While at one time in its long history, The Plough & Stars provided a more traditional Irish pub experience, these days, they’ve strayed some from convention in favor of popular music acts, and a more contemporary menu which takes its cues less from Ireland itself, and more from all the places around the U.S. that the Irish have made their home. Lacking in the cheesy trademarked tchotchkes, The Plough & Stars has historic literary pedigree — the revered journal Ploughshares was founded here, and takes the bar as its namesake.
Among the newer pubs on this list, The Grafton in Chicago blends time-honored tradition with a contemporary gastropub feel. The food is terrific, and the Guinness takes a good two minutes to pour. The Grafton has really embraced the idea of a public house, offering a comfy place to read or get some work done during the afternoon and on weekends, and a relaxed atmosphere in which to unwind at night.
Boston, New York, and Chicago traditionally get all the attention for their Irish heritage, but let’s not forget that the Deep South was also founded by Scotch-Irish immigrants. It only makes sense that one of the country’s historic Irish pubs lives in Savannah, GA. In a town where it’s okay to drink on the street, Kevin Barry’s is home not only to a good pint and good music, but also to the Hall of Heroes, an upstairs room devoted to military memorabilia.
I didn’t know it was possible for an Irish Pub to be both traditional and trendy, but Wilfie & Nell has cracked the code. Cozy and dark, just like a good pub ought to be, it’s their menu that elevates the place to a contemporary bastion of a newer age. While the items read as classic Irish fare — shepherd’s pie, Scotch eggs, corned beef sandwiches — it’s their local sourcing and updated preparation that really makes this spot shine. Plus, unlike most eateries in Manhattan, the food is actually affordable here.
Named for Bessie Dee Riley, the daughter of an Irish immigrant in Texas, B.D. Riley’s pub boasts an impressive stock of beer and Irish whiskey. Sourcing much of their interior directly from Ireland, the bar’s proprietors have succeeded in making the place both authentic and singular. The menu is a favorite of actual Irish ex-pats, and has won awards saying as much. Of course, it being Austin and all, there’s great music as well.
In operation for over 40 years, Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles is a great place for a pint, a bite of fish & chips, and an intimate concert. While you’ll still hear Irish troubadours once in a while, the stage at Molly Malone’s has also seen the likes of Flogging Molly, Lucinda Williams, and Lenny Kravitz.
Tucked down an alley in downtown San Francisco, The Irish Bank is cozy and inviting. Its outdoor patio feels like a world away from the Financial District, a great place to relax and have a pint with their signature Reuben sandwich or homemade mac n’ cheese.
Given that this San Francisco bar lays claim to being the original American home to the Irish Coffee (a claim disputed by Tom Bergin’s in Los Angeles), I’m going to give up the goods: the secret to authentic Irish coffee is a tablespoon of dark brown sugar stirred into the steaming brew before adding whiskey and cream. Not sure Bergin’s has a leg to stand on; the Buena Vista has a plaque backing up its story.
Opened by the son of Syracuse, New York’s famous Coleman’s Saloon 40 years ago, The Dubliner is named for James Joyce’s eponymous collection. The pub is our nation’s largest purveyor of Guinness, and the only place in the country you’ll find the bar’s exclusive Amber Ale and Irish Lager, brewed specially for them in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
Founded in 1936, this bar is the apocryphal inspiration for the 80s sitcom, “Cheers,” and is in perpetual dispute with San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café as the originator of the Irish coffee. Known for its unrivaled St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the shamrocks plastered on nearly every surface, Tom Berigan’s is also one of the oldest operating bars in LA.
Fenian’s is widely considered the best Irish Pub in Michigan, and for good reason. After the town’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade, everyone ends up here (free of charge, no less), for a day of live Celtic music, food, and of course, plenty of drink.
Established in 1882, Doyle’s is located right down the road from the Samuel Adam’s Brewery, and was the first bar ever to feature Sam Adam’s Boston Lager on draught. A historic favorite of the Kennedys, Doyle’s has also made its way to the silver screen in movies that include Mystic River.
So, do you remember the scene in Scorcese’s The Departed where Leo satisfyingly gets his arm broken on a pool table? Yup, that was filmed right here. Fifty years of history behind it, this place is a no-frills drinking establishment in the heart of Sunset Park. They will often serve free food with their $5 pints of beautifully poured Guinness. You can’t beat that deal anywhere in New York!
Opened originally in 1860, McGillin’s is Philly’s oldest tavern and it’s still one of the city’s very best. Frequented by locals and politicians, the ship bell behind the bar singles out the good tippers from the bad ones. It’s also a perfect place to catch a Phillies game in the summertime.
The Corrib started its life almost half a century ago as workingman’s bar, and meeting place for Irish-American labor organizers. Today, The Corrib is home to good food, good people, and an authentic Irish immigrant provenance. Buy a round for the bar, and they’ll love you forever.
Cited over and over as one of New York’s most authentic Irish pubs, Molly’s has been around for more than fifty years serving its famous shepherd’s pie. Cozy and woodsmoked, the building has operated as one public house or another since 1895, and still sports its original Honduran mahogany bar and wood-burning fireplace.
In the heart of Southie lies the Blackthorn, a prop-free enclave where the Irish authenticity comes from the family lineage of most of the locals and staff. Nearly straddling East and West Broadway in this historically Irish-immigrant neighborhood, the Blackthorn puts its money where its mouth is, serving the city’s least expensive pint of Guinness.
In its 150th year, McSorley’s is among the oldest continuously operating businesses in New York. Sawdust floors are underfoot, and the bar staff are all Irish. While you won't find Guinness on tap at this classic pub, you will find their own Cream Stock Ale, made exclusively for McSorley's by Fidelio Brewery for their entire century-and-a-half run. Nestled in the East Village, McSorley’s is a place where every generation of New Yorker has made its mark. Living, breathing history and Jameson? How can you go wrong?