Who doesn’t love a good Irish pub? There’s just something about that welcoming Irish-inspired décor, a well-pulled pint of fresh Guinness and some of that good old-fashioned Irish craic that makes a visit to a lively Irish pub a great way to spend an evening. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and virtually every other day of the year, we’re rounding up America’s very best.
Like pizzerias and Chinese restaurants, it seems like just about every town in America has an Irish-inspired pub of some sort. And if you’ve been to your fair share of them, you’ll know that it’s fairly easy to tell a good one from a bad one. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about a pub that makes it welcoming versus one to avoid at all costs, but in our opinion the one thing that makes an Irish pub great is its authenticity.
"Authenticity" is a tricky concept, but authentic Irish pubs, by our measure, have a good selection of Irish (and non-Irish) beers, whiskies, and other beverages; a solid selection of Irish and American pub fare; and perhaps most importantly, roots. This doesn't necessarily mean they've been around for decades (though some have — in some cases for more than a century), but they somehow capture the spirit of Ireland, whether through the heritage of the owners and bartenders; the history of the building or the interior (some pubs actually import actual bars and furnishings from the old country); the character of the clientele; and, often, the presence of live music.
So read on to learn which of America’s many Irish pubs are the most authentic, the most welcoming, the most dedicated to serving quality food and drink, and the most, well, Irish. Sláinte!
Dan Myers contributed to this article.
Named for Bessie Dee Riley, the daughter of an Irish immigrant to Texas, B.D. Riley’s boasts an impressive selection of beer and Irish whiskey. By sourcing much of the interior directly from Ireland, the bar’s proprietors have succeeded in making the place both authentic and unique. The award-winning menu is a favorite of Irish expats and — of course, it being Austin and all — there’s great music too.
This Boston-area watering hole is named after poet, novelist and playwright Brendan Behan, who is highly regarded as one of the greatest Irish writers of all time. There’s no sign of food at the quaint cash-only Massachusetts gem, but guests are encouraged to bring their own. Oh, and there are also no TVs, board games or other distractions, so mosey up to the bar, grab a pint and enjoy some live Irish music or chitchat with strangers. You can even bring your dog.
The Celtic Cowboy in Great Falls, Montana, is named after Welsh immigrant Robert Vaughn, the first European settler in the county. He opened the odd combination of a hotel-stable called Arvon Block — a play on words of his first initial and last name, R. Vaughn. Locals started calling him the Celtic Cowboy and, fast-forward to today, that’s the name of the pub located in that same historic hotel, now called Hotel Arvon. Its long-winded menu includes fan-favorite fish and chips, Irish breakfast and bangers and mash, plus playful eats including Guinness soup and baked Irish mac and cheese topped with corned beef and breadcrumbs.
At this Milwaukee pub, diners can chow on traditional Irish cuisine and contemporary American fare. Beer pours from the taps like a river. In fact, County Clare pours the most Guinness in all of Wisconsin — and Guinness’ brewmaster says it’s the best pint in the state. The bloody marys are really good, too. They come in chalices decked with olives, pickles and other necessary garnishes. Twenty stained glass windows are visible no matter where you sit, plus there’s a cozy wood stove and pretty great live Irish music. If you get a little too tipsy, you can stay at the inn upstairs.
Established in 1882, Doyle’s is located in Boston, Massachusetts’ Jamaica Plain neighborhood, just down the road from the Samuel Adams Brewery (Doyle’s was the first bar in America to feature Sam Adams Boston Lager on draught and often serves different styles that no one else has). A historic favorite of the Kennedys, this pub has also made its way to the silver screen in movies including “Mystic River,” “21” and “Patriots Day.”
A modern pub that seamlessly combines the old and the new, Fadó (meaning “long ago” in Gaelic) was the first pub in America whose interior was manufactured in Ireland and shipped across the Atlantic. While there, check out the Whiskey Room and be sure to take in the gorgeous surroundings. Offerings include finger-licking Guinness barbecue wings, delectable lamb French dip, plus a myriad of beers, ciders, wines and good whiskey. Fadó is a sure crowd-pleaser.
