Sometimes it takes going to another country to find out how good a place is. That was the case with The Celtic Ray.
My wife and I have been going there for many years for their tasty food and warm atmosphere. When relatives visit and want a good Irish pub, The Celtic Ray is the only choice. I always got a kick taking my brother and his wife there for dinner.
“I can’t believe I have to come to Florida for authentic Irish/English food.” I’d hear on the ride back.
That was until my wife and I went to Ireland last year. The experience of visiting multiple cities and all the pubs in them, showed us how The Celtic Ray is an Irish pub. In fact, it is so authentically Irish that if you picked it up and dropped in off in Killkenny, Dublin, or Gallway that people wouldn’t even notice that it was of U.S. origin.
It’s done well in Punta Gorda. So well in fact, that it has tripled in size. Don’t let that fool you. When The Celtic Ray first started, it was so small that it defined the word intimate. If I had to throw out a figure on its size back then, I’d say the dining area and bar were maybe 500 square feet tops. Now The Celtic Ray has branched out into the building next door, offering more bar space, dining room both upstairs and down as well as a stage for live music.
The music was good the night we were there. The singer mixed Irish folk tunes with American ones. The audience must’ve been regulars for they sang along with every song. The entire event brought me back to Ireland.
I have to admit though, that there is one major difference between The Celtic Ray and all the pubs in Ireland. The Celtic Ray does not serve Budweiser. In fact, they do not serve any common domestic beer. If you want Bud, Miller, Busch, Mic, or any other usual big brand beer, go to a usual bar. If you want beer with flavor and body, go to The Ray. The beer is hearty and memorable.
The food is also hearty and memorable. There are choices of both Irish and English food and many is it good. It is the only place I will go to get a rack of lamb and their pasties are out of this world!
The food is so good that even after working outside in 98 degree heat with 80+ percent humidity, you still crave what would be considered a heavy meal. If you want something familiar, go with the traditional fish and chips. It’s so good it would make John Oliver weep for joy. He would feel right at home.
And that’s what I had to leave the United States to figure out. If I had never visited Ireland, I would’ve never known how authentic The Celtic Ray truly is. I would’ve thought it was just an American bar with a good Irish feel to it. Now I know it is a true Irish Pub. If you’re ever down in Southwest Florida you should come to The Celtic Ray in Punta Gorda and see for yourself. You’ll be amazed.