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9 Top Cities, 9 Top Irish Pubs

March 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Features, Food

The Irish have contributed quite a bit to civilization. One way to celebrate their achievements is to visit an Irish-themed pub. These watering holes are scattered throughout the world. Enduring Wanderlust has put together nine of the best Irish-themed pubs in nine of the best cities.

1. McSorley’s Old Ale House (New York City)

Established seven years before the American Civil War, McSorley’s Old Ale House prides itself on being the oldest continually-operated bar in New York City. McSorley’s even managed to continue serving beer during Prohibition. It, remarkably, counts Abraham Lincoln among its former patrons. One of the fascinating aspects of visiting the Ale House is seeing the wishbones above the bar (photo below), which were left by men leaving for World War I. It has been said that the remaining bones are from soldiers who never returned.

For women, it will be a surreal experience as McSorley’s only started allowing women to enter since the Supreme Court forced their hand in 1970. Yes, 1970. The Ale House built its first ladies room in 1986. Men and women alike must be ready to drink either McSorley’s Light or McSorley’s Dark, as they are the only options.
mcsorleys-bar-nyc.jpg McSorley’s, New York City © Laughing Squid

2. O’Neill’s Islington (London)

O’Neill’s is an Irish bar with a great atmosphere. It provides for a combination of beer starring Guinness and Smithwick’s Irish Red Ale and Irish fare that will have any visitor feeling the luck of the Irish. Along with serving delectable Irish breakfast all day, O’Neill’s has a bunch of unique choices including Irish stew crock-pot, vegetarian sausages with colcannon, and Limerick ham with Irish cheddar quiche.

With live music and numerous large screens that feature sporting events, there is plenty of entertainment for O’Neill’s patrons. Do note that the heated outdoor courtyard is often filled with rugby and football fans during game time.

3. The Snug (Boston)

The Snug has the feel of a pub with plenty of restaurant amenities. Located in Hingham, it has been awarded Best Irish Pub. The Snug’s menu includes crowd favors including succulent French toast, New England clam chowder, and Ellen’s Homemade Shepard’s Pie. It adds live music four days a week starring The Bobby ‘O Boys, Mark Purcell, and The Red Liners among others.

4. The Irish Embassy (Toronto)

The Irish Embassy was created within an old bank building in 1873. It is an upscale bar located in Toronto’s Financial District. It’s often filled with passionate Maple Leafs or Raptors fans waiting for the game or individuals looking to relax after work. As with many of the pubs on the list, The Irish Embassy has exceptional homemade food to go along with its impressive selection of drinks. Try a few patron favorites such as Jameson chicken liver pate, traditional Irish stew, and Kilkenny battered haddock.
guinness-beer-pint.jpg Guinness Beer © Peter Baker

5. Galway Arms (Chicago)

Galway Arms, located in the heart of Lincoln Park, has an extensive menu filled with Irish goodies to go along with lots of choices from the tap. Locals love their daily special such as “Everyday Chicken Pot Pie” Monday and “All-You-Can-Eat Fish & Chips” Tuesday. The Arms has been adding to their crowds with live Irish bands and its patio for the summer months along with a sit-down dinner option in their restaurant area.

6. The Brazen Head (Dublin)

No better place to relax with a pint of Guinness than Dublin. The Brazen Head states that it was the first on the pub scene dating back to 1198. True or not, The Brazen Head has plenty of history within its doors to go along with being a top music venue for Irish tunes. Their weekend line-up currently features lives tunes by Rafferty, The Rye River Band and The Brazen Hussies. Add to that their award-winning restaurant, specializing in Irish stew and seafood, and The Brazen Head was enough to make even James Joyce take notice.

