The flames are burning again in the kitchen at Mustang Harry's.
Executive Chef Luis Tenecela started there as a dishwasher 25 years ago, and is one of the longtime employees at the famed Irish Sports Bar.
Tenecela is back to work, making favorites like shepherd’s pie, burgers and other culinary creations. Harry’s reopened earlier this month, with a bit of a smaller menu than before the pandemic hit.
"We sat down together and decided that it's better to run out of product than to keep it here and not move it and that way when our guests come in they know that everything is fresh,” explained Ian Conroy, who owns the 25-year-old establishment with brother Niall.
They are following a family tradition. The Conroy’s father owned a family pub in County Tipperary, Ireland. Both brothers came to America, and opened up an Irish pub sports bar and restaurant called Mustang Harry’s, near Madison Square Garden.
Harry's closed in March as COVID-19 arrived, just days before their annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. They stayed closed for eight months.
"Nobody foresaw what was going to happen. Well, certainly we didn’t,” said Ian Conroy. “We actually thought we were only going to be closed for a few months.”
The brothers first establishment was Mustang Sally’s, opened two years prior to Harry’s. Also located near the Garden, it closed five years ago.
They felt a responsibility to the neighborhood to make sure to reopen Mustang Harry's as soon as they could.
"We have to support the community and everybody has to work together to get through this,” said Niall Conroy.
The Conroy brothers say they've received a great deal of support from customers both old and new. Even though Madison Square Garden hasn't seen any action for a while, other than when it was used for an early voting site.
All they really want to do is keep this tradition going and take care of longtime employees.
"We tend to be family, and we look at customers in the same way, and then I can go home at night,” said Ian Conroy, adding, “Our focus here is to put out a good product and to make people happy and have all of our staff happy and then everything else works after that. That's very important for us."