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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Boh

Bohemian Bar - Phibsboro - John Doyle, Proprietor
Copyright Archiseek

It seems to me that every time I’ve been into The Boh, I’ve been assigned an elderly gentleman as a discussion partner.

Indeed, it was no different on my most recent visit, when I stopped in for a pint to get a break from Storm Isha, which was not-quite-raging, but on its way in that direction. Given the abundance of wonderful pubs in this part of Dublin, I don’t come in as often as I might, but when I do stop by, I’m always struck by how well-restored the interior is, especially the ceiling – very much High Victorian, with its dark wood and etched-glass dividers around the bar. It doesn’t have quite the level of mosaic and mirrors as The Hut, just across the street, but the two pubs are very similar in date, décor, beer and clientele – this is officially an Old Man Pub.

Taps at The BohAnd there’s much to be said for an Old Man Pub; there are plenty of friendly regulars (largely, though not entirely, from that specific demographic), quite often a more affordable pint and a some generally comfortable spots to sit and relax. There may not be any craft beer – the closest The Boh gets is with a few broadly-interchangeable Franciscan Well and Open Gate IPAs – but as the vast majority of their patrons are here for the Guinness and Beamish, it’s hardly surprising. First, though, a bit of context.

Inside The BohMore properly known as McGeough’s – The Bohemian, and situated on one side of Doyle’s Corner (opposite, er, Doyle’s Corner), it was previously under the same ownership; it was rebuilt in 1906-1907 (having originally gone up in the 1880s, most likely – the pub website may say 1807, but I would need a bit more convincing on that) by architect George L. O’Connor for John Doyle during his ownership. But as mentioned in our entry on Doyle’s Corner, this intersection was previously known as Dunphy’s Corner, with the inescapable Ulysses name-check, and its earlier context is well-explained over at Dublin by Pub. And it’s been known as The Bohemian for the better part of 120 years, if not more, so it comes by its association with Bohs (Bohemians FC to the uninitiated – as a season ticket holder for the women’s and men’s teams, and the parent of a youth player, I am very much initiated) honestly. Dalymount Park is mere steps away; it became the Bohs home ground in 1901, and people have been stopping off for pre- or post-game pints ever since – there’s a nice Bohs flag hanging in one corner of the pub, and the beer garden is often hopping after games. In fact, it was in the beer garden I was first assigned an elderly gentleman for a chat, a few years back.

We’d stopped in after a game for a quick pint, and while League of Ireland crowds are nothing like Premiere League ones (having lived near West Ham in the 1990s, I saw more of the bad of those than the good), it was still quite busy, so we were directed to a tall table outside; shortly thereafter, an older solo drinker was added to our table, and we had a long chat about how life had changed in this part of Dublin since the 1960s; although we never exchanged names, it was a fascinating conversation.

And on every occasion I’ve been back since, whether on my own or in company, I’ve had another one of those conversations – sometimes with older men who were born-and-bred in Phibsborough, but with more than a few blow-ins like us – some from other parts of Ireland, some from the UK, but always someone making The Boh live up to its Old Man Pub reputation, in the nicest possible way.

So, if you’re keen to have a chat with a local, The Boh is your spot – there’s probably an amazing oral history project that could be done here.

Where: The Bohemian, 66 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 P592
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Indian restaurant upstairs in the evenings
Sport: Horse racing, GAA, snooker, football, etc
TVs: Quite a few around both sides of the pub
Music: No background music on my visits, but there are regular jazz and trad sessions upstairs
Family-friendliness: While I’ve had a smaller kid in the beer garden, it’s an older crowd, all around
Pub-crawl-ability: High – all the Phibsborough/Phibsboro pubs are within a short walk: Doyle’s Corner and The Hut are across the street, The Bald Eagle and The Back Page further along in opposite directions, with The Botanic and The Gravediggers a further stroll along toward Glasnevin
Haunted: Perhaps the poltergeist from Doyle’s Corner makes visits?
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, Mater Hospital
Other notes: Check the windows for local event posters
Socials: Instagram, Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Ivy House

Outside The Ivy HouseWelcome to the new home for Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs! If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll notice we’ve spun off to a new, stand-alone site, just in time for the first anniversary of this series, and we’ll be adding some new features and categories as we go. With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, we’re back to normal service with another Northside pub – The Ivy House in Drumcondra.