7. Kildare’s Irish Pub (Philadelphia Area)

Kildare’s Irish Pub prides itself on being authentic. For a few of their locations, 40-foot containers filled with Irish artifact were shipped to the United States to recreate an Irish pub scene. If authentic was their goal then Kildare was successful. It has glasses of stout flowing and an extensive menu that would please anyone looking for a taste of Ireland. Try the traditional bangers and mash with Irish style sausage over a bed of mashed potatoes or the Guinness beef stew with vegetables simmered in the rich beer.
st-patricks-day-parade.jpg St. Patrick’s Day Parade © R0sss

8. Durty Nelly’s (Sydney)

Durty Nelly’s has a relaxed atmosphere with prints imported from the National Gallery of Ireland to help emanate the feeling of Erin Go Bragh. Pouring its first brew as early as 1854, Durty Nelly’s has plenty of history and tradition to go along with its fresh beer and tasty cuisine. When munching in the bar, try the black pudding with bacon baguette or the soup of the day with homemade soda bread. Consider their sit-down restaurant too with its seasonal menu.

Plan on being in Sydney for a while? Locals receive a plaque on the wall for joining the 100 Pints Club.

9. Fadó Irish Pub (Washington D.C.)

Located near the MCI Center, Fadó Irish Pub screams of authenticity. In fact, it was design with materials that were shipped over from Ireland. Fadó is often filled with basketball and hockey fans after games let out from the MCI Center, but the screens are often filled with Gaellic football and rugby too.

Visitors with an appetite will appreciate the corned beef rolls, Irish smoked salmon bites, and homemade shepherd’s pie to go along with their brew.

Try some of the best pizza in NYC with that beer or read about more great Irish pubs.
gennaroeditor.jpgGennaro Salamone is the founder and editor of Enduring Wanderlust. Feel free to contact him with questions, comments, or inquiries with reference to contributing an article or photograph for publication.



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53 Responses to “9 Top Cities, 9 Top Irish Pubs”
  1. Steven says:

    That’s my kind of post 🙂 I’ve been to McSorley’s which everyone should pop into at some point and Fado (also a cool spot). My favorite pub is Boston Beer Works near Fenway Park. It’s the place to be during the baseball season.

  2. Seth says:

    Nice list. McSorley’s sounds great. Brazen Head too. I like places with history. My number one watering hole is The Dubliner in San Fran. Loking forward to the St. Patty’s festivities tomorrow.

  3. Gennaro says:


    Boston Beer Works is fun to be around after a Sox game. After a win especially.


    McSorley’s is a must visit. Just for the history, if nothing else. St. Patrick’s Day is always a fun day.

  4. maiylah says:

    interesting list! too bad my location’s too far away … 🙂

  5. Jay says:

    I am Irish myself so I love this post- What about Frawley’s in Cork Ireland? I do not really know much about it except it has the coolest name ever. 🙂
    Thanks Gennaro- who is buying the next round?

  6. Gennaro says:


    I’m sure there is a fine pub in your neck of the woods.


    I’m sure Frawley’s is top of the line! Next round is on me as long as you throw in some free dream analysis.

  7. Lisa says:

    That wishbone photo is a little bit eerie, but that’s a fascinating story. Looking forward to celebrating tomorrow.

  8. Ouch…. the pictures of Guinness just did it to me… Fortunately i am meeting a friend tomorrow for Guinness and shrimps – you just helped me to warm the expectations 😉

  9. Gennaro says:


    It a bit eerie seeing it live too.


    That photo got me too. Enjoy tomorrow!

  10. Sima says:

    As a veteran drinker and Irish food lover of New York City, I definately recommend Ulysses on Pearl Street. Great Sunday brunch, great atmosphere and simply great people.

  11. Gennaro says:


    Sounds great. Looking forward to checking it out.

  12. WildJunket says:

    Great stuff! This came right in time for St Paddy’s. Too bad there really isn’t much of a Paddy’s day celebration here in Singapore. I remember O’Neills Islington, and all the English Pubs in London…loved having Sunday roasts with a huge Pint of Carlton. Durty Nelly and Muddy Murphy’s are awesome too.

  13. Gennaro says:


    Thanks. England has a lots of great spots, for sure. Lots of celebrations here in NYC.

  14. Poger says:

    Kildare’s? They’ve always struck me as like a Friday’s chain that just bought a bunch of “artifacts” from out of business pubs.