This locally owned and operated pub and restaurant in Mississippi has been serving the city of Jackson since 1996. It’s named after a band of warriors led by mythical Irish giant Finn McCool. Pull up a barstool or sit down at a table to enjoy Guinness barbecue wings, Irish poutine, Scotch eggs and whiskey bread pudding. Wash it all down with Fenian’s old fashioned with Jameson, orange and angostura bitters, orange peel and cherry liqueur.
All the locals go to Finn McCool’s primarily because it’s New Orleans’ premier soccer pub. They show games from a variety of leagues including Bundesliga, Champions League, La Liga, English and Scottish Premier Leagues and MLS. There are nine TVs inside and two outside. The menu is a mix of Irish and Southern pub fare including a Louisiana alligator po’boy and a corned beef sandwich.
Four months after Prohibition ended, Irish immigrants John and Ann McGinley opened this bar in Indiana. Today, it’s one of the oldest family-owned pubs in the U.S. and the oldest Irish pub in Indianapolis. March 17 is a big day for the Golden Ace Inn; it hosts the oldest continuous St. Patrick’s Day pub celebration in the whole country. A huge tent is hoisted in the parking lot where partygoers get down to live Irish music while feasting on corned beef and some of the city’s most sought-out cheeseburgers.
Almost everything you see inside this pub and restaurant was handcrafted in Ireland before it was shipped to Norfolk, Virginia. Even the kitchen’s recipes come from friends and family in both Ireland and America. The food is inexpensive, the cocktail list is plentiful, the beer menu is creative, there is so much whiskey at the bar and the craic is mighty. What is craic? It’s pronounced “crack” and it means playful banter, gossip or chitchat. So basically, this place is a good time.
Gritty McDuff’s dates back to 1988. It was Maine’s first brewpub following the end of Prohibition. The Portland staple has been awarded “Maine’s Best Brew Pub,” “Best Maine Microbrew” and “Best Bar” in statewide polls. Its legendary Irish-style Black Fly Stout received a perfect score from Beer Advocate, too. If you want to bring your dog along, he can lie under your table on the back patio while you enjoy a mug or two.
The word Hibernian refers to someone from Hibernia, the classical Latin name for the Emerald Isle. This contemporary pub in Raleigh, North Carolina, boasts dark wood interiors with cozy nooks and gorgeous bars, plus a Gaelic kitchen should you bring your appetite. The lengthy menu features Irish and American cuisine with made-from-scratch dinners like corned beef and cabbage, Irish breakfast and shepherd’s pie, and lots of shareable pub grub. The upstairs patio is great for grabbing a drink outside with friends, and if you come for brunch, you can get a bloody mary goblet garnished with Old Bay seasoning, a hard-boiled egg, bacon, celery, citrus, olives and an entire grilled cheese sandwich.
The staff at James Joyce call this pub “Baltimore’s home of Irish hospitality.” All of its fixtures were built in Ireland before being shipped to their new home in Maryland. Get down with some Mussels James Gate — made with Guinness beer and named after the brewery — or homemade Irish brown bread, slow-braised lamb shank or seared rainbow trout. You can even bring your four-legged friend with you to the canine-friendly outdoor patio.
John D. McGurk’s started as a one-room pub in 1978 before expanding to the now 20,000-square-foot space including interconnected dining rooms and bars, plus a 15,000-square-foot outdoor garden with gorgeous landscaping, a fountain, a waterfall and three bars. Musicians from Ireland entertain guests nightly as diners munch on bacon-wrapped shrimp, corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, Irish stew, fish and chips, and Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake.
Because it’s so close to Target Field, Kieran’s is one of the hottest places to grab a pint and a corned beef Reuben before and after Minnesota Twins games. In the summer, guests can sit out on the patio surrounded by lush greenery, and there’s a monthly poetry slam. Thirsty bar and restaurant industry professionals with a clock-out slip proving they worked three or more hours that day get a second beer on the house. If liquor is what you’re looking for, check out the giant whiskey selection behind the bar.
Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., a stone's throw from Union Station, the quaint and boisterous Irish Times has been going strong since 1978. The bar is fun, warm, welcoming and covered in police patches, and its lived-in feel gets a boost from its many loyal and devoted regulars. The draft list and food menu are all on point (try the Guinness Irish stew), but the star of the show is the whiskey bar boasting 90 different whiskeys.
