Okay, so, we know by now that the Irish pub in America is a thing. Every town in the country has at least one that locals claim offers the best pour of Guinness, the best music, the best bartenders, or is the most authentically Irish-themed with “My Goodness, My Guinness” signs abounding. But there are some that stand a cut above the rest. So, here are a few Irish pubs on this side of the pond that we’ve singled out for what makes them unique from all the others.
AN BEAL BOCHT CAFE
The Bronx, NY
Named for Flann O’Brien’s 1941 Irish-language novel (the title translates to “the poor mouth”), is much more than just a pub—it’s also an art gallery and performance space for music, poetry, and theater. Unlike many of the other bars on the list, it opened as a cafe in 1991 where artists and performers could gather and share their work. A few years later they acquired a liquor license and expanded into an adjacent storefront, providing ample space for art to hang, seisuns to play, and of course, for guests to eat and drink. Their website even features pints of Guinness atop a fleet of yellow cabs—a cheeky New York homage to John Gilroy’s famed Guinness toucan ads.
New Orleans, LA
Owned and operated by a couple from Belfast, Finn McCool’s is the spot to watch a soccer match in the Big Easy. In addition to soccer games from all over the world, the pub keeps things Irish by airing Gaelic football and hurling matches, too. Located in the Mid-City neighborhood, the bar especially deserves a nod because its own football club organized to reconnect the local community after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
Jamaica Plain, MA
Doyle’s is less of a local bar than it is a Boston institution. Established as a one-room pub in 1882, it has grown into a popular destination for locals and visitors. It’s said to have been a favorite haunt of the Kennedy family, and the bar’s new banquet room is named for the Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino.
In addition to Irish brews, Doyle’s is home to a large selection of Sam Adams beers—the brewery lies just down the road, and the bar was the first in America to offer Boston Lager on draft.
KEVIN BARRY’S IRISH PUB
In 1920, 18-year-old IRA volunteer Kevin Barry was the first republican executed by the British since the leaders of the Easter Rising. Despite excruciating torture, he refused to inform on his comrades, which earned veneration in the press, popular ballads, and in 1980, a Savannah, GA pub named in his honor. In fact, the owners so admired the bar’s namesake that they made sure to open up shop 60 years to the day after Barry’s execution. The tavern offers a lovely riverfront view but lacks TV and Wi-Fi, forcing patrons to—gasp!—enjoy one another’s company. The bar’s second floor features a “Hall of Heroes,” a salute to service members and a nod to the military martyr for whom the pub is named.
CREGEEN’S IRISH PUB
North Little Rock, AR
Named for the Irish word for “little rock,” Cregeen’s puts an emphasis on authenticity—like Rí Rá, their bar was built in Dublin and then sent to Arkansas. They offer an impressive menu, as well: 50 beers on tap and over 200 whiskeys. Irish favorites, of course, are the most popular when it comes to food—visitors delight in shepherd’s pie, Harp-battered fish and chips, and house-made bread pudding with Jameson sauce.
Like no other pub on this list, Shinnick’s is a true family affair. The South Side bar had been in operation for almost 60 years before George and Mary Shinnick bought the place in 1938. They raised their children in the small apartment behind the pub, and in 1966, their son George Jr. and his wife took over operations. In keeping with their Irish Catholic roots, the couple had nine children, all of whom began helping out in the bar as teenagers. Today, those nine siblings are co-owners of the spot, which conveys a sense of history and familiarity that goes beyond its cozy mahogany-laiden interior.
THE OLD SHILLELAGH
In 1975, retired Detroit police officer John Brady opened the Old Shillelagh in downtown Motor City. Brady, who was raised in Dublin, expanded the bar quickly, adding a second floor the following year. Roughly a decade later, his daughter, Barb, took the reins and inaugurated an annual tented party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which remains the largest Paddy’s Day celebration in the area. The Old Shillelagh is now in its third generation of family ownership and makes sure to keep things celebratory (and safe) year-round with their free shuttles to local sporting events and concerts.
JOHN D. MCGURK’S
St. Louis, MO
On its website, McGurk’s is described as “20,000 square feet of pure Irish fun.” Three quarters of that square footage is a massive outdoor garden, featuring a waterfall, fountain, and not one, but three outdoor bars. What began as small pub in 1978 has expanded into a massive complex that maintains its authentic feel with Irish decor and live music nightly. It’s earned a top spot on several lists of the nation’s “best” and “most authentic” Irish pubs, including those in National Geographic, Esquire, and Buzzfeed.
