Fibber McGees Brings Irish Taste to Sunset Beach
A patio with cornflower-hued market umbrellas, string lights, hot pink mandevilla trellises and the aroma of fresh seafood in the air might not bring to mind a traditional Irish pub. But that’s what you’ll find at Fibber McGees in Sunset Beach, an Irish pub with coastal flair.
Owner Rich Dobkin originally became familiar with Sunset Beach as a golf destination. After repeated visits to the area, he contacted a real estate agent and in November 2007 invested in two condo units. The thought of permanently settling in Sunset Beach became a reality when he conceptualized opening Brunswick County’s first Irish pub.
The restaurant idea stemmed from a nostalgic comedy radio show called Fibber McGee and Molly and an Arizona restaurant bearing the name of Fibber McGees, in which Dobkin had investment dealings. Dobkin had two main requirements: that the restaurant be nonsmoking (smoking in restaurants was still legal in North Carolina at that time) and to have a dog-friendly patio. Fibber McGees opened in Sunset Beach in 2008 with 12 employees.
Stepping inside the restaurant, you’ll quickly notice the rich tones of the caramel-hued and red oak walls and woodwork, much like a cozy Irish pub.
“The bar is special,” Dobkin says. “My carpenter, Brian Rooney, designed and built the bar from reclaimed red oak transported from the demolished St. Augustus Church in New City York. Brian’s dad was a member of the church.”
The menu includes a great range of comfort-food appetizers like fried green tomatoes, quesadillas, nachos, wings and Reuben spring rolls. Salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups and delicious sides (Guinness-battered onion rings, anyone?) fill the extensive menu, and there are some traditional Irish dishes like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Favorites, however, reflect the taste of coastal diners: seafood pie, the shrimp burgers and the fresh scallops, which arrive at the restaurant three times a week. The scallops are prepared on a seasoned griddle that adds a delicious flavor. Numerous selections of bottle and draft beers as well as wines and spirits are available.
Fibber’s staff includes several longtime employees. Alicia Cardenas, daytime cook and prep cook, has worked there for nine years. General Manager and Chef Steve Nehez hailed previously from Fibber’s on the Water in South Carolina before moving to the North Carolina location five years ago. Daytime manager and bartender John Thomas, who’s been with Fibber’s for more than five years, is revered by customers for his positive and easygoing attitude. Dobkin’s 20-year-old stepson, Aaron, works at the restaurant as well.
Dobkin says his customers like seeing the familiar faces, in addition to the consistency of the food and the cleanliness and comfort of his restaurant.
“They find this a warm, inviting place to hang out,” he says.
In turn, Dobkin and his staff enjoy seeing many of the same customer faces two to three times a week. Some have been dining here regularly since the grand opening. Many are locals, and others frequent Sunset Beach several times a year. For some returning vacationers, the pub is often their first stop. Fibber’s stays open later than most restaurants in the area, making it a good place to get a meal later in the evening on the way into town. The staff members know the regular patrons’ names, their preferred drinks down to the tiniest details and how they like their food prepared.
With the dog-friendly patio, the regulars keep company with their canine kids while dining, and the staff is quick to fill the doggy fountain for their drinking pleasure. One particular customer who dines at lunchtime always places a takeout order of two pieces of salmon for her fur babies. Some evenings there have been as many as five dogs outside, all well-behaved and coexisting with the other canines. Dobkin reminisces about watching a frequent customer’s Great Dane puppies grow up to adult dogs.
“I’ve seen it all,” he says, “everything from Tea Cup Chihuahuas to Bull Mastiffs!”
With Dobkin’s soft spot for dogs, it’s not unusual that he’s involved with Paws-Ability, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to assist local rescue groups and advance programs that benefit animal welfare in Brunswick County. Last fall Dobkin donated all the barbecue for the organization’s annual Bicycle Poker Run in Ocean Isle Beach. He praises Paws-Ability President Janie Withers for her great work with the organization.
Dobkin enjoys supporting veterans’ causes as well. He participated as a supporter at the Veterans Memorial Dedication Program last fall. The ceremony, held at Sunset Beach Town Park, honored men and women who’ve served our nation. In 2015 he was presented with a framed flag in recognition of his monetary donation and services provided to the Veterans Memorial Golf Tournament. He has been involved in several Brick Landing tournaments supporting veterans as well.
These days Rich lives in Leland with his wife, Carol, and canine kid, Jewels, a 2½-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever. Their “all American pound puppy” Samantha, a beloved family member, just recently passed at 13 years old.
Rich has taken on a modest presence at Fibber’s, serving in an administrative aspect on weekday mornings, and he’s a firm believer of reinvesting funds back into the restaurant. Real estate ventures and Top Shelf Sportfishing, (a charter fishing business) in Morehead City also keep him busy these days.
If you get a chance, pay a visit to Fibber McGees, where the staff is always cheery and if you come back a few times they’ll know your name. Raise a frosty glass of ale or stout to friends and family and enjoy the atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub in the coastal South.
Want to visit Fibber McGees?
1780-1 Queen Anne Street, Sunset Beach