In March thoughts turn to everything Irish in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, the quintessential Irish celebration. It certainly sounds like the perfect time to visit one or more of the East Coast’s primo Irish pubs. Here’s 10 that come highly recommended.
McSorley’s Old Ale House | 15 E. 7th St., New York City
McSorley’s is America’s oldest continuously operated Irish bar, opened in 1854 by John McSorley as an Irish working man’s saloon. In its 168-year history, the legendary institution has served only ale, both light and dark, and house sodas. Note that this is a cash-only business.
McSorley’s has plenty of atmosphere: sawdust on the floor, no bar stools, the original taps (which are no longer used), an original Wanted poster for Lincoln’s assassin, and Babe Ruth’s farewell photo from Yankee stadium. Its backroom – where ale continued to flow during Prohibition – still has the McSorley’s motto, “Be Good or Be Gone” mounted over the fireplace, as well as a portrait of a nude woman and her parrot, the only female in the place until 1970 when a court ordered the ale house to admit women. Check out the northwest corner for musician J. Giles’ gold record of his hit album “Love Stinks.”
Visit mcsorleysoldalehouse.nyc for more information.
McGillin’s Olde Ale House | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Catherine and William McGillin opened their Bell in Hand Tavern on Nov. 6, 1860, the same day Abraham Lincoln was elected president, making it Philadelphia’s oldest continuously operating tavern. The name changed to McGillin’s Olde Ale House 50 years later.
In addition to 30 beers on draft, McGillin’s offers regional microbrews, as well as bottled beers such as O’Haras Irish Stout, the only stout brewed exclusively in Ireland, and three house specialties — McGillin’s Real Ale, McGillin’s Genuine Lager, and McGillin’s 1860 IPA.
St. Patrick’s Day-themed cocktails include the Irish Potato Martini, a McGillin’s original, as well as Chocolate Leprechaun Martini, Nutty Irishman Coffee, Shamrock Hot Chocolate and Pot of Gold. Among the Irish food specials available through March 16 are bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, Irish lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage, and Emerald Isle corned beef cheesesteak.
Visit mcgillins.com for more information.
The Burren | Somerville, Massachusetts
The Burren has offered an authentic Irish experience with an old-world feel since January 1996. It takes its name from a region in the North of County Clare and East of County Galway; the word comes from an Irish word “Boíreann,” which means a rocky place.
Its drinks menu is extensive, offering 20 draft beers, including four Irish ones, plus a wide selection of bottles and cans. Irish and Scottish American whiskey, bourbon, gin and wine, and house cocktails such as the Irish Flower, Galway Girl, Irish Mule, Lucky Leprechaun and Four Leaf Clover are also available. Food includes the usual pub eats as well as Irish dishes such as Guinness beef stew, fish & chips, and shepherd’s pie, plus vegetarian and vegan options.
Visit burren.com for more information.
Galway Bay Irish Restaurant & Whiskey Bar | Annapolis, Maryland
Owners Michael Galway and Anthony Clarke have emphasized Irish hospitality and authenticity in Galway Bay since its opening in 1998. To create an atmosphere for conversation, Galway Bay has no televisions. The owners claim it is the only pub in Annapolis, and perhaps all of Maryland, with this policy.
Winner of the Irish Hospitality Global Award in 2019 for the Best Irish Whiskey Experience in the Americas, Galway’s whiskey bar features the state’s largest Irish whiskey selection, including more than 100 on their shelves, as well as rare and exclusive selections in bottles and flights. There’s also the exclusive craft brew Naptown Brown Ale, beer, wine, cocktails, and in season, Galway Bay’s Irish Eggnog. Irish fare on the menu includes fish and chips, corned beef Reuben and shepherd’s pie.
Every Sunday afternoon Galway Bay has traditional Irish music sessions in the bar, and St. Patrick’s Day month boasts even more live music on most Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Visit galwaybaymd.com/ for more information.
McGuire’s Irish Pub | Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola’s original 1927 Old Firehouse in 1982. The newer space has a vibe of a turn-of-the-century New York Irish Saloon. More than 1 million signed dollar bills hang from the pub’s ceilings and walls.
Its 615-seat restaurant serves traditional Irish fare such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips, as well as fine steakhouse selections. Most evenings, there’s live traditional Irish music and old favorites.
McGuire’s offers fine ales, porters, and stouts brewed with malted barley, imported hops, and its own house yeast in its on-the-premises traditional oak and coppery brewery. The regular lineup includes a light ale, an Irish red ale, an IPA, a porter and an Irish stout, with seasonal selections and even a root beer served right out of the keg.
