Since 2005, more than 1,000 of Ireland’s top-shelf, well-established public houses have closed shop, and 150 more are expected to shutter in 2012. But despite the country’s ongoing recession, the pubs in Dublin seem to be surviving. Of the 7,500 pubs left in the Republic, 700 of them are located in the capital. While spirits may sometimes be down elsewhere on the Emerald Isle, the craic in Dublin’s pubs is going strong.
For a taster menu of the
capital’s pub scene, we asked a few locals, including a theatre director, an
architect, a university entertainment programmer and a professional tour guide,
for their unbiased, pint-based recommendations.
For traditional Irish music
Antoine Ó Coileáin knows Gaelic folk music like few
others, given that he is the CEO of Gael Linn, Ireland's oldest
record label, with a shop on Dame Street that specialises in selling sheet
music and traditional instruments. He vouches for The Cobblestone as one of the best pubs for traditional Irish music played
without amplifiers. "There is nothing pretentious at The Cobblestone,
nothing phony,” he said. “Locals and tourists rub shoulders as they savour music
played by top-class musicians and imbibe the great Guinness. You would have to
travel far to find its equal.”
For a rural vibe in the
heart of the city
Pádraig Heneghan, deputy director at the
Gate Theatre, one of the city’s two most celebrated dramatic venues (the
other being The Abbey), stages works by some of the country’s most famous
playwrights, including the current production of Da by Hugh Leonard. Heneghan’s
favourite pub is The Welcome Inn. “While some describe
it as a dive bar, I always feel that this is a rural pub just a short walk from
the main drag of O'Connell Street,” he said. “The owner is friendly; the drink
is good -- and cheaper than many other pubs in the city centre -- and it's a
great place to meet friends for a chat. It's a completely unexpected find, especially
for the fact that there are still places like this in Dublin in 2012.” Opening
hours are erratic, typically after 5pm on Thursdays through Saturday nights.
For a place without tourists
Michelle Fagan is a principal of one of Dublin’s
leading architecture firms, FKL Architects, who just started
a two-year term as president of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland.
Her favourite pub is Martin B Slattery’s, located in the Rathmines district, a
mile-and-a-half south of central Dublin, and far from the well-trodden tourist
path. During the day, lifelong regulars (the “auld fellas”, in local slang)
read newspapers and chat, while nighttime brings a younger crowd, who come for
its unpretentious and unplugged live music.
For young visitors looking to make friends
Chris O’Connor is Trinity College Dublin’s Ents
Officer, meaning it is his responsibility to help run the social and nightlife
agenda for the school. O’Connor could not pick a single favourite off-campus
pub, but at the top of his short list is Peadar Kearney’s, for its
intimate size and exceptionally friendly staff. “It’s one of a few great spots
to go with a friend for a chat and a quiet pint to get away from the madness of
some other bars,” he said. Upstairs is a new bar
that is carefully and successfully designed to look really old, O'Connor said,
"with rows of vintage mirrors, faded Guinness adverts and giant barrels
for tables." Downstairs is a dance club that draws good DJs.
For a cosy pub with
traditional interior design
Dublin-born author and historian Gerard Cooley leads walking
tours of the city's major sights, such as the historic Kilmainham Gaol that once housed
nationalist prisoners. While he has a few favourite pubs in Dublin, Cooley
praises Toners Pub for having a handful of charming snugs (a
secluded area partitioned by half-wood, half-glass walls), with flag-stone
floors and a historical pedigree. Toners is delightfully traditional in its
lack of TVs, and Cooley said the quiet “encourages conversation with all comers, which Dublin
natives are only too willing to engage in”. It is a longstanding gem on the Dublin social scene, where
even teetotaller and famous poet WB Yeats is supposed to have sipped a sherry.
For great value
This winter, John Geraghty founded Publin,
a site that lists more than 200 of Dublin’s cheapest pubs. Previously Geraghty
ran pub-walking tours aimed at backpackers. Despite O'Reilly's
unexpected location under the Tara Street tram station, Geraghty's favourite pub is a
pleasant, open space tucked under 170-year-old arched ceilings, with a
non-traditional, neo-gothic decor. “It's not in the guidebooks, and you're a
whole lot more likely to get talking to Irish people than elsewhere,” Geraghty
said. Students, bankers and local office workers gather at the pub, making it a
prime place to rub shoulders with locals.
Ready to drink like a
Dubliner? Follow these tips to fit in with the locals when
you are down the pub.
Do not tip the bartender
Would you tip another professional, such as a doctor
or a barrister, for services rendered? That said, after buying a few pints, it
is polite to buy the bartender a round. Live musicians may also be paid in
Say ‘cheers’ like a local
To wish your fellow bar-goers well, a key word to memorise is the Gaelic equivalent
of “health”: Sláinte! (pronounced SLAN-chə!)
There is nothing ‘authentic’ about drinking too much
Most Irish people go to pubs to socialise, not to get
hammered, despite the country’s reputation for riotous bibulousness. The
standard serving size is an imperial pint, or roughly 20 US fluid ounces, so if
you prefer something smaller, ask for “a glass”. Alternatives to alcoholic
beverages include sparkling water brands like Ballygowan, the low-alcoholic beer Kaliber (made by Guinness) and mixers
like soda water and lime.
Do not expect to catch the
In general, Ireland is passionate about rugby and Gaelic
football, another rugby-like game. Sports fans expecting to watch traditional
football, or soccer, will often be disappointed. Also many of the most
traditional pubs ban televisions altogether.