Tim Finnegan’s celebrates Irish culture and food

Tim Finnegan’s Irish Restaurant and Pub has hosted “American Idol” finalist Wade Cota for his open-mic night.

David Gill had a highly desirable job working for “Law and Order” producer Dick Wolf’s shows when 12,000 film and TV screenwriters went on strike.

He needed a way to make money, so he looked toward his friends in Los Angeles.

“I have friends who own restaurants in Los Angeles,” Gill said. “I started working for a place in a very sought-after area. It was small, but they packed them in, and they were only open from 4 to 11 p.m.”

Gill began working as a dishwasher and eventually persuaded his friends to let him bartend. When the strike ended, he balanced his TV and restaurant jobs before heading back to Arizona.

“I was just ready to move back to Phoenix and have my family and stuff and the rest is history,” Gill said.

With experience at California restaurants and as general manager at Tim Finnegan’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, Gill took the Irish restaurant/bar in December 2017, when it moved from Metro Center to Glendale.

The relocation led to the rebirth of the restaurant, which was under the same umbrella as Fibber McGee’s in Chandler and the Skeptical Chymist in North Scottsdale.

The owners wanted to close the restaurant, but Gill persuaded them to move to Glendale.

“There are about 5,000 people out there who are part of our social media and email blast who weren’t too receptive of us letting it go,” said Gill, who graduated from Ironwood High School.

“It’s not that we did it just for them. I wanted to move into the community I grew up in. I went to school down the road. It’s nice to relocate and keep the brand alive. A lot of the people who supported our business came from this side of town. It was a good move all around.”

Not only did the clientele change, but there was an upgrade to the atmosphere and furniture. One thing remained: the No. 1 seller — fish and chips, made with crispy cod and served with hand-cut fries, tangy tartar sauce and coleslaw ($16). Shepherd’s Pie — yes, with lamb for $16 — and corned beef and cabbage ($17) are close a close second and third.

“They usually get beef, which is cottage pie,” Gill said. “Even if guests don’t like lamb, they try ours and they’re impressed.”

The Killarney chicken ($17) is a hit as well, with Irish bacon, Swiss cheese, garlic sauce, mashed potatoes and crisp green beans. For corned beef and cabbage fans, there are taquitos on the appetizer menu for $9. They’re served with salsa verde.

But what’s more important than desserts made with Irish liquors and beer? Bailey’s bread pudding, Guinness chocolate brownie and Bailey’s tiramisu are Irish spins on traditional desserts ($8).

Gill purchases the food fresh and the dishes are made to order. The sauces are created in-house, while the fries are cut by hand. Bread is made daily.

“We’re as scratch as possible,” Gill said. “I take a lot of pride in it. People can go anywhere and grab a burger. They can go anywhere and grab a salad. A lot of fast-food restaurants are ordering that stuff now.

“But here, you can have a home-cooked meal from someone’s family, their lineage. I take pride in that. A lot of people come in here and say their order was one of the greatest things they’ve ever had. As long as we can feed them and send them home happy, that’s alright.”

Extra publicity

Tim Finnegan’s had a national boost, thanks to the success of Phoenix “American Idol” contestant Wade Cota, who was in the top five. Before his turn on “Idol,” he hosted open mic at the restaurant. In turn, Tim Finnegan’s invited his family, friends and the public there to watch “American Idol.”

“We get phone calls all the time about random things like, ‘You should name a soda after him called Dakota Soda.’ I told him we’d name a sandwich after him. He sent his ingredients and we’re going to introduce it soon.”

Tim Finnegan’s was featured during a backstory segment about Cota on “Idol.” He was asked to sign nondisclosure paperwork, something he was familiar with during his time in the TV industry.

“We weren’t allowed to tell anybody that ‘American Idol’ was coming here to film,” he said. “However, there were big signs outside that said ‘American Idol’ was filming. We were definitely cheering him on.”

For more information, visit restaurantji.com/az/glendale/tim-finnegans-irish-restaurant-and-pub-.