    How about Fergie’s (Sansom between 12th and 13th) for true authenticity. Or, McMenamin’s in Mt. Airy. While not traditionally an “irish pub”, the most important aspect – other than the beer – is here – atmosphere. Not only did I meet my wife there, but we’ve become friends with several couples and people that we just ended up sharing a table with that night. I’ll be there today for St. Paddy’s though and it’ll be all Irish then.

  15. Gennaro says:


    I can appreciate your sentimentality. Off to McMenamin’s to celebrate this evening?

  16. Poger says:


    As a matter-o-fact, I just had a Guiness at Fergies and will be stopping by McMen’s on the way home from the train. You should definitely check both out.

  17. These all sound like great spots, too bad none of them are near Long Beach CA. Just moved out here, any good suggestions on great Irish Pub in the Long Beach area?

  18. Gennaro says:


    Sound like a good St. Patty’s on you end. I will check them out next time I’m in town.


    For Long Beach, try KC Branaghan’s. Liking the weather out there?

  19. Gennaro,

    Your timing is perfect. I am on 2nd street in the LBC right now and will take a walk done to KC Branaghan’s to get some seats!

    Take it easy and have a good St. Patty’s day!


  20. It’s funny you should wax lyrical about Irish pubs when both the New York Times and the London Times have articles attacking them. I wrote about the similarities in the articles.

  21. Gennaro says:

    @John Sterlicchi

    Being a native New Yorker, Bill Barich should know that McSorley’s is legitimate. Say what you want about other Irish-themed bars, but that place is the real deal historically and in set up. Of course, it has become a tourist destination, but that’s not the pub’s doing.

    I’m sure they make some important points. Authenticity is hard to create for new pubs. It comes off as manufactured. In the end, it’s up to the patron to find the place that fits them.

  22. RennyBA says:

    What a wonderful historical round trip in beer and the culture traditions it holds!

    My mouths is watering and my throat gets dry 😉

    Btw: Talking about Irish and St. Patrick’s Day; Hop over and see my post about the parade in Oslo, Norway if you like.

  23. Gennaro says:


    Made my mouth water writing it too!

  24. Oh, I’m drooling over here. I’d love to drink a Guinness in all those places…. *giggles*

    We have some Irish pubs here in Stockholm too, but I have no favorite place, just saying: the Guinness never tastes as good as when you’re in Ireland!

  25. Gennaro says:


    I agree that it’s never the same as in the country of origin. Guinness always hits the spot 🙂

  26. Rich says:

    The Dubliner on Long Street in Cape Town is a favorite of mine.

  27. Nice Work, Only been to one on your list. Now I have a goal!

  28. Gennaro says:


    I’ll check that out when I get there. Thanks for the tip.


    Thanks. Now, that’s a goal. Enjoy.

  29. Jersey Girl2 says:

    Happy to see Kildares made the list. Kildares West Chester Pa. is the place to go. Great menu, Great people,a grand pint, and the best Irish music around on a sunday afternoon! Slan`

  30. Gennaro says:

    @Jersey Girl2

    Thanks for stopping over. Nothing like a Sunday afternoon with some Irish tunes and a pint.

  31. Irish Bar Hound says:

    Kildare’s? Really? Kildare’s is to authentic Irish pubs what Chef Boyardee is to Italian cuisine. The food here is mediocre at best. I’ve eaten at 4 different Kildare’s multiple times and have never left thinking, “Wow! What a great meal!” I’m really surprised to find this on your list. It makes me wonder just how good the other 8 on this list really are…

  32. Gennaro says:

    @Irish Bar Hound

    1. If it was so bad, why did you return multiple times? Not something most people would do. Thousands of bars and you choose a ‘mediocre’ one to continue returning to.

    2. It sounds like you have a personal reason for making such an over-the-top negative review of a place. It has been my experience that people don’t go out of their way to make this type of comment unless that’s the case.

  33. Tim says:

    McSorley’s is a favorite. More for the history than anything else. I drop over often just to take it in.

  34. Gennaro says:


    Feel the same way about McSorley’s. Nice to just drop over and take a look. Soak in the nostaglia.

  35. Oisin says:

    That’s definetely the post for me. As an Irish man I like to have a couple of good pubs wherever I go. I have been to many Irish pubs in NYC but I havent been to McSorleys, I will definetely stop by the nexy time Im there!

