With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching and many festivals and parades already over the weekend, I thought I would spread some Irish luck your way and some tips to help you celebrate in style. First some Gaelic 101: “Cead Mile Failte,” pronounced “Kay-da May-la Fall-cha,” means a hundred thousand welcomes. “Slainte!” is what you say to toast before drinking, and it is pronounced “Slahn-cha.” You are now armed with a greeting and a toast to make this the most festive St Patty’s Day ever. I was hoping to share a list of Irish pubs in airports in case you are celebrating in transit, but I never set foot in airport bars (the uniform gets funny looks), and I’ve only seen one Irish pub that looked about as Irish as a taco. So instead, I countdown for you:
The Aviator’s Top 5 Irish Pubs (from my travels)
Nestled a block from Wrigley Field sits a place I always hit up when in the Windy City. Chicago has one of the most famous St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world with a river dyed green to show you they mean business! The Irish Oak hits all the main points for a fun pub any day of the year though if you can’t make it there for the biggest green party of the year, with solid food, properly poured Guinness, and friendly staff. With a city full of pubs and Irish heritage it’s hard to stand out and yet they succeed-I can’t resist popping in on an overnight.
A few minutes out of the downtown bustle in the Jamaica Plain district of Boston sits my favorite neighborhood pub and an Irish treat. Come here hungry! The food is really tasty and I recommend sitting at the bar to get to know the crowd. Every time I enjoy a pint here, I make a new friend and hear some great (and sometimes crazy stories). “This one time at Fenway…” has started more than one tale that left me needing another pint of the dark stuff with a smile on my face.
San Francisco, California
There’s something magical about a slightly grungy pub that screams ‘locals only’ before you even walk through the front door. A post-Giants baseball game stroll led me to this gem. Unless it is March 17th, don’t expect a rowdy scene. Come for a cold one and top-notch people watching. In my experience visiting this bar was more memorable than the baseball game that night and has been each time since.
New York City, New York
Oh man! When I first heard a pilot friend of mine describe McSorley’s almost a decade ago I knew I had to go. Hop on the subway to the village, walk the few blocks through crisscrossing streets and find yourself stepping back in time. Here are the basics: It was established in 1854 and there are 2 types of beer (dark and lite,). It’s often crowded so don’t be deterred by the ambiance. There’s a funk of dish soap and the floor is covered in sawdust. But once you anchor a spot at the bar or share a table with some soon-to-be-new-friends this place has marked its spot in your heart. This place is old school: cash only, and women were only allowed in as of 1970. It’s a pub; it looks almost exactly like what my great grandfather saw a hundred years ago when he first visited New York after emigrating from Ireland to Philadelphia. It’s as real as it gets without the 7-hour ride across the pond to the homeland.
You didn’t think I was going to give you a list of favorite Irish pubs without naming one in Ireland, did you?! Ha’penny Bridge Inn sits on the River Liffey in Dublin next to the Temple Bar district. Do yourself a favor and see Temple Bar. See all the famous names and pretty facades. Then go here and get your drink. I was fortunate to have a local recommend that to me. I now buy that local a pint of Magners any time I’m in Dublin. He isn’t just a friend, but my patron saint of great pubs with low tourism and a high local vibe. Thanks Finn! I won’t describe this place at all.
Just go. Enjoy the real Ireland. Don’t be a loud American with a million questions. The Irish hate questions. They love stories and having a good crack. That’s slang for jokes and teasing your friends.
Slainte from the flight deck!