Irish Influence: Where to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day

Far and near, these pubs are loved the world over!
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Flanagan's Irish Pub. Photo courtesy of Experience GR. Illustration by Sarah McMenemy.

It’s estimated that there are as many as 7,000 Irish pubs in the world outside of Ireland in as many as 53 countries. Around 2,000 of those pubs are in Europe and 4,000 of them are right here in the U.S. The country of Nepal boasts the highest Irish pub situated at an elevation of 11,386 feet in Namche Bazar, a small town at the base of the Himalayas (only reachable by foot after a two-day trek). On the other side of the world near the gateway to Machu Picchu, Paddy’s Irish Pub in Cuzco, Peru stakes its claim as the highest Irish-owned pub in the world, clocking in at 11,156 feet above sea level, proving that even the most remote places on earth play host to these familiar watering holes.

One can even find an Irish pub on the swanky streets of Paris. La Virgule is situated on the hilly cobblestone of the artsy Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. From its outdoor patio the stunning Sacré-Cœur Basilica can be seen. This particular establishment was a sight for sore eyes the last time I was in Paris. After wandering around all day with only rudimentary knowledge of French trying to decipher which train to take on the Metro, which Rue de whatever was going to get me to my next destination, which crêpe, œf or terrine I was going to order, a Guinness sounded pretty darn good. At least I would be able to pronounce it correctly, and with confidence.

Generally characterized as cozy and welcoming, the unmistakable hallmark of Irish pubs is the presence of Irish whiskey and that aforementioned glorious stout. In fact, it is the Dublin based brewery, the maker of Guinness – in business since 1759 – that holds the key to unlocking the mystery of the rampant proliferation of the Irish pub concept the world over.

Together, with The Irish Pub Company, a Design and Build firm started by Dubliner Mel McNally, the idea of packaging the authentic Irish pub concept and selling it as an export was born, and the design firm was appointed by Guinness to act as their sole Irish pub concept designer.

The impetus for this concept started in the 1970s when McNally was still in college. He created a project titled “Best Designs within Dublin Pubs” that was so well received that it was exhibited in the mayor’s mansion in Dublin where it remained for many months. Drawing inspiration from Ireland’s finest public house constructions, the firm, now in business for 45 years, specializes in the design, manufacture, and installation of authentic Irish Pubs. The concept was first exported to England and has grown into a worldwide endeavor, with Irish Pub Company pubs on multiple continents, and satellite offices in Atlanta and Dubai.

The Oldest Irish Pub is Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland. It is situated on the banks of the River Shannon in the middle of the country about halfway between Dublin and Galway. It’s the oldest pub in Ireland, a title endorsed by Guinness Book of Records. The establishment, also known for its house made whiskey, dates back to 900 A.D. It is believed the process of distilling whiskey was invented in the region c. 500 – 600 A.D.

The best Irish pubs for celebrating St. Paddy’s Day locally

FLANAGAN’S

What’s not to like about Flanagan’s? It’s centrally located, spacious, serves good pub grub, and the green beer is always flowing. About the only thing not to like is the fact so may people want to go there that you have to wait in line outside to get in. Sometimes, when the sun is shining, it can be fun. You meet new friends! The place frequently features live music and DJs and typically serves corned beef and cabbage, and other Irish fare, as well as top shelf whiskey. See you there!

If you’re more of a West Sider, try O’TOOLE’S PUBLIC HOUSE. This West Side staple since 2003 located at 448 Bridge St. NW generally caters to a younger crowd, and immediate entrance is frequently hindered by a medium-long wait.

Illustration by Sarah McMenemy.

Once inside, the Reuben egg rolls make the wait well worth it. This is bar none one of the best bar snacks in the city. Other pluses are the attractive aesthetics and the quick and friendly bartenders. The deep dark wood gives it a cozy authentic Irish pub vibe. Grab a table in the back and play some Jenga with your friends, or grab a seat at the bar and watch the latest sporting event on the TV solo. If you haven’t been in a while, they’ve ceased the practice of serving peanuts to all and sundry, so bonus, the floor is a lot cleaner. Good times! Pro tip: there’s a city parking lot nearby. Don’t even try to find parking on the street.

A community fundraiser for Kids Food Basket kicked off the “season” at QUINN & TUITE’S IRISH PUB, located at 1535 Plainfield Ave. NE in Creston.

Illustration by Sarah McMenemy.

This self-proclaimed “dive bar” with more than 90 whiskeys to choose from, is the real deal. You won’t be sorry you chose this lovable, albeit a bit weathered, establishment to party at on St. Paddy’s. If you like to while away the hours by more than just sittin’, there are pool tables, shuffleboard, and darts to amuse. The pub also hosts cornhole tournaments and live bands, and has plenty of authentic Irish music on the jukebox. It’s as much a neighborhood bar as it is a destination for revelers from near and far on the big day. A four-square review boasts “the best pour of Guinness in Michigan.” Consume wisely, and remember, Uber is a lot cheaper than a DUI.

DUBLIN HALL gets my vote for the most chill Irish bar in the city. Moreover, it’s downright swanky (for a pub).

Illustration by Sarah McMenemy.

Located a walkable distance from Studio Park and other prime downtown establishments, Dublin Hall would be my pick for a great place to wear my favorite green duds and grab a date night drink, soak up some suds. The menu is a bit limited, but there’s something for everyone, a lot of cocktails and even a kid’s menu if you want to make it a family affair. Dublin Hall’s website landing page features a countdown to the big day, so you know they’ll be cooking up something good. Located at 100 Ionia Ave. SW, it’s smack dab in the heart of Irish On Ionia, Michigan’s most well attended Irish festival, which takes place this year on Saturday, March 16, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Buckle up!

Last, but certainly not in last place is an absolute gem in Holland called THE CURRAGH, located at 73 E 8th St. The pub offers better-than-bar-food quality fare. The menu is adventurous without being pretentious, a great combination of elevated offerings coupled with traditional pub grub.

Illustration by Sarah McMenemy.

For example, whipped feta isn’t something you’d expect to see on an Irish pub menu, but at Curragh it’s listed right there in between the red pepper hummus and the Guinness cheese soup. Other starters include wings, a curious offering called Shrimp Ballyvaughan and mozzarella cheese sticks. Traditional Irish Music is frequently performed here, and the pub offers brunch, so with St. Paddy’s falling on a Sunday this year, hopping in your car for a little jaunt out to the lakeshore just might be the move. The pub is named after an area in Ireland known as the Curragh plains, and is derived from a phrase that means “place of the running horse,” a theme you will notice throughout the charming pub. If weather allows, the outdoor seating is pleasant and plentiful. The interior is spacious, and conveys quintessential Irish pub qualities.

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