BRAZEN HEAD PUB
Like many of the establishments on this list, Omaha’s Brazen Head is named for an Irish legend—in this case, it is Ireland’s oldest pub. Dublin’s Brazen Head was built as a hostelry in 1198 on Bridge Street, just at the head of the River Liffey. Romans guarded the gated entry into the city of Dublin, and on cold, damp nights, would warm their hands by fires called “brazers.” The building’s location and these fires may have given the pub its name. Robert Emmet stayed in a room above the pub during the rebellion of 1798—its proximity to Dublin Castle made it a prime location for spotting approaching enemies (read: the British).
Omaha’s Brazen Head pub was designed in the same city as its namesake, then constructed in County Wexford. The rich wood fixtures, tiled mosaic floors, and Irish bric-a-brac add coziness and authenticity to the space. In keeping with their Dublin legacy, their special events room honors Robert Emmet, and they feature live Irish music every Wednesday night. Their menu even features an entire section of combined drafts, a popular pub offering in Ireland, such as the Snakebite (cider, in this case, Woodchuck, and Harp) and the famous Black and Tan—typically a blend of Guinness and Bass, but the Brazen Head offers an American touch by substituting New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire as a complement to the Guinness.
Las Vegas, NV
An authentic Irish bar in Mandalay Place? We know what you’re thinking. It’s as authentic as it can get for anywhere outside Ireland, though—the entire interior of Rí Rá was constructed from materials salvaged from various Irish bars and restored in County Wicklow before being shipped to Nevada! The vintage fittings give the pub a cozy, relaxed feel, making it a perfect spot for a refreshing pint of the black stuff before you’re back off to the blackjack table, the boutiques, or, well, whatever else it is you’re up to in Sin City.
MOLLY MALONE’S IRISH PUB
Los Angeles, CA
“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on Miss Molly Malone.” Everyone knows Dublin city’s unofficial anthem (with its origins sometime in the 19th century), and the eponymous “Tart with the Cart” statue stands in front of Dublin’s tourist information office on Suffolk Street. LA’s own Molly Malone came onto the scene a little more recently—1969, to be exact. The pub’s been owned and operated by the same family for over 45 years, and the walls are covered with over 70 portraits by Irish painter Neil Boyle. The paintings feature famous Irish figures as well as Molly Malone’s patrons and staff.
In keeping with its musical heritage, Molly Malone’s offers live tunes several nights a week, but don’t come in expecting only your traditional Irish seisúns—this is a serious music venue, not just a pub with music. Their lineup runs the gamut from acoustic and indie sets to bluegrass and reggae. Flogging Molly used to play a weekly set there, and even artists like Weezer, Tears for Fears, and Lenny Kravitz have graced their stage.
MCSORLEY’S OLD ALE HOUSE
New York, NY
Of course, any list of notable Irish bars would be remiss not to mention New York’s oldest continually-operating saloon, McSorley’s Old Ale House, opened in 1854 (of course, it didn’t allow women through its doors until 1970). Can you enjoy a whiskey in this establishment, which has been visited by everyone from Abraham Lincoln to John Lennon? No, they only serve beer. Can you get a pint of Guinness there and drink it at the front table where Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement? Also no—your two options are McSorley’s house brews, which are either dark or light. Can you eat there? Technically, yes. (The menu’s cheese plate is little more than slices of cheddar cheese with a side of saltines.)
What McSorley’s lacks in suds and snacks it more than makes up for in its legendary status as a living museum. Photographs and paraphernalia from the bar’s long history adorn every surface, and it’s rumored that those dusty wishbones adorning the lamps above the bar were left by soldiers leaving for WWII, with the hopes they’d return and retrieve them. It’s a must-visit for tourists and locals alike.
Looking for a bit of authentic Irish food you don’t have to leave the house for? Check out ShamrockGift.com’s great selection of Irish food hampers and gift baskets that ship right to your door. Plus, browse our range of Irish apparel that will make you feel like you’re in a real Irish pub wherever you go, including a wide selection of official Guinness merchandise.