As proprietors retire and demographics change, an alarming number of Irish pubs in North America have closed in recent years. However, innovators and a new generation with fresh perspectives are taking up the mantle, infusing the traditional notions of an Irish pub with exciting ideas bound to get your imagination going. Many travellers make it a point of visiting an Irish pub on their trip to America (just make sure you have your ESTA in order before your departure), so we’ve compiled a list of five Irish pubs making waves in the states.
The Dead Rabbit
30 Water Street, Brooklyn, New York
Unashamedly calling itself The World’s Best Bar, The Dead Rabbit was opened in 2013 by Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon. The bar has picked up heavy-hitting awards year-on-year and even has its own coffee, series of books (The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, Mixology & Mayhem, and From Barley to Blarney), and, almost unbelievably, its own Irish whiskey.
The bar itself is split into three spaces – there’s The Taproom on the ground floor, an honest, no-nonsense Irish pub setting. Upstairs there’s The Parlour, a multi-award-winning cocktail bar that’s been the toast of Brooklyn since it opened. Finally the top floor houses The Occasional, a private function room that fits up to 64 people.
Add to that an excellent food menu, which features a prime rib roast on Sundays, and you have one of the most exciting bars in New York – Irish or otherwise. A required visit.
The Dubliner Irish Pub
2818 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, Texas
The Dubliner is the oldest Irish pub in Dallas, having been opened by Peter Kenny, a native of Dublin, in 1994. A traditionally styled pub, they offer a huge selection of imported and craft beer, as well as whiskies. The Guinness served here is reputed to be the best in Dallas.
Unlike many Irish bars in North America, The Dubliner really does feel like a cosy bar of the sort typically only found in Ireland. It’s longer than it is wide, and its well worn wooden bar tells plenty of stories. A simple food menu will keep you going long into the night.
The Irish Rover
2319 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky
A classically homey bar first opened in 1994, serving up fresh pints of Guinness as well as Irish pub staples such as fish & chips, smoked salmon on soda bread, and bangers & mash. Their wine list is complimented by an ever-changing cocktail menu.
One thing that sets The Irish Rover apart is its annual group tour to Ireland. Though cancelled for this year, in previous years the group has gone to places including Slane Castle, Galway City, Strokestown, and Trinity College. The two week tour departs from Louisville and is an all-inclusive package.
To give you a better idea of The Irish Rover, the bar was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins & Dives with Guy Fieri.
Kelly’s Irish Times
14 F St. NW Washington, DC
Located in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood, Kelly’s Irish Times first opened in 1978 and is now recognised as one of the most celebrated pubs in America. The bar mixes Irish hospitality with modern American influences.
Kelly’s Kelly’s was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire Magazine in 2014 has been a mainstay of top ten lists for over a decade, being cited by publications such as USA Today and MSN.com.
As well as its full bar including beers and whiskies, Kelly’s has a popular food menu of Irish bar food done right. Expect to find Guinness Irish stew, corned beef & cabbage and BBQ pulled pork sliders.
In 2015 a brand new whiskey bar was opened which boasts nearly two dozen Irish whiskies and a host of bourbons, ryes and plenty of Scotch.
2351 Mission Street, San Francisco, California
The newest bar on our list, we chose Casement’s because it’s a contemporary fusion of the modern American bar with Irish sensibilities.
Casement’s eschews the expectations of an Irish bar, and goes straight in with a strong cocktail menu and carefully curated food offering. The bar is the work of three industry veterans – Gillian Fitzgerald, Sean O’Donovan, and Chris Hastings. Fitzgerald and O’Donovan are Irish, hailing from Counties Meath and Clare respectively.
Casement’s offers around 50 whiskies and 20 gins, from standards such as Jameson to new Irish distillers just setting up. As you would imagine, the cocktail menu is inventive, such as the Ode to Orleans, a mix of Powers Whiskey, Kerrygold Irish cream, and Andytown cold brew coffee.
Not to be outdone, they’re also serving draft pints and want to take the title of best pint of Guinness in the city.
For food, expect to find chicken curry and chips, toasties, and stews. They also sell pies from Revenge Pies, a much respected local bakery that supplies to a few local restaurants.
As to the name, it’s a reference to Sir Roger Casement, a diplomat and revolutionary who was later sentenced to death for treason.
If you’re ready to head off to the States, keep in mind you can get an ESTA instead of a visa. Ireland is part of the Visa Waiver Program of the USA, meaning Irish travellers can get an ESTA, which is both cheaper than the visa and can be applied for entirely online.
This is just a small snapshot of some of the unique, exciting, and forward-thinking Irish bars you will find all throughout North America. Once you have your ESTA sorted, and are planning your journey, make a point of searching out a few haunts along your travels and taking in their often rich histories.