Built in 1864, Kelly’s Logan House claims it’s the oldest Irish bar in Delaware and the oldest continuously family-owned bar in the country. The historic building was once a resort for visitors to Wilmington including Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, John L. Sullivan and Al Capone. When the three-story site was turned into a pub years later, it became the place to be for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Boston, New York, and Chicago traditionally get all the attention for their Irish heritage, but let’s not forget that the Deep South has plenty of Scots-Irish history. It only makes sense that one of the country’s most historic Irish pubs is in Savannah. In a town where it’s OK 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.
Limerick Junction is Atlanta’s oldest Irish pub. The bar carries classics including Guinness, Harp Lager, Smithwick’s and Magner’s Irish Apple Cider, plus playful shooters like the French Leprechaun, made with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Grand Marnier. If your tummy starts talking, the kitchen can whip up cottage pie, chicken curry or fish and chips, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza is the place to be on March 17.
Going strong since 1860 — the same year Abraham Lincoln was elected president — McGillin’s is Philly’s oldest tavern, and it’s also one of the city’s very best, frequented by locals (including city politicians) and visitors alike. Be generous to your server: The ship's bell behind the bar tolls for good tippers. It’s also a perfect place to catch a Phillies game in the summertime.
McSorley’s is among the oldest continuously operating businesses of any kind in New York City, going strong since 1854. Sawdust floors are underfoot, an old potbelly stove still heats the space when it’s cold out, and few if any changes have been made since long before you were born. You won’t find Guinness on tap at this classic bar (only two drinks are on offer, light and dark ale), but it's all a part of the charm. Nestled in the East Village, McSorley’s is a place where generations of New Yorkers have left their mark. Settle into a corner table on a weekday afternoon, order a couple darks and a plate of cheese and onions, and become a part of history.
Cited over and over as one of New York’s most authentic Irish pubs, Molly’s has been around for more than 50 years, serving its famous shepherd’s pie and an ample beer selection. This cozy establishment has operated as one public house or another since 1895, and still sports its original Honduran mahogany bar and wood-burning fireplace.
While enjoying some beers at a local German bar, Anne and Brian Mullaney and Sean Patrick Murphy decided Pittsburgh was in need of an authentic Irish pub — so they opened one in 1992. Guinness, Smithwicks and more flow freely from the taps, while customers trade off swigs for bites of lamb kebab, lemon rosemary chicken and shepherd’s pie.
This divey and allegedly haunted Irish pub survived Prohibition (it once had its own speakeasy) and a tragic fire in 2009. The 110-year-old business holds one of the oldest liquor licenses in Detroit and now, it’s one of the hottest spots for watching Lions, Tigers or Wings games. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and on “Whiskey Wednesdays” the jukebox is free. Ogle the nostalgic knick knacks covering the bar’s interior or head to a picnic table out back to enjoy a cold one over Connect Four.
Nine Fine Irishmen was inspired by a group of nationalists who “led lives of great adventure” fighting for Irish independence. The ginormous pub was built in the Emerald Isle and shipped over to the New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Get Irish-inspired fare from the kitchen like baked Brie with whiskey-marinated cherries, beer-battered sausage with Guinness mustard sauce or shepherd’s pie with port wine-infused ground beef. You can even pour your own pint at the self-serve taps.
The Shinnick family has been serving Chicago fresh brews from its huge mahogany back bar since 1938, a short time after Prohibition ended. Nowadays, it’s run by original owners George and Mary Shinnick’s nine grandchildren. There’s no food here, but domestic beer and shots are cheap (cash only) and the friendliness of the staffers and fellow customers is unmatched. But Cubs fans, beware — this is White Sox territory.
Memphis, Tennessee natives Scott and Meg Crosby, Ireland-born Seamus Loftus and his partner Shawna Engel opened The Brass Door in 2006 a skip away from the famous Peabody Hotel. It’s warm, relaxing and slightly fancier than your average Irish pub. The menu centers on first-rate pub fare, excellent Irish spirits, nice wines and good times. Guests rave about the Reuben egg rolls and fried goat cheese with chili-spiked honey, and the drinks list is lush with local alcohol.
