The Bull & Thistle Pub Brings a Taste of Ireland – CLOSED
Editor’s note: The Bull & Thistle closed in June 2018.
Bringing authentic Celtic flair and flavor to Gainesboro, The Bull & Thistle Pub opened in March 2013 on the Middle Tennessee community’s historic courthouse square, and it’s drawn folks from across the state ever since.
Diana Mandli, who owns The Bull & Thistle with her business partner, Dr. Loui Silvestri, says Gainesboro – a seemingly unlikely place for an Irish pub – is actually the perfect place for the eatery due to the roots many residents have in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“The Appalachian area has a strong Irish and Scottish genealogy,” Mandli says. “Many people migrated into the area prior to the Revolutionary War, and many others settled here when they were given land in the area as payment to fight in the Civil War. They stayed because the landscape reminded them of home. We realized there was a heritage here that some people weren’t even aware of, so a Celtic pub just made a lot of sense to us.”
The restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored building that is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Both the hardwood floors and tin ceiling tiles are original to the structure as well as most of the brickwork, and Mandli says she and Silvestri worked hard to incorporate pieces of Gainesboro and Jackson County wherever they could. For example, the wooden bar and tabletops were made from a large, local oak tree that dates back to the 1700s and had reached the end of its natural life.
“There’s a story behind everything in this pub,” Mandli says.
As they were creating the restaurant’s warm, inviting ambiance, Mandli and Silvestri were also focused on finding the right chef. They chose award-winning Chef Barry O’Connor, who was born and raised in Cork, Ireland, which Mandli calls the “culinary heart of Ireland.”
“Chef O’Connor was who we wanted,” Mandli says. “He knew Irish cuisine as well as classical French cuisine, and he knew what would work at a pub.”
Chef O’Connor stayed at The Bull & Thistle Pub for three and a half years, creating from-scratch menu items like bangers and mash – chargrilled homemade pork, thyme and apple sausage glazed with a rich onion and Guinness gravy, served on a creamy mashed potato bed – plus a variety of steak, fresh seafood and pasta dishes.
His tenure came to an end in the summer of 2016, and Mandli and Silvestri brought on Chef Garrett Scanlan, who is also an award-winning chef with an extensive culinary background. He hails from Dublin, Ireland.
“This is an exciting time for us,” Mandli says. “In the culinary arena, just like any other art form, there has to be a constant stream of fresh inspiration. We’re continuing our tradition, and we’re not changing what we are; our story is just beginning.”
If You Go...
Address: 102 S. Main Street, Gainesboro, TN 38562
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-midnight Friday; 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday; and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
Phone: (931) 268-7170