A Real Irish Pub

Is it really an Irish pub? How to tell? Keep in mind, that at the end of it all, it’s an Irish Pub if you feel Irish there.

In general, there seems to be four basic types of Irish pubs in the U.S.

1. The sports bar with 20 TVs, 80 beers, and an Irish name, usually found in suburbia.

2. The franchise pub with a headquarters in Atlanta or Tampa or wherever.

3. The local syndicate owned group of pubs, which are sometimes Irish owned.

4. And then there’s the neighborhood pub that ‘s been there for years and is still owned by the founder or his/her offspring and they still have relatives back home in Ireland.

So is it really an Irish pub, you decide, but here’s some tips.

Sure and it has an Irish sounding name, begins with an O’ or a Mc, and it has the Guinness Stout on tap, but beyond that, what’s it really all about. 

Check the patrons. Is it a bunch of families that drove into town, or date night couples huddled in a snug? Are they all ignoring each other with their attention on the TV or buried in a cell phone texting? Or are they there to meet their friends and neighbors and have some good craic?

Who's pouring behind the Bar? Is it a part time student ignoring you, or a school dropout with attitude? Is it some aloof judgmental twit? Or is the bartender the owner or one of his/her relatives? Is he or she a professional barkeep that's been there for 20 years, knows the patrons by name and drink, and makes you feel welcome even if you're a 1st timer?

Read the menu. Fish and chips. Of course, but is it cod or haddock, or is their idea of a fish, tilapia? Do they have the bangers and mash? Ketchup, or mustard and vinegar? How about the shepherd’s pie? Is it lamb, mutton, or beef? Keep in mind that I’ve never seen a shepherd herding cows in Ireland.

Of course, check the drink. Beyond the Guinness, does it have other Irish beers and stouts? How about a Murphy’s? And how do they pronounce Smithwick’s? What about a Bulmer’s (Magner’s) cider? Do they have a good selection of whiskey? Jameson’s of course and then some. Or are the taps all IPAs and the shelves filled with flavored vodkas? Don’t even think about jello shots.

Where’s the publican (owner)? Is he behind the bar pouring drinks, in the kitchen cooking a stew, or behind a desk a 1000 miles away at the corporate office? Is he or she a franchise owner of German descent, or did they visit the grandmother in Kilkenny this past Christmas?

What’s the sport? Do they have a dart league? Maybe a Premier League pool or sponsorship of a local rugby team. Or is it March Madness and NFL on a wall of TVs?

Then what about the music? A subject near and dear to me heart. Piped in pop, heavy metal, or country music does not make the grade. Did they have Irish musicians at their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration last year, or a disco DJ playing hip hop and Motown music in a tent out back? Do they have the Irish Trad sessions on Sundays? That’s authentic, but what about the pub music? If it’s a real Irish public house, they will have regularly scheduled, Irish pub music. The kind of music made famous by the Dubliners, Clancy Brothers, Wolftones, Pogues and the like. There’s a good reason I have a copyright on my slogan...

“It’s not an Irish pub without Irish music”.

May you all experience real Irish pubs, with great craic and real Irish pub music wherever you might be.