The Buena Vista — Spanish for the “good view” — came to be in 1916, and 36 years later, it served the first Irish coffee in the U.S. After enjoying one at Shannon Airport in Ireland, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Stanton Delaplane recreated the now world-famous recipe for the California bar. Then-owner Jack Koeppler helped too, as did the city’s mayor — a prominent dairy owner who discovered cream must be aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency in order to float perfectly. Today, the formula remains the same.
This bustling 19th-century saloon is not your average Irish pub. The ground level of this New York City space is informal, yet chic. Here, guests can order craft beers, bottled punches and 147 different types of whiskey. Half of the cocktail menu is devoted to the spirit, but most famous of all is the Irish coffee made with quality filtered coffee, cream with more than 36 percent fat content, and Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey. If you’re hungry, the hearty Irish and British food menu has fish and chips, sausage rolls and Scotch eggs, plus some modernized items including deviled eggs, burgers and truffle fries. Things get a little swankier up on the second-floor parlor — dubbed the “Cocktail Cathedral” —dedicated to expertly crafted mixed drinks. At $18 each, they’re a little pricier than your run-of-the-mill cocktail, but they’re good. Would you expect anything less from the fourth best bar in America?
The Dublin Village Tavern is housed in an old hardware store, which eventually also became one of Dublin, Ohio’s earliest post offices. The same framework from 1889 still grounds the building today. On St. Patrick’s Day after the pub first opened up in 2000, George Killian Lett (of Killian Brewery heritage) came in with his wife for a visit. Before he left, he autographed a photo, which guests can find hanging in the brick room. If you come hungry, go for the fish and chips or braised beef shepherd’s pie slow-cooked in Guinness and red wine and covered in a potato crust.
Opened more than 40 years ago by the son of the proprietor of Coleman’s Authentic Irish Pub in Syracuse, New York, The Dubliner, named for James Joyce’s famous collection of short stories, 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 in County Kilkenny specially for The Dubliner. No wonder it’s considered a must for St. Patrick’s Day revelers in the nation’s capital.
The Irish Rover is the place to be for people in Louisville looking to have a great time with family, friends or colleagues. Co-owner Michael Reidy is a native of Ireland’s County Clare. The 150-year-old building began as a saloon, and then turned to a grocery and dry goods store before becoming the pub it is today. This place is busy pretty much always, but its annual St. Patrick’s Day party attracts thousands from around the state of Kentucky.
If it isn’t already obvious, the Boston area is full of some of the best Irish pubs outside of Ireland, and The Plough and Stars is definitely one of them. Its dark-wood interior, cozy ambiance, warm service, and innovative, traditional fare constantly draw huge crowds. Naturally, it has become a cornerstone of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, community.
In Irish mythology, Tír na nÓg is the “land of eternal youth,” where everyone is young, beautiful, healthy and joyful. People here live a life of eating, dancing and loving. Sounds pretty great, right? Although you won’t live forever at this pub, it will inspire feelings of warmth and charm. Executive chef Matthew Geraghty has curated a menu inspired by Irish influences for brunch, lunch and dinner. This chain has four additional locations in New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Irish pride flows like ale at this farmhouse pub. The motto for McGuire’s Irish Pub and Brewery is “Feasting, Imbibery, and Debauchery.” Based on that, McGuire’s obviously knows how to have a good time. To top it off, beer is conveniently brewed in copper kettles on site. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
This pub in Decatur, Georgia, is owned and operated by Irish expats who had the interior designed with a mix of traditional and contemporary décor. Beer on draft is always changing, but there are always 20 fresh and exciting international, American and seasonal beers on tap at any given time. Bring your appetite for shepherd’s pie or the St. James Gate Guinness-braised beef brisket. The Guinness-battered cod is so good that it’s also served out of the pub’s traveling fish and chips food truck.
There’s something for everyone at Galway Bay in New Orleans. Belly up to the bar for Irish twists on classic cocktails like the mai tai and lemon drop, or go to town on flatbread pizzas, Gaelic steak, Dublin coddle and Celtic chicken in the dining room. Take a dram in the intimate tasting room, relax in the super cute, covered and heated outdoor garden, or shoot pool, throw darts and show off your shuffleboard skills in the game room.
