I'm not expecting Irish people or Irish Disneyland, but is there a bar here that's more County Clare than quesadilla? Kinsale's like a green Chili's.
J.J. Foley's Cafe in the South End. 3rd- and 4th-generation Irish-American family running the place, Irish-style tavern on one side (rail at the bar, no stools), Irish-style family pub on the other (lots of tables). Modest pub-food menu with an Irish ex-pat chef, excellent corned beef and cabbage, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, burger, curry chips. Not loaded with that hokey bric-a-brac of faux-Irish bars in this town. Decent selection of draft beers, a few Irish whiskies. Regular stop-off for cops, reporters, and factory workers. Trivia on Tuesday nights. It's mainly the neighborhood-y vibe that makes it feel like the real deal to me.
Hmm, I guess it depends on whether you want food or not. Some of the more authentic Irish pubs that I've been to (Irish Village in Brighton, Blackthorn in Southie, Bad Abbot's in Quincy, Kitty O'Shea's in downtown Boston) are better for their pints than their grub. But James's Gate in JP might be a good option. It's pretty authentic and the food is mostly decent.
The Banshee is pretty authentic....early morning football (soccer) matches on the telly. lots of people speaking irish. irish bands. a decent pint....the food is nothing to write home about....
My three top choices, in no particular order and/or depending on whim are:
Mr. Dooley's in the financial district - as authentic a Dublin-style local as you'll find here in the States. More than decent pub-style grub, good craic, lots of live Trad played here and good, good people running it. http://mrdooleys.com/
The Plough & Stars between Central and Harvard Squares - Well god bless it's pointy little head, this 60's-70's survivor of Harvard's Mallification of the Squares. The food can be up & down but the Guinness is good, the music eclectic and your fellow passengers may be Brendan Behan or Willie Nile wannabees. http://www.ploughandstars.com/
Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village - With it's standing only bar and community-shared style tables MM takes flack at times. This is a real deal gastro-pub the likes of which you'll find in Cork & Kinsale. I over-hear people saying, "What's with the Latin music, anyways?" Duh, because Irish musical interests extend beyond Altan to Bono. Their take on fish & chips is as good as any I've had in Boston and almost as good as Leo Burdock's in Dublin. I've never had Shepherd's Pie, and with the proper lamb, not beef. as good anywhere else here, Ireland or in Great Britain, period! http://www.mattmurphyspub.com/
BTW, MC Slim JB did qualify Foley's by saying it's a 3 & 4th generation Irish-American owned pub. But you will not see corn beef & cabbage on a pub menu in Ireland save for Americans in heavy tourist areas and especially on St. Patrick's Day.
14 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445
Plough & Stars
912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
I go to the Stone often and have since Matt Murphy, yes one and the same, bought it years ago. Since Matt sold it and moved on, to Baltimore I think, it is not nearly as good, IMO. It isn't really an Irish pub, it "references" one. The bar has two, count 'em two, Irish whiskeys; Jameson & Bushmill and not the good ones. And yet has a much larger selection of scotches, including several single malts. What's up with that?
The food? Still love their chips & curry, think the shepherds pie very good, but not great, and the fish of fish & chips to be a disaster. During MM's time it was what you'd expect from any decent pub or chipper here, Ireland or in GB. So when I was presented with their "new" version and commented to our waitress, she said; "Oh no, this is the way we've always served it". Right! The "new", on gossamer wings, had a coating so light as to be rendered damn near none existent. What a crime for such lovely pieces of haddock, which they were. Some Hounds may, in fact, like this in a heart healthy kind of way but it is not, most assuredly, F&C's.
You're probably asking about now, if my bloviating hasn't already driven you to tears, so why the hell does he even bother going there? The answer is that it's the best Al fresco dining space that I know of in the Metro-West. I love the Inn itself, the bar's vibe, the mix of people, the live music and, yes, the majority of their other food offerings.
Harp - I second your sympatico appreciation of the Inn. It has morphed several times over the years (oh dear, plenty of those) I've been going there since Kappy Fournier opened it. Almost 30 now? It's last incarnation is the best yet. Their Irish breakfast is probably my favorite, by the fireplace on a cold, snowy day. The staff there was extra kind to us when they overheard we had just planned a funeral. I'll never forget how well we were treated.
Not MetroWest... but will mention it again. The Old Timer's in Clinton is a safe haven. The food? Well, we all know no one goes there to eat. But the bar.... a time capsule indeed. Luckily they are in good standing with a local parish priest who makes yearly trips to the old sod. He is deligent in his purchasing of Paddy's which is carefully hidden, and brought out if you're nice from underneath the bar.