Defining the qualities that make up a great Irish pub is a bit like trying to map a path to that elusive pot ‘o gold — you can feel it when you’re on the right track, but the signs for how you get there are never the same.
There are, of course, some obvious touchstones. A great beer list is generally regarded as a must — with a barkeep that knows how to pull a proper pint — and bonus points to the place that also boasts a solid list of Irish whiskeys. As for the look of the place, aside from the usual dark wood furnishings, it’s all those tiny details that contribute to bar feeling as though it has been lived in — right down to the regulars and barkeeps, each with their assigned places like pieces on a chessboard. Add to that, in certain cases, touches like TVs screening overseas football and rugby matches, or lives bands playing traditional tunes.
But most importantly, what counts in a great Irish bar is the atmosphere. Those pubs with that more or less intangible quality of a space that is at once cozy and raucous. They're charming and homey, but with a fun-loving spirit and just the slightest ounce of attitude.
So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, here are 12 favorite Irish bars around the country.