Kilkenny’s Irish Pub and Eatery is one of Tulsa’s most popular hangouts. The vibe is comfortable and cozy thanks to its abundance of dark wood paneling and collection of Irish memorabilia. With great service, an expansive beer selection, and a wide variety of Irish whiskey, you can’t go wrong with this place. While there, explore the long menu of Irish and American pub staples.
Nashville is a legendary party and music town, and on both counts McNamara’s Irish Pub and Restaurant fits right in. This popular tavern, with its classic Celtic-inspired décor, is well-stocked with whiskey and beer, has an appetizing menu of Irish fare, and regularly features live Irish music, usually by Nashville’s noted Nosey Flynn.
In operation for over 40 years, Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles is a great place for a pint, a plate of fish and chips, and live music in an intimate setting. While you’ll still hear Irish troubadours once in a while, the stage at Molly Malone’s has also seen the likes of Lucinda Williams and Lenny Kravitz.
Raglan Road is the ideal spot to kick off a fun bar crawl. Its high-energy atmosphere will get anyone feeling the craic of the Irish. The menu was devised by consulting Irish chef Kevin Dundon, whose classic creations have a modern touch. With all the necessary brews on hand — like Magner's Irish Cider, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, and of course Guinness — you'll be set here for a perfect night out.
Wilfie & Nell manages to be both traditional and trendy. It’s cozy and dark, just like a good pub ought to be, and the bar’s menu is full of elevated versions of classic Irish fare, like shepherd’s pie, Scotch eggs and corned beef. It’s tucked away on a quiet stretch of West 4th Street, and the old brick walls and ample reclaimed wood will transport you to another time and place.
This Portland brewpub serves classic Irish fare with a little Northwest flair. The menu features favorites such as Irish lamb stew, Belfast chicken curry and Ballycastle sausage roll, plus bar snacks like wings, nachos and fries. Wash it all down with a beer made by Kells. The brewery currently makes 10 types ranging from Irish stout to “Peach on a Beach” — a peach and mango Kolsch perfect for warm summer days.
This friendly Minneapolis pub features beautiful mahogany wood, a gorgeous hand-crafted back bar, 16-foot ceilings, “numerous nooks and crannies for exchanging secrets and ample space for telling flat-out lies.” The Local once served the largest volume of Jameson of any bar in the United States, so it goes without saying the drinks are plenty here.
Not far from Kansas City is Weston, where you’ll find Weston Brewing Company and its historic, underground cellar-pub O’Malley’s, which is one of Missouri’s oldest bars. The cavernous, limestone layout features multiple levels of seating and a stage for live music performances. Check out the old-school Guinness posters behind the band and fill up on bangers and mash, Irish car bombs or a classic pint of the black stuff.
People from all walks love Jack Quinn’s for its traditional Irish cuisine (including brunch on the weekends), live music scene and warm interior. The room features the same original wood and exposed brick from when the building was first built in 1875, and 100 percent of the woodwork was imported from craftsmen in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The result? A cozy, inviting space for the people of Colorado to congregate over a cold, crisp beer and Irish pancake shots (Jameson, butterscotch schnapps and orange juice).
Murphy’s Bar and Grill has been serving Honolulu’s Financial District since 1987. Prior to that, it was called the Royal Hotel, and rumor has it Hawaiian King Kalakaua frequented the spot. “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” author Robert Louis Stevenson did, too. Nowadays, it’s a watering hole for locals to catch a taste of Irish food and drink in good company over a glass of Guinness or the like.
This divey “Irish Beauty” is warm and welcoming to people in the New Orleans community and beyond. Wet your whistle with any of many Irish whiskeys, an immaculate bloody mary made with a top secret recipe, or the pub’s famous frozen Irish coffee. Guinness is always on tap, as well as Lousiana-made Abita, Tin Roof, Dixie and Urban South brews. The scene at Erin Rose is booming during Saints games, which could be partially due to the fact that on game day beer buckets are just $10. Irish pubs are the best — but all bars are beautiful. Maybe that’s the booze talking? Let’s debate it over a drink at the best bar in your state.
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