Some will participate in the 252nd annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16, and Forest Hills will have a parade of its own for the taste buds shortly after. In addition to old-time favorite The Irish Cottage Restaurant, which opened on June 26, 1960, at 108-07 72nd Avenue, revelers will soon be able to enjoy The Flying Pig, Banter Irish Bar & Kitchen, and Forest Hills Station House, restaurant all planning to open in the area over the next couple of months.
Banter Irish Bar & Kitchen will open in late March or early April at 108-22 Queens Boulevard in place of Old Vienna Cafe. Michael Mansfield, age 27, first got the idea to open a restaurant in Forest Hills a year ago, and his father, Paul Mansfield came up with the name. Banter will be a father-and-son operation.
“Banter is a playful exchange of teasing remarks, and a bar is a community where people meet others and feel alive,” Mansfield said. “This really signifies what we are about.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Mansfield came to New York from the town of Carrick-On-Suir, Ireland, which is home to 6,000 people. Currently a Woodside resident, he takes inspiration from his father, who owns a seven-year-old Woodside bar, The Cuckoo’s Nest Pub at 61-04 Woodside Avenue. His restaurant skills take root with his grandfather, who continues to own Mansfield’s, the historic Ireland bar connected to his grandfather’s house.
Patrons can anticipate “an authentic family-operated restaurant and an Irish-centric menu, with some foods that are beyond what people think,” according to Mansfield.
“A corned beef and cabbage dinner in a dumpling is what we call Bubble and Squeak, named after its sound when tossed into the pan,” he said. “We will have an array of Craft Beer according to season and customer tastes.”
The interior will feature repurposed wood from a Manhattan brownstone that underwent demolition.
“We are capturing an old feel and giving it a modern twist,” said Mansfield. The authentic feel will include live Irish music on Sunday afternoons. “We want families around, and Irish dancing wouldn’t be discouraged. The more people, the better the mood and the better the banter.”
Hopping over to Austin Street, The Flying Pig will open in mid-April in the former Johnny Rockets space. Sixteen-year husband-and-wife duo, Declan and Natasha Morrison, are following in their success with their already established Taphouse Sports Bar at 72-07 Austin Street and Blackwater Inn at 101-17 Metropolitan Avenue.
Declan was raised in County Cork, where his father owned a few bars. Twelve years ago, he settled in Woodside, and then found his home in Forest Hills seven years back.
“We want to introduce new and different opportunities to the neighborhood,” he said. “When we opened Tap House, the neighborhood needed a sports bar. Now the neighborhood needs an Irish gastropub.”
Nearly a year ago, they eyed Austin Street for their new establishment. Through their Facebook page and other means, they engaged the public in a business-naming contest and received feedback from approximately 1,000 people over three weeks.
“Whoever came up with the right name, would receive a dinner for two,” Morrison said.
Their vision is “executive chef-quality food in a relaxed bar, which you don’t get every day.” Natasha said.
“People think that pigs can’t fly, but in this case, they can,” she said. “At The Flying Pig, it will happen.”
Some foods diners can expect to see on the menu are meatballs with smoked tomato coulis, seasonal fish, and oysters. “Duck with snails and duck eggs are for the adventurous people,” warned Natasha.
Serving seasonal foods and using local vendors are goals. A mixologist will prepare cocktails.
“We will have a cocktail that infuses chili peppers,” Declan said. “Whiskey and scotch will be infused with herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves to provide a nice sweetness and a hint of warmth.”
Since The Flying Pig won’t be open until mid-April, patrons can enjoy a special menu with traditional Irish food complemented by Irish bagpipers at Taphouse Sports Bar and Blackwater Inn come St. Patrick’s Day.
Last stop, but another first in food fare will be Forest Hills Station House, just steps away from Station Square at 106-11 Continental Avenue. Owner and operator Steve Elkins, a 14-year Forest Hills resident is putting his heart into transforming the former Marianella’s Taquiera into what he calls “a rustic space incorporating neighborhood elements.”
In late March, diners can anticipate “a quality twist on traditional International and American pub fare with fresh and local ingredients prepared with passion and love,” said Elkins.
For Elkins, 42, entering the culinary business was his dream early on.
“Ever since high school, I’ve been involved in the bar-restaurant business,” he said. For Forest Hills Station House, he said, “Our vision is a neighborhood place with a great craft beer selection, rare bourbons and whiskeys, with a focus on an eclectic mix of great comfort food, served in a down-to-earth setting with impeccable service.”