewel Food Stores.