    Cheers Oisin

  36. napalm says:

    McSorley’s and the Brazen Head are great choices but what about the Crown bar in Belfast? This old victorian pub is owned by the National Trust and has to be one one the most beautiful bars in the world!

  37. MichelleK says:

    A great list, but how is Brazen Head only ONE ahead of Kildare’s? I mean, this is a list of Irish-THEMED pubs…the Brazen Head is straight-up Irish, it’s not really themed; it is what it is! A pub in Ireland! But I digress….Kildare’s does an excellent job of getting the atmosphere right (if anything, especially on St. Patty’s Day). But when in Dublin, don’t go to the Temple Bar area…go to the Brazen Head for the real thing! You won’t be disappointed! Our cab driver in Dublin recommended it b/c we were looking for a dimly-lit little place, and it was a great way to end our time in Dublin!!

  38. Brian Whelan says:

    Drank in the Brazen Head before Health and Safty was heard of and there was a doorway in it that was only five and a half feet high – there were some sore heads…
    Irish pubs are great in Ireland.

  39. Kupowen says:

    I was just wondering if anyone can tell me how badly these pubs are affected by the Irish team, not able to play in the World Cup finals. Are there really less visits when the Ireland team are not playing? If so, about how much revenue loss are we talking about?

  40. Brian Whelan says:

    Great question Kupowen,
    A difficult one to answer.
    The Irish were dealt a harsh blow in not qualifying and it will affect their view of World Cup proceedings but as usual they will pick themselves up and support another country and enjoy a few beers while doing so.
    The atmosphere and excitement will be sadly missed – roll on the Heineken Cup and Six Nations for great distraction!


  41. Patrick Scanlan says:

    Hi Gennaro,
    You most definitely have to include Euskadi´s(the Basque Regions)Irish gem Scanlan´s Tavern is the first Irish Whiskey bar dedicated to Irish Malt Whiskey.the bar boasts the worlds largest Pub collection of Irish whiskie´s 150 approx, all sealed.Located near Bilbao in a town called Gernika on the rugged coastal route to Santiago Scanlan´s is Irish owned and the gaffer is a qualified whiskey sommilier and master of malt who presents whiskey tastings and events.The bar is “The” Flagship for the new Irish Whiskey Armada worldwide!!

  42. David says:

    Although it is lost in a very small city, Hanafins Irish Pub in New London, CT should be listed!! If you havent been you should check it out soon.

  43. Adam says:

    O’Malleys in Weston, MO is the best I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a few. While walking down the stairs of O’Malley’s, you won’t be surprised to learn that this dank, windowless underground pub in Weston, Missouri (about 30 miles north of Kansas City), was utilized from the Civil War through Prohibition as a bootlegging hideaway. With multilevel seating, it’s located in three vaulted limestone cellars of the historic Weston Brewing Company. In the capacious bottom cellar, which is 55 feet below ground, there’s a stage for live music. The middle cellar has darts and sports bar amenities. The intimate top cellar looks like the perfect Irish pub, with draughts, ales, and ciders flowing and Irish troubadours performing in perpetuity. Perhaps there’s a fourth level underground where they reside after hours.

  44. Gennaro says:

    @Oisin – McSorley’s is a must.

    @MichelleK – Like the dimly-lit little place suggestions.

    @Brian Whelan – Sore heads? funny stuff.

    @Patrick Scanlan – That would make a nice addition to the list

    @Adam – Sounds great. Will have to make trip next time I’m in town.

  45. Mike says:

    Nice list. You missed a gem of a place in Ireland, called the Harbour Bar in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

    Unique, eclectic, cool. And a great spot for some traditional Irish music too.

  46. Irish lass says:

    Brazen head is a must but there are a couple great spots in Temple Bar as well but definitely lots of tourists.

    There is another Galway Arms in Toronto’s west end and it is genuins Irish with a brilliant Pint and great food…mmm Sunday dinners! The Embassy is nice to see but is a bit too plastic and posh PJ’s around the corner would be a better downtown spot.


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