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: 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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Botanic

Outside The BotanicWe’re back to normal Weirdo Dublin Pubs service this week, and we’re back in our normal Northside haunts (so seasonal!) with a new entrant to the field: The Botanic. Previously known as The Botanic House, this lovely early-20th-century pub had been dormant for some time, but it’s now very much back open, and very much back on theme, even if its name has been very slightly truncated.

As I walk past the pub quite frequently on my usual meanderings, I had often wondered about its history, and have more than once fallen down a rabbit hole, looking for information – it’s a handsome building, with ‘AD 1913’ confidently displayed over the door. The small bits and pieces I have uncovered in this rather cursory digging are that The Botanic House re-opened in 1914, and that the current building replaced a previous incarnation (or two? Or more?) from the 1850s – there’s clearly more to get into there. Its more recent experience, though, has been rather more episodic – it closed in 2014, after more or less a continued century in business in the current site, re-opened after a renovation in 2018, then closed again with Covid restrictions in 2021, remaining shuttered while others around re-opened – until a few weeks ago.

Chili and a pintI’d seen the flowers outside (see? A THEME) and the new signage appear not long ago, and had been making a point of heading in that direction more often to keep an eye on things. We tried popping in shortly after they officially re-opened, but it was absolutely slammed – likely a good thing – and so left it a few weeks, before making reservations to give it another try. An ideal opportunity presented itself with the smaller offspring’s birthday, as The Botanic’s Instagram leans heavily into social media-friendly large milkshakes, desserts and cocktails – she was exceptionally keen to try said milkshakes and cakes (though more on that in a moment).

A view toward the main barWhen we duly arrived for our booking, the floral theme outside continues everywhere inside, and to good effect; given the proximity to the National Botanic Gardens and at least 100 years of the old name, there’s no harm in leaning all the way in with the plants; it’s very colourful and well-executed, and it complements the broadly-Edwardian interior well. Most importantly from my perspective is the beer lineup, and it’s rather respectable: several Rye River and BRÚ taps, plus some Galway Bay options, in addition to the usual suspects. As mentioned, the wildly Instagrammable cocktails also looked rather tempting (well, many of them – I’ll pass on some of the more candy-themed options, but there were plenty of perfectly reasonable choices), but the real standout was the food. I had an excellent chili – something that isn’t always well-interpreted in Europe – and there’s a good mix of other choices beyond the typical pub menu, from sirloins to stir-fry. You could even eat in a reasonably healthy way, and then undo it all with a big dessert (cough) – and again, there are the mega-milkshakes, which proved so filling that the birthday girl couldn’t manage a separate dessert.

Pretty dessertMy only complaint was that the service was very slow in terms of initial ordering or getting refills (though the food came quickly), and the waitstaff didn’t seem to be very knowledgeable about the beers on tap; for example, it seemed to be a surprise to them that they had more than one IPA, or more than one kind of beer from the individual breweries, and we had to remind them several times that we’d ordered drinks, but I would put that down to everything still being quite new.

All told, it feels more on the ‘restaurant’ side of the fence, but I would be curious to wander over some less-crowded afternoon for a post-walk pint, though now that I know there’s a good chili available nearby, I may struggle to pass that up…

Where: The Botanic, 22-26 Botanic Rd, Glasnevin, Ireland, Co. Dublin, D09 AK26
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 16, 40, 46A, 83, 122, 140
Food: Gastropub, with so many desserts
Sport: Lots of sporting options
TVs: Many televisions, but well-placed so as not to be overwhelming
Music: Live music Friday & Saturday nights; the soundtrack our visit was a little MOR for my personal taste
Family-friendliness: Very child-friendly, with an extensive and more-interesting-than-most children’s menu
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium-high – very handy for all of the main Phibsboro pubs, including The Bald Eagle, The Brian Boru, Doyle’s Corner, The Hut, The Boh, The Back Page and even a short stroll from The Gravediggers
Haunted: It was accidentally involved in an entirely unrelated kidnap case in 1917, so maybe!
Local sites of note: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin Cemetery, Royal Canal, Dalymount Park
Other notes: Reservations seem to be a must on weekends at the moment