Visit mcguiresirishpub.com for more information
May Kelly’s Cottage | North Conway, New Hampshire
This traditional Irish bar and restaurant is located in a picturesque yellow cottage above the Saco River. Its old-world interior is decorated with Irish flags, sports jerseys, vintage signs, and even an old post office counter (“Oifig an Phoist”); a mural on its outdoor patio depicts the famed Guinness toucans. The patio also offers stunning views of the river and Whitehorse Ledge.
On Sundays, musicians gather for a traditional “seisiun” (Gaelic for “session”), while the kitchen serves authentic Irish country cooking, such as shepherd’s pie, beef stew, meatloaf, and fish and chips — all with a special May Kelly’s twist. The full bar offers a unique collection of more than 100 Irish and Scotch whiskeys, a specialty cocktail menu, and cold draft and bottled beers.
Visit www.maykellys.com/ for more information.
The Dubliner | Washington, D.C.
In the nation’s capital near Union Station is an authentic Dublin pub named for James Joyce’s novel. Established in 1974, The Dubliner is one of the country’s largest sellers of Guinness Stout, and the only place to get Auld Dubliner Amber Ale. The Dubliner added Smithwick’s Ale when it became available in the U.S., and was the first U.S. pub to serve Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale. The Dubliner partnered with a historic distillery in Ireland to produce The Dubliner Irish Whiskey, a smooth-drinking blended whiskey aged in American Oak bourbon casks. They offer more than 100 of the world’s finest whiskies, plus beers on draft and in bottles and cans, signature cocktails, and wines.
They serve breakfast and have an all-day menu that includes fish and chips, Irish beef stew, a Guinness burger, and corned beef and cabbage. Live music by Irish entertainers begins at 7:30 p.m. every night.
Visit dublinerdc.com for more information.
The Fastnet is named for a small island and lighthouse off Ireland’s south coast; it also shares its name with a well-known United Kingdom yacht race. The reference to sailing and the sea make it a good fit for a traditional Irish pub in Newport’s yacht-filled harbor that hosts the America’s Cup sailing regatta.
Owned and managed by Irish natives, The Fastnet looks like a classic Irish bar, with its bank of windows that open onto the street, a façade hung with Irish flags and well-worn wood. The outdoor Grand Patio accommodates up to 184 people.
Among the 30-plus beers on tap are Irish favorites such as Guinness and Magner’s Cider. Whiskeys include Teeling, Midleton, and Glendalough. Also available are cocktails such as Bright and Windy, Foghorn Paloma and Figgy’s Dark N Stormy, as well as wine.
Fastnet favorites on the pub menu include fish and chips, bangers, beans and fries, plus other hearty fare. An authentic Irish breakfast of sausage, rashers and beans is offered on weekends.
For entertainment, there’s a traditional Irish music (and dancing) session at 6 p.m., Sundays, plus darts, billiards, foosball, and ping pong. Eight televisions are always on, for watching sailing, rugby and soccer.
McGrath’s Irish Pub | Killington, Vermont
The Green Mountains meet the Emerald Isle at McGrath’s Irish Pub, part of the Inn at Long Trail. Both businesses have been owned by the McGrath family since 1977.
The pub’s interior is filled with local wood and has one mountain boulder protruding from a wall, and another one serving as a bench. McGrath’s was the first Vermont bar to serve Guinness, and the first to stock Bailey’s. It boasts the state’s largest selection of Irish whiskies.
McGrath’s menu features Guinness beef stew, a “Paddy” Melt,” and an “Irish Reuben” (corned beef with red cabbage and melted Swiss cheese).
It has three dart boards, a large screen television for sports, and live Irish music on Fridays and Saturdays most of the year.
Visit http://www.innatlongtrail.com/mcgraths-irish-pub.html for more information.
The Harp and Hound | Mystic, Connecticut
Shortly after moving to the seaport village of Mystic in October 2002, Leo Roche, a native of County Limerick, opened a classic Irish pub in one of the town’s oldest buildings, dating to the early 1700s. The Daughters of the American Revolution held some of their earliest meetings there. Roche gutted the building and transformed it to resemble the pubs of the Ireland he knew growing up – complete with original Irish road signs, and simple but cozy furniture imported from Ireland.
The Harp, as it’s known by locals, offers a selection of draft and bottled beers, Irish and Scottish whiskies, as well as Irish coffees, martinis and other cordials. Its pub fare features shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, as well as “black and tan” beer-battered onion rings and an Angus burger with whiskey ketchup.
Local bands are scheduled on weekends, and three flat-screen televisions are on for watching live English Premier League football.
Visit harpandhound.com for more information.
by Ellyn Wexler