Dane Gray’s history in authentic hospitality is apparent in his vibrant friendliness and his restaurant’s welcoming warmth.
Our owner was born and raised in Australia, and spent five years working in Ireland before moving to the States. In Australia, he first became acquainted with friendly central meeting places where people would gather for food and drink. Dane notes that Australia’s bar-oriented culture is similar to Ireland’s, and that many families conjoin for meals in beer gardens.
“One of the most exciting moments is turning 18 over there and being able to go and experience it for yourself,” he explained. “It’s an important experience to walk in with your dad and have beers together for the first time. It’s a rite of passage.”
In Ireland, Dane managed the Morrison Hotel, an upscale spot for music icons and movie stars who were passing through Dublin. Here is where Dane really learned the ins and outs of management and hospitality. He recalls, “I had the absolute privilege of looking after Matthew McConaughey for six months. He was filming the movie Reign of Fire and he didn’t want a house, so he stayed in the hotel for six months straight.” He fondly continued, “We got to see him every day and he was an absolute gentleman. We had drinks and went to concerts together; I’d find him in the middle of Dublin playing bongos with some random people he met. It was fantastic.”
Meeting McConaughey is one of many stories Dane has from his days in Ireland, including some from the kitchen. He said, “When I managed the Morrison Hotel, there were these really cranky French chefs. I vowed never to work in food and beverage again for my entire life.” Dane couldn’t keep his promise, and his career in food and beverage continued once he decided to move to Philadelphia. He got a job managing at Kildare’s Irish Pub, worked up to overseeing seven locations at once, and eventually got the chance to take ownership of his dream location in downtown West Chester.
Those unmistakable Irish cultural ties are ingrained in Dane’s mentality at Kildare’s in West Chester: It’s his work ethic. He recalls his first job - picking up empty glasses at a racetrack when he was 14 - and chuckles, “Not even sure I got paid, to be honest.” He’s been around food and beverage in a more legitimate way since then. It truly began when he moved to Ireland at age 21.
Of the transition to the States, Dane jokes, “I haven’t worked with any French chefs since I’ve been over here, but I’m up to me elbows in authentic Irish food and beverage!” With his wife in the kitchen, Dane takes a hands-on role as general manager at Kildare’s, and can be seen chatting around on a daily basis. He says, “I’ve worked in some other restaurants, more formalized stuff, but it doesn’t really excite or interest me as much as the Irish pub atmosphere or the good talks you have with random strangers and regulars. The pub culture really suits me. It’s not stuffy, and that’s what I really like about it.”
Dane also noted a societal difference between Ireland and America “I always use coffee as a good analogy. When you go for coffee over there, you’re going for the coffee as much as the 10 minutes you get to sit down and enjoy your coffee. It’s a bit more of an experience than grabbing a 64-ounce and guzzling it all day.” Dane’s mindfulness and ability to slow down is crucial to what makes Kildare’s successful.
We’re lucky to be guided by that friendly and welcoming attitude. Dane says, “There’s days I drink my gallon of coffee, too, but I think it comes down to the culture. I’m very hands-on; I operate as the general manager to the nth degree. The truth is, I just love being here. If I had a day off to chill, there’s every chance I’d be sitting in our little pub anyway.”
At Kildare’s in West Chester, we strive to serve quality beer and food, but our bigger goal is to create a space where you feel compelled to come for every reason and for no reason. So stop on by, even if just to chat!
Kildare’s in West Chester is a destination: an authentic Irish pub that has something for everyone. We’re a place to bring the family for weekend brunch; cheer your favorite soccer (or American football) team; enjoy next-level fare at a business lunch, dinner with friends or special event; spend happy hour (questionable dance moves and all); and, of course, imbibe great beer, whiskey and other adult libations. Join us and find out why we’re not your average Irish pub.