Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Barber’s Bar

Inside The Barber's BarThis week’s Weirdo Dublin Pub is properly a little bit weird, in the best possible ways; we’re heading back to Stoneybatter for The Barber’s Bar. Although you can no longer get a haircut while you sip, the theme is still very much in evidence, with the barber’s poles outside and other signage inside…along with some taxidermy (obvs) and a Pac-Man machine. But despite its close proximity to the TUD Grangegorman campus*, this feels much more like a neighbourhood spot than a student bar, perhaps because of the emphasis on its dog-friendliness. Though that said, given that so many university students live at home with their parents nowadays (I have one of these upstairs myself) rather than in a messy shared house, thanks to the housing crisis, I suppose there’s nothing to stop them from simply bringing the family dog.

Pac-Man in The Barber's Bar

The Barber’s Bar is run by the same team behind Doyle’s Corner in Phibsborough, but it’s a very different vibe; smaller and quirkier, and a bit less like a ‘traditional’ pub, but still very welcoming. And while some of the kitschier décor may suggest the visitor has taken a trip to Craftonia (Homage to Craftonia? I’ll get me coat…), there are still only a few local craft taps, albeit very nice ones – Kinnegar’s always-tasty Scraggy Bay and Ambush from Trouble, along with Guinness and the other usual offerings – so, essentially a smaller version of the Doyle’s Corner beer lineup.

Doggie portraits at The Barber's BarBut back to the dogs – they are very much catered for here, with their own little snugs and corners, photo wall (there is much to be said for a pet-focused feature wall vs a human-centred ‘Instagram wall’ in a pub) and even a little bed tucked away within some of the seating, for the sleepier or simply more retiring Good Pupper. On my recent visit, all the canine customers were very well-behaved indeed – and the same went for their human counterparts.

Doggie snug at The Barber's BarI’d been told by a regular that the food (served in the late afternoons and evenings) was worth the trip too; while I’m generally a fan of most standard pub food, it’s nice to have alternatives, too, and the Tokyo Kitchen-powered menu offered a great selection of Asian-inspired tapas and more; gyoza and beer make a great combination, far superior (in my opinion, of course) to crisps for a snack or even a smaller meal, though you could certainly size up for more.

All in all, though, The Barber’s Bar is very close to my ideal sort of spot for a chilled out solo pint: just enough of a walk that it’s a destination, comfortable surroundings that don’t take themselves too seriously, cute companion animals and some excellent, unfussy beers on tap.

I seem to be craving gyoza and a Scraggy Bay now…

Where: The Barber’s Bar, 19 Lower Grangegorman Road, Stoneybatter, Dublin, D07 H583
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 37, 39 39A, 70, 83, 83A, Luas Green Line (Broadstone), 30ish minute walk
Food: Tokyo Kitchen – gyoza, spring rolls, Japanese curry & more
Sport: Not so much
TVs: Nope
Music: FELT SEEN – 70s/80s/90s tunes that seemed ripped from my own collection of indie and electronica; occasional live music advertised on the socials
Family-friendliness: If they like dogs and it’s not late, sure
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Stoneybatter and Smithfield are both handy: L. Mulligan, Grocer, The Belfry, Fidelity, Hynes’ Bar, Walsh’s, The Cobblestone, Bonobo…even Underdog isn’t too far, or you could cut back across the Grangegorman campus to Phibsborough and Doyle’s Corner, The Boh, The Hut, The Bald Eagle
Haunted: Does the Doyle’s Corner ghost make visits? There is a Sheela-na-gig up the road…
Local sites of note: TUD Grangegorman, Collins Barracks, Lighthouse Cinema
Other notes: So many doggos!
Socials: Instagram, Facebook, Former Twitter

*Perhaps Dublin’s best example of thoughtful reuse of a historic site, turning something with a dark past into a modern space for community and learning, with (mostly) creative new architecture mixed with (mostly) well-conserved historic buildings – a great place for a stroll, and well worth taking one of the occasional walking tours to learn more

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: J. McNeill’s Pub

J McNeill's Pub - musical instruments in the windows

As is the case for countless Dublin pubs – indeed, for countless pubs across Ireland – J. McNeill’s Pub purports to be quite a different business, at least partially; in this instance, a music shop. However, as with the many pubs that were once also grocers (insofar as licensing purposes required) or other sorts of local shops, there is very much more than a grain of truth in this case. Indeed, J. McNeill’s did begin life as a musical instrument shop, back in 1834, albeit a few doors further down Capel Street, though the music business moved out of Dublin a good 20 years ago, and J McNeill’s has been ‘just a pub’ ever since.

Three ladies under the stairs in the pub, with your author in the middle. Does this count as a snug? Sure.But it retains a strong musical tradition, from the instruments in the window to the nightly-ish trad sessions in the main bar, and the wealth of photographs of well-known musicians throughout the pub. While the entrance and front bar are rather small, the pubs winds its way back in slightly eccentric fashion, with a series of not-quite-snugs (you may decide for yourself whether our seating area pictured here, with your own fair author deep under the stairs, counts as a snug) to a cozy back room with another fireplace, as well as a heated outdoor area, which on our visit was rather smoky, as outdoor areas tend to be, but given how central this is, it’s rare to have much of an outdoor offering at all.

Beer-wise, there’s only a single local craft tap – Wicklow Wolf on our visit – but it does change hands from time to time. However, given that many trad pubs are Diageo-only shops, it’s nice to have at least one alternative option. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with a Guinness with a trad session, but it is pleasant to have a few more choices. There is some well-kept Beamish from the folks at Heineken as well (one wonders if the Beamish is back after an our long national Islands Edge nightmare ended – excellent news, if so), which is what I opted for on this occasion.

BeamishWe didn’t stay for the session, as it happens, but it did look like it was going to be a good one; plenty of regulars were arriving for it just as we were leaving, which is always a good sign.

All in all, J McNeill’s is a great little spot on Capel Street for those seeking out a more traditional pub experience vs a bar or club setting, but within easy walking distance of a wide variety of options if your afternoon or evening (or even morning, if you started just down the road at Slattery’s at 7 am – no judgement, I mean, we’ve recorded a Beer Ladies Podcast episode on early houses there, as you do) is just getting started…

Pub fireplaceWhere: J. McNeill’s Pub, 140 Capel St, North City, Dublin, D01 F9R2
Access from the city centre: Buses 13, 27, 54A, 77A, 123, 150, 151; 12ish minute walk
Food: Toasties and the usual peanuts and crisps
Sport: GAA, rugby, football, etc
TVs: Scattered here and there around the pub
Music: Trad session most evenings
Family-friendliness: Probably not the best spot for the littles
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Capel Street is lined with pubs and bars, including Slattery’s, The Boar’s Head, The Black Sheep and The Underdog, to pick just a few, with even more like The Beer Temple/The Oak and The Lord Edward just across the river…
Haunted: No obvious lore, but the walls look like they’ve seen things…
Local sites of note: Capel Street, Jervis Centre, National Leprechaun Museum, Henry Street shopping area
Other notes: Two lovely fireplaces
Socials: Facebook