March 1, 2024

Couple Shares Passion for Community at McCracken’s Irish Pub

5.7 min read| Published On: March 1st, 2024|

By Gina Horan

Couple Shares Passion for Community at McCracken’s Irish Pub

5.7 min read| Published On: March 1st, 2024|

Dynamic Duo

Patrick Kelley and Melissa McCracken

Melissa McCracken met Patrick Kelley over a game of pool and pitcher of beer on the island of Oahu, where she was studying marketing and journalism at Hawaii Pacific University, and he was stationed as a United States Marine. 

Fourteen years later, they are married and the proud, hard-working owners of the very popular McCracken’s Irish Pub in downtown Leesburg. 

“We had been dreaming of this and planning every detail for years,” Melissa says. 

The couple moved to Leesburg in 2012 and quickly became a part of the hospitality scene by tending bar in various locations. 

“Our experience with local hospitality gave us the inspiration to open here,” Melissa says. “We also wanted to be a part of a downtown that had a heart for its locals. We waited and waited for the right spot, and when this space became available, we knew in our hearts it was perfect.”

They chose 719 W. Main Street at the gateway to downtown Leesburg for perfect visibility, great parking and a storefront feel.  

Without financial assistance or investors, Melissa, 44, and Patrick, 37, spent months working together day and night to get the doors open while bartending elsewhere to cover their personal expenses. They finally opened in November of 2022.

“It took a lot to open, but it was worth it,” says Patrick, who built the bar and dining room from scratch, including the custom booths and bar top. He also refurbished used equipment found online or obtained from other restaurants. 

Melissa designed the bar and food menus, did the marketing and crunched numbers. Together they tirelessly pushed through the endless paperwork, permits and red tape.  

The result is a hugely successful business in an industry that sees a lot of failure. 

They say they are grateful to belong to a supportive and friendly collective of like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners.

“We’re excited because we are in a little bit of a renaissance in downtown Leesburg,” Melissa says.

And McCracken’s is embedded in the community, starting with their valued employees. 

“We’re like family,” Melissa says. “When we opened, we made a conscious decision to hire people who had a heart for service and really cared about the guest experience. So, we hand-picked a team that had that gift of being hospitality ‘lifers.’”

Melissa and Patrick are at McCracken’s every day to support their staff, and even treated their employees to a free Christmas Eve to be with their families. 

“Patrick ran the kitchen, and I ran the bar,” Melissa says. “We just banged it out together.”

Since opening, McCracken’s has poured more than 9,000 pints of Guinness and served more than 82,000 guests. Now, Melissa and Patrick are expanding McCracken’s to the space next door to accommodate large parties and guests waiting to be seated. They also plan to add shuffleboard, foosball and dartboards for a dart league. 

Melissa says that their biggest source of pride is that people show up not just to eat and drink but to hang out with her, Patrick and their team. 

“Our core values are everything to us and include service, consistency, culture and community,” Melissa says. “If we can’t give good service, people won’t come back.”

As for the future, the couple plan to stay for the long haul and do what they do best, but with a bigger footprint.

“Our long-term goal is to open a second downtown concept,” Melissa says. “We love Leesburg and can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

On the Menu

McCracken’s Irish Pub offers something for everyone, which has been the plan from the beginning. 

“We wanted to do a 50-50 combination of traditional Irish fare and classic American dishes to appeal to the masses,” Melissa says. “Sometimes you don’t want a shepherd’s pie, you just want a great burger, and we are happy to provide that option.”

Popular Irish-inspired entrees include fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and the corned beef and cabbage slaw sandwich. Classics include a BLT, pot roast dinner, loaded mac and cheese and a hand-smashed quarter-pound patty melt on rye.

There is one dish, however, that outsells them all.

“Hands down, the shepherd’s fries are the most popular with our crowd,” Melissa says. “It’s a shareable plate of thick-cut fries with shepherd’s pie mix, beer cheese, housemade Guinness glaze, sour cream and parsley, which everyone loves.”

For the late-night crowd, a limited menu includes fried calamari, buffalo fries and their signature pint of Shamrock Bacon, served in a Guinness glass.

No matter what time of day you visit McCracken’s, you’ll find a culture of service-oriented people, yummy food and community.

“We have created a home away from home here in Leesburg, and we love that we are a part of people’s everyday lives,” says Melissa.  


Irish Charm Cocktail

  • 12 oz. highball filled with ice
  • 1.5 oz. Absolut
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germain
  • 1/2 oz. lavender syrup
  • 6 oz. ginger beer
  1. Serve over ice with a lemon peel garnish.

Whiskey Burger

  • 6 oz. beef patty seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 slice white cheddar
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 2 oz. brown sugar caramelized red onions
  • 1 oz. special whiskey BBQ sauce
  • 1 slice of Romaine lettuce
  • 1 sliced tomato
  • 2 oz. French’s crispy onions
  • 1 pub bun
  1. Start with 6 oz. of ground beef, lightly dusted with salt and pepper and hand pattied.
  2. Then put patty on a flat-top grill and cook to desired temperature.
  3. Butter the pub bun and toast on the flat-top.
  4. Right before the burger is done, place two pieces of crispy bacon criss cross on top of the patty.
  5. Top with a slice of white cheddar and cover with a pan to steam and melt the cheese. 
  6. To build the burger, top the bottom toasted pub bun with romaine lettuce, a tomato slice and the burger patty with bacon and cheese.
  7. Top the patty with brown sugar caramelized onions then French’s crispy onions and finish with McCracken’s special whisky BBQ sauce.
  8. Add pickle spear and your choice of sides — the most popular at McCracken’s is French fries fried in 100% soybean oil and dusted with fine ground salt, grated parmesan and chopped parsley.  
  9. McCracken’s other sides include cole slaw, applesauce, peas & carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, broccoli or boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake with sour cream and parsley.

Onion Sage Chicken

  • 5 oz. chicken breast, marinated in Italian seasonings and salt
  • 4 oz. mashed potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes, heavy whipping cream, butter, salt and pepper to taste)
  • 2 oz. brown sugar caramelized onions
  • 2 oz. peas
  • 2 oz. carrots
  • 2 oz. balsamic Guinness glaze
  • 2 oz. candied bacon
  • 1 oz. fresh chiffonade of sage
  1. Cook the marinated chicken breast on flat-top until done.
  2. On the center of an oval plate, place the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, then sauté the peas and carrots and place them around the mashed potatoes, creating a moat of buttery goodness.
  3. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes, add caramelized onions and a fresh chiffonade of sage, then drizzle with swirls of balsamic Guinness glaze.
  4. Top with candied bacon. 

Fish Dip

  • 5 oz. fish dip (smoked mahi, celery, onions, seasoning)
  • 1 oz. Terrapin Ridge pepper bacon jam
  • 12 pita chips
  • 12 pickled jalapeños
  • spring mix
  1. On an oval plate, assemble ingredients.
  2. Start with a bed of spring mix, then put a 5 oz. scoop of smoked fish dip on the mix.
  3. Press the pepper bacon jam into the dip to create a divot so the jam doesn’t fall down the sides.
  4. Next to the dip on the plate, put the pickled jalapeños and pair with 12 crunchy pita chips for dipping. 

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About the Author: Gina Horan

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