The Ivy House is in a lovely three-storey building (with the date ‘1809’ above the pediment…we’ll get back to that), so it’s quite a substantial place, but it could easily be argued that it’s two pubs in one. Although most visual interest is drawn by the frontage, the smaller, one-storey structure to the side could almost be overlooked, were it not for the arresting image of an older man – one Patrick Carthy, formerly of Carthy’s Bar, painted on the wall, and this part of the business is still known by his name. Indeed, despite living nearby and walking past regularly a few times a week (it is, after all, just past The Cat & Cage), I’d not really noticed the separate entrance. However, I finally had a chance to stop in the other day, and given the bitterly cold snap we’ve been having, its fireplace was a very welcome find.

Patrick CarthyMy perception of The Ivy House before this visit was that is was more restaurant than pub; the larger main section is sleeky and modern – there’s a lot of dark blue – with many booths and tall tables, though there is a fireplace toward the back, albeit a large open and, again, very modern one. It’s less cozy and more efficient, with a large menu suiting most tastes (including my still-rather-picky younger offspring). Indeed, they always seem to be doing a roaring brunch trade at the weekends, and when I’m out and about for a solo pint, I frequently stop at The Cat & Cage, rather than The Ivy House, simply out of habit, but also because on those occasions I’m looking more for a nice spot to sit and relax, rather than go for a full meal.

Inside Carthy's BarBut as I happened to be in the area and wanted to get inside as soon as possible, I finally stopped in to the Carthy’s Bar side of The Ivy House, and ‘side’ is the key word here – it has an entirely separate entrance around the corner, complete with its own frontage. And, once inside, it’s quite the contrast from the other side of The Ivy House – it’s every bit the old-man-pub, complete with the aforementioned fireplace – not a woodburner, but lovely an warm. On my afternoon visit, there were at least 3 different sports on – possibly one for each person in the pub at that moment – but nothing was too loud or distracting. And as the bar serves both sides of the pub, it’s easy to order one of the local craft options – they always seem to have Hope Hop-on on tap – or a Guinness or Beamish from either spot.

There are also old photographs, press clippings and other memorabilia from the pub’s history on the walls within Carthy’s Bar; while the date mentioned above certainly doesn’t relate to the current building, which was built around 1910, there were buildings on this site long beforehand, so it’s not unreasonable to assume the earlier date does correspond to an earlier establishment.

And if you’re keen to make a pub crawl out of it, you can easily cheat by hitting both sides of the bar before moving on to The Cat & Cage and/or further afield – you do have to use the exterior doors, after all…

Where: The Ivy House, 114 Drumcondra Rd Upper, Drumcondra, Dublin, D09 CX74
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 16, 44
Food: Extensive food menu, including brunch and children’s options
Sport: Football, GAA, snooker…everything seems to be covered
TVs: Quite a few around both sides of the pub
Music: Always seems to be a pleasant playlist of late ’90s-early 2000s jams when I’m in
Family-friendliness: Certainly on the larger main side; feels more adult-orientated on the snug side
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – very short walk to the Cat & Cage, slightly longer to Fagan’s & Kennedy’s
Haunted: No obvious circulating lore, but why not? Brendan Behan does appear in some photos…
Local sites of note: Glasnevin Cemetery, National Botanic Gardens, DCU All Hallows & St Patrick’s campuses, Croke Park
Other notes: There’s also a beer garden for better weather
Socials: Instagram, Facebook