Anyone can open a bar, paint it green and call it an Irish pub. But not everyone does it right, says John Sheppard, owner of the new Cattle 'n Clover Irish Steakhouse in Wildwood.

"Wildwood needed a traditional Irish pub," Sheppard says.

In a nod to its hallmark holiday, Cattle 'n Clover celebrated its grand opening over St. Patty's weekend. It's located on the corner of Spicer and Pacific avenues, in the space of the former Kahuna's Bar and Grill, which closed in the fall. Before Kahuna's, it was the Rainbow Club.

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"The first place Chubby Checker ever sang his song and did the twist," Sheppard says.

Like his restaurant, Sheppard also has rich roots in Wildwood. A South Philadelphia native, Sheppard spent many of his summers in the city. His father, Harry Sheppard, was owner of North Wildwood's old "Harry the Hat's," replaced by Keenan's Irish Pub in the mid-'90s.

Still today, his family owns another Irish pub in South Philadelphia, Dee's Pub, named for his mom.

"My life and love has always been in Irish pubs," he says.

Upcoming special events:

To help get them on the map, Cattle 'n Clover Irish Steakhouse is hosting a trio of soft openings before its first full-time season which starts in May.

But really, there's nothing "soft" about these events. They're more like three grand openings, Sheppard says. Each features outdoor tents, all-day live music and specialty food and drinks from noon 'til the last drunk guy stumbles out.

The first one was its St. Patty's Day event, which packed the pub and brought approximately 10,000 people to Pacific Avenue.

Next is its Spring Rally festival on Saturday, April 28, followed by a Cinco de Mayo festival on Saturday, May 5.

The latter will kick off the official daily opening of Cattle 'n Clover Irish Steakhouse.

Authentic Food:

If "Cattle" represents "meat and potatoes" and "Clover" represents "the Irish," then Sheppard himself represents Cattle 'n Clover's signature dish - the shepherd's pie."What's more Irish Pub than a shepherd's pie?" he says.

A shameless pun on his name, and because the recipe is so good, shepherd's pie is the featured dish at Cattle 'n Clover Irish Steakhouse. The restaurant debuted its shepherd's pie recipe in large quantity during its grand opening event - we're talking one 1,790-pound shepherd's pie made in an attempt to reach a Guinness World Record.

They didn't reach the record, but according to its countless tasters, the recipe was a winner, Sheppard says. It will appear on its menu next month when the kitchen officially opens. Other menu must-try items include its C 'n C steaks and burgers.

And plenty of alcohol:

Cattle 'n Clover carries more than 30 whiskeys, two dozen specialty house cocktails and 25 draft beers with Irish favorites like Guinness, Harp Lager and Smithwick's.

Happy Hour be 4 to 6 p.m. every Friday.

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