Even history buffs might not know the name Hercules Mulligan.
Learning about him is one reason to step into Patriots Grill, located on the right as you drive toward Gloucester Village from Route 17. A few others include . . .
The famous Fish and Chips.
Southern belle fries with pulled pork on top.
Yummy burgers and other pub favorites.
“I like to think our menu has something for everyone,” says owner Gabe Heffner.
Mulligan, by the way, was an Irish-American patriot during the Revolutionary War, a pal to Alexander Hamilton and a former tailor-turned-spy who embedded himself with British troops and fed significant tactical military information back to George Washington.
The initial owner of Patriots Grill, Patrick O’Carroll, was such a fan of Mulligan’s that he made him the mascot of Patriots Grill. It’s a tradition Heffner decided to keep when he took over ownership in June 2019.
“I liked it and the name because I love our country,” Heffner said. “We’ve tried to keep everything Irish. St. Paddy’s day is big here.”
The low-key restaurant includes a mural of Mulligan, framed copies of the Revolution Papers that document the Irish Revolution and an Irish flag. Irish soccer jerseys are in house, too, as is a painting of George Washington delivering Mulligan a meal.
Heffner didn’t mess with the menu much when he took over for O’Carroll, though he added a shrimp po’boy accentuated by a delicious homemade sauce. He still smokes meats and aims for local ingredients whenever possible. Patriots Grill was recently recognized for its North Carolina barbecue by SmokeGears.com.
“We make our own sauce and our barbecue’s awesome,” Heffner said.
It’s a quiet spot for lunch, which Patriots Grill just started serving on weekdays.
“I like people to be able to have a conversation without yelling,” Heffner said.
Owning a restaurant is something of a dream for Louisiana-born Heffner, who had a longtime career in fleet maintenance in Georgia before moving to Richmond 15 years ago. He and wife, Bobbie Jo, live in King and Queen, making for a 40-mile one-way trek to Gloucester regularly but one minus the congestion of the interstate.
Heffner couldn’t have picked up a worse time to start on the new venture given the COVID-19 pandemic, though he was able to retain all of his staff. Now like many restaurant owners, he’s weathering a labor shortage.
The Main Street Association and his fellow shop owners have made him feel part of Gloucester Village. “Everybody has been so welcoming,” he said.
Patriots Grill contributes to Helping the Homeless Ministry, which provides free meals to people in need all over the Middle Peninsula. Heffner, dad to three dogs of his own, also loves working with Gloucester Humane Society and would like to partner for an adoption day event soon.
Patriots Grill will cater its first wedding this fall with plans to make that a regular part of business. The menu will expand and Heffner looking to upgrade the out front.
If you haven’t stopped in for a while, Heffner invites you to drop by for lunch or dinner whether you want a history lesson or a tasty meal with an Irish flair.
Patriots Grill at 7313 Main St., in Gloucester is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Sunday hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m.