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Irish bars

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.

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      James Gate , Ctr. St. J.P...The real deal, decent food...authentic, something for everyone. Great in the cold months with the huge fieldstone fireplace.

    2. 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.

      1. 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....

        1. 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.

          Matt Murphy's
          14 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445

          Plough & Stars
          912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

          4 Replies
          1. re: Harp00n

            Oops, forgot to link....

            Mr Dooley's Boston Tavern
            77 Broad St, Boston, MA

            1. re: Harp00n

              Yeah, I know the traditional Irish dish is bacon and cabbage. My whole point was: not Irish in fact, but in feel. But Foley's version of corned beef is really nice. Excellent fish and chips, too.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Nor did I think you did MC,
                But since OP asked for "authentic", whatever that means today, I just didn't want anybody's misconceptions confirmed. :-0)


              2. re: Harp00n

                The Plough & Star's food has been pretty durned good IMO since the latest re-do of things.

              3. Stone's Public House in Ashland is pretty terrific.

                Stone's Public House
                179 Main St, Ashland, MA 01721

                4 Replies
                1. re: heatherfields

                  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.


                  1. re: Harp00n

                    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.

                    1. re: Lilibet

                      Ms. Liz,
                      You know, from previous conversations, that we are in total agreement regarding The Old Timer. Now I've got to resolve to find and eat in their dining room. Because I'm told, on good authority, that one may actually exist on the premises.

                      Paddy with just a drop please,

                2. Second the Plough and Stars. I also like the Druid and the Field. All three have good food, too. (eta: the Field, not so much as the others who have genuinely good food.)

                  Druid Restaurant
                  1357 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  The Field Pub
                  20 Prospect St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: yumyum

                    I'll second the Field - the food's just standard pub grub, but good food and authentic don't necessarily go hand in hand. It's refreshing to find a pub that isn't a pub-themed restaurant.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      I had a friend who used to work at the Field until she went back to Ireland of course, so I haven't been in a few years. They used to serve a tremendous breakfast and then stopped. Do you know if they offer breakfast now?

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        Unless the website needs updating, there's nothing on there that would indicate they're doing breakfasts again. I haven't been there in years and it was just the once. I also don't remember much about that night, in general. But with all the thumbs up for it here I'll have to revisit it on a Plough & Stars sojourn.


                    2. Really, this discussion has to begin and end with Dooley's. I could go on and on, but it is the real deal and that's pretty much it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Tsantiago

                        Absolutely agree.

                        Very authentic feel. And notwithstanding the delicious Irish fare, the sessiun music makes the atmosphere.

                      2. I'm surprised no one's mentioned the Burren in Davis Square.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: phoebek

                          Not to get too technical, but in response to the OP's comment, the Burren feels more like a Dublin or Galway pub than one in County Clare, which consists of mostly rural, country pubs. I've been to pubs in County Clare that are almost primitive; one spot we went to in the hills above Lahinch was basaically a house with a Guinness sign attached above the front porch, and we ended up drinking in the guy's living room (he had taps in the front of the house by the entrance).

                          There aren't many places like that in the Boston area! But I'd say that James's Gate comes fairly close, as does the Blackthorn in Southie.

                          Maybe I'm reading into the OP's County Clare reference too much, though. :-D

                          1. re: hiddenboston

                            "Maybe I'm reading into the OP's County Clare reference too much, though"

                            Ya, I think that's more of a "for instance" kinda thing by the OP, Marc.

                            Lahinch, eh? What were you, stumbling around in your Payne Stewart inspired plus fours golf wear, in search of the 19th hole and stumbled upon this hill-side Shebeen? I'm assuming, since you were so close, that the excellent pubs, craic and musician of Doolin were on your itinerary. BTW, Clare is as soft and pretty as its name.


                            1. re: Harp00n

                              Heh, yes, I think it was probably a Bobby Fischer moment on my part. I'll take things a bit less literal the next time around!

                              I've been to Lahinch several times (never to play golf, though, as I am a lefty and I doubt they have lefty clubs there--that's my excuse, anyways), mostly on side trips from, yes, Doolin, which where I tend to stay whenever I'm in Ireland. I only wish that Boston had a pub even remotely resembling Gus O'Connor's in Doolin, but I suppose that is asking too much. By the way, McGann's, which has a pub in Doolin, also has a pretty decent watering hole near North Station in Boston. Haven't been lately, but the couple of times I've been there have been pretty fun.

