TWINSBURG – When a couple closed the doors to their previous restaurant business and traveled to Ireland in 1995, they didn't count on the impact and charm of the local pubs — inspiring them to bring a bit o' Ireland back to town.

"We fell in love with Ireland and dreamed of this while doing other careers," Bill and Mary Jo Demopoulos said before they opened Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub in 2001 at 8870 Darrow Road in downtown Twinsburg. "We love to eat, and we love people."

While Bill is Greek and Mary Jo is Irish, the name Mavis Winkle’s originates from a loving and joyful character in a play that conveys the Irish spirit. They considered combining their ethnicities in a restaurant, but the Irish won out — although Bill has proposed a possible Greek night in the future.

Each time they visited an Irish pub on their travels, Bill asked Mary Jo, "What strikes you the most?"

That running list — whether it was unique hanging lamps, a particular dark wood or a stacked stone fireplace — became the interior of Mavis Winkle's Irish Pub.

An Irish pub isn't a bar, but rather a gathering place for families, Bill says.

"Pubs provide warm service and are welcoming to any age group," Mary Jo said. "Major decisions are made at pubs."

Bartender and supervisor Amanda Wyatt has worked at Mavis Winkle's for five years.

"It has a very homey feeling, and the staff has a family feeling and guests pick up on that," Wyatt said. "Our customers become family."

One frequent guest is Doug Thistlethwaite, who works in Twinsburg and stops by at least once a week for a meal.

"The potato soup is delicious. A for-sure to order," he said. "I haven't found anything on the menu I don't like."

Thistlethwaite also recommends trying the specials, printed on a monthly menu and available online. Some include the Meatloaf Meal on Mondays; Wing Day on Wednesdays; and a half-slab of BBQ rib dinner on Fridays.

Mavis Winkle's has seating for about 200 inside with 40 more on a dog-friendly canopy-covered patio.

The restaurant opened March 14, 2001, four days before St. Patrick's Day — and service was non-stop.

"It was like opening the floodgates," Mary Jo said.

Even today, those planning to visit around St. Patrick's Day should make reservations, she warned.

Bill and Mary Jo have a long history in food service that dates back to 1980 when they founded Toby’s Sandwich Shop in Garfield Heights and opened another in 1983 in Independence. The Garfield Heights location became a full service, 110-seat restaurant and sports bar, and a catering service was added.

Mavis Winkle's offers rooms for banquets, curbside carry-out and off-premise catering for small and large groups with 48-hour notice.

In addition, live music takes place on Saturdays, with The Boomers performing Feb. 17 and March 24.

The work of photographer Scott MacGregor (www.irishphotos.com) is displayed on the walls and captures the beauty of Ireland. In addition, the two-sided fireplace has handcrafted mantles (made by local artist Patrick Foley of Irish Workshop) with two special Irish toasts in Gaelic that translate to "God bless all who gather here" and "Cheers! God grant health to all who gather here."

Popular dishes include corned beef, shepherd's pie and fish and chips made with haddock, Mary Jo said.

The menu and daily specials go beyond corned beef, colcannon and boxty, to embrace cuisines of the ethnic-rich Northeastern Ohio. Those choices include steak, seafood, calamari, BBQ ribs and chicken. A special Lenten menu offers a variety of fish dishes such as O’Linn’s Fish & Chips, grilled salmon, haddock, lake perch, Mediterranean shrimp pasta and Tuscan salmon.

For menu and more information, visit www.maviswinkles.com

Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com