Fish and chips at Molly O's, the new sister restaurant of longtime Millbrae Irish pub Fiddlers Green. Courtesy Carly Hackbarth.
The family behind Fiddlers Green, a longtime Irish pub in Millbrae, has expanded south to downtown San Carlos with the opening of Molly O’s.
Molly O’s opened May 15 on San Carlos Avenue in the space last occupied by Mayan Restaurant, and staff spent the summer in soft-opening mode to “learn more about the neighborhood and customers,” said co-owner Oliver McElhone.
McElhone, his parents Oliver and Rose and chef Juan Angulo make up the ownership team behind Molly O’s. McElhone’s parents opened Fiddlers Green in 1991 after helping his grandparents when they opened Behan’s, a Burlingame Irish pub, in the ‘80s (Behan’s is still in the family, run by McElhone’s uncle.)
McElhone “grew up in Fiddlers” and thought he’d take over Fiddlers at some point. But he also remembers the day Angulo, the longtime Fiddlers chef now in charge of the kitchen at Molly O’s, made a prediction.
“He said one day he and I would open a restaurant together,” McElhone said. “We weren’t actively looking to expand, but the opportunity presented itself and we decided to take advantage of it. San Carlos is known as a good restaurant scene, and I thought it was missing an Irish pub in the neighborhood.”
Fiddlers Green customers can expect much of the same at Molly O’s, which is named after McElhone’s grandmother, Molly Mitchell. (“Molly-O” is also a traditional Irish song.) Traditional Irish pub fare like shepherds pie, fish and chips and Irish stew are on the menu, plus sandwiches, salads and bar bites like chicken wings and quesadillas. Like Fiddlers Green, Molly O’s also has daily specials and soups, plus a full bar.
“The goal was to emulate Fiddlers as much as possible because it’s been established for so long and it has a really good sense of community,” McElhone said.
While the Molly O’s space is slightly bigger than Fiddlers, it doesn’t have outdoor dining like its sister restaurant in Millbrae. McElhone’s sister Sinead, who worked on design elements for Molly O’s, said they took a more “elevated approach” in the new space with more modern finishings. They also built snugs, private seating areas in Irish pubs that were traditionally created as a way for women to drink separately from men, and named the spaces after their grandparents.
“It’s a fun space people really enjoy drinking in,” she said.
There’s also a mezzanine where bands will be playing during this weekend’s grand opening festivities, which kick off today (Friday, Sept. 8) with Irish entertainer Hugo Straney at 7 p.m. On Saturday at 9 p.m., Irish rebel rock band Sean Daly & The Shams will perform. On Sunday Molly O’s is closed for a private event until 2 p.m., with Irish band Ben Hunter & Friends kicking off festivities followed by Straney at 6 p.m.
“Molly O’s is named after our grandma, and our main goal is inhibiting her spirit within that space,” Sinead McElhone said. “She’s a very feisty, fun person that likes to have a good time. For her there’s no such thing as strangers, only friends you haven’t met, and that’s how we want people to feel coming into Molly O’s.”
Molly O’s, 1163 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos; 650-486-1370, Instagram: @mollyos_sancarlos. Open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.