                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                Plus, if they still have it, you can drink Duff Beer at McGanns!!! (ok, so it's Coors or something w/ a label over the draft handle, but hey)

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  "Coors......but hey"

                                  But no, uh uh, as in no way! :-0)


                                2. re: hiddenboston

                                  As chance would have it, the late great Tommy Makem was the last performer I've seen at Gus O'Connors. He came on unannounced. I think he may have been back in Ireland for one his travel tours. Anyways, it was a magical night that DW and I will never forget.


                                  1. re: Harp00n

                                    Wow, what a night that must have been. I believe that a number of famous people have played there through the years. Sadly, I never got to see anyone famous there or anyone else in Ireland, though I think I may have seen one or two members of U2 in the Windmill Lane studios in Dublin very briefly, before the security guard showed us out. ;-b

                                    BTW, I second the Old Timer in Clinton. The food is decent enough, but wow is the atmosphere ever nice. Feels like an old church inside...

                                    1. re: hiddenboston

                                      OMG - that is so funny - as an exchange student in Ireland in 1986 I had the same experience - my roommate and I - nabbed for stalking U2 at Winmil Lanes as well as at Dockers Pub on Rogerson's Quay!! Now *there* is an authentic (if not scary) Irish pub. Alas, there is none like that in Boston - excepting (maybe) Sligo in Davis Square. If you are looking for an eye-opener (like, say, at 8am) Sligo is your place!!

                                      1. re: Small Plates

                                        Try the Blackthorn in Southie. It can be a bit dicey, but perhaps not quite as scary as some of those pubs east of Dublin's city center near the Liffey.

                                        The Sligo isn't as rough as it once was, probably because they get overflow from the Burren, but it's still not the most pleasant place in the world!

                                      2. re: hiddenboston

                                        A religious experience! Absolutely!

                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                          Yes Marc, I've prayed at The Old Timer's many a day & night and sometimes back-to-back.


                                      3. re: hiddenboston

                                        I have fond memories of McGann's in Doolin about 5 years ago--stopped in for a bite, and listened to some unannounced (and unknown to me) musicians who brought a tear to my eye just from the beauty of their voices and, of course, music. On a less sentimental note, one of the owners stopped by, and upon hearing that we were from Massachusetts, asked if we'd ever heard of the Burren.

                                        1. re: phoebek

                                          Heh, my memories of McGann's in Doolin are actually a bit less fond. I went up to the ordering area and said, "I'll have four cheeseburgers, please," and the guy glared at me and said, "What d'ya tink we'r, me friend, a friggin' McDonald's?" I shrunk back to my table and explained what happened to my friends, who thought it was pretty funny. As it turns out, the burgers were actually pretty good.

                                          I guess that's no surprise about the comment about the Burren. They seem to have made quite a name for themselves in Boston's Irish community, so I'm sure the word got back over the pond to friends and relatives over there.

                                          1. re: hiddenboston

                                            I was in Doolin in May, and even this beautiful village is now overrun with development - I experineced one of the worst pubs I have been to in Ireland - Fitzpatrick's. O'Connors is still great! Talk of McGann's reminds me that McGann's at North Station is pretty authentic. We hung there one night after the Shane McGowan (and the Popes) show - and guess who was there - Shane McGowan. An endorsement of sorts?!?!!?!?

                                        2. re: hiddenboston

                                          Hey, there's lots of lefties in Ireland. Maybe not as many as The Peoples Republik of Cambridge, but still...

                                          Obama Committee member,

                                    2. re: phoebek

                                      I like the Burren during the daytime or some weeknights in the summer, but from Sept-May it can feel like a Tufts frat party.

                                    3. I agree with a thumbs up to plough and stars, but I also always have a good time at the Black Rose. Many Irish bartenders, good live music, and surprisingly tasty food. The Corrib and Porter Belly's out in Brighton are both pretty authentic, too, although a bit out of the way.

                                      1. I'm surprised not to see the Brendan Behan Pub in JP listed. No tv.