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Brickyard Gastropub

The Brickyard signThis week in Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs, we’re not just crossing the Liffey – we’re going Far Away, to the suburbs (though still via public transit – we’re not monsters here). While I had been told by many people that The Brickyard was a must-visit, not just for the beer selection but for the food, as someone with a violent aversion to most suburbs, I had not made my way down there in the nearly four years we’ve lived in Dublin. And, to be fair, it’s a very accessible suburb; indeed, the pub is situated right above the Luas tracks, only steps from a station.

Although I had not previously actually visited, I have been using their beer delivery service, Yards & Crafts, ever since it launched, as they have always had an excellent selection of beer from Ireland, the UK and beyond, including their own label, Two Sides, originally a collaborative effort with the recently-shuttered restaurant 57 The Headline (though in that case, they should be re-opening in a new form in the not-too-distant future). And while that part of the business is winding down – it sprang to life during the Covid shutdowns – the Brickyard Gastropub itself has recently undergone a major renovation, and the attention to detail is evident; it’s a bright, open space with a variety of seating options, both indoor and on the covered patio.

Hops. In a cage.Now that I have finally visited, I was rather regretting not having experienced the previous look and feel, simply for comparison, but what is there now very much reminds me of some of the places we used to frequent in the Philly area, especially TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery. Both spots have an emphasis on great craft beer from near and far (plus the usual macros for good measure), and an excellent and varied food selection – yes, the usual burgers, but also a changing variety of other options – as well as a similar exposed-brick decor. The other obvious similarity is that both are in relatively far-out suburbs, but with handy train connections – the broader unprepossessing exterior doesn’t give an obvious hit of what’s inside until you’ve made your way past the ‘shopping centre’ surrounds and find the ‘semi-industrial with hops’ look inside.

I was finally motivated to make the trip down to The Brickyard for their Oktoberfest offering – one with real pretzels, a rarity around these parts. I know few people want to hear my Grand Unified Theory on why all pubs the world over should always offer soft pretzels (not hard pretzels, which are garbage), but I will say these more than met with my approval. And I was certainly not disappointed in the beer offering; indeed, it’s probably one of the best in Dublin. I especially appreciated the attention to detail on the beer menu, separating out the low- and no-alcohol options (of which there were many – more on this in a moment), as well as gluten-free choices and useful broad categories beyond that would appeal to the beer newbie and jaded expert alike. In short, they make great use of all 27 taps, with a wide range of styles and strengths. This is not the spot you find 25 basically-identical hazy IPAs and a Guinness, and thank goodness for that.

At the barBut back to the impressive non-alcoholic beer list for a moment; our Beer Ladies Podcast episode this week is on the topic of ‘sober-curious,’ – both mindful drinking and simply drinking, well, less. Having such a great lineup, including the brewed-with-a-unique-NZ-yeast Dot Brew Non-Alcoholic IPA, but also a no-booze sour, hefeweizen and some lagers and stouts, really offered something for everyone, whether they were off the drink for the evening, or just choosing to swap a ‘real’ beer for a non-alcoholic one on the odd round. Given the relatively long trip back into town for me, I liked the idea of being able to keep things on the light side, while still enjoying some good flavours – and having a real choice in that regard was a lovely novelty.

All told, this is the sort of place that would absolutely be my regular spot if I lived nearby, but now that I know it’s very much worth the trip, I will certainly be back. I mean, the Luas is free, right?

Where: Brickyard Gastropub, Ground Floor, North Block, Rockfield Central, Dundrum, Dublin 16
Access from the city centre: Luas Green Line – no walking unless you are incredibly ambitious
Food: Gastropub, with many specials
Sport: All the sport! Sport for all!
TVs: So very many TVs!
Music: Felt explicitly targeted as a specific GenX sub-group; so much early ’90s indie joy
Family-friendliness: Lots of families, and a thoroughly welcoming atmosphere
Pub-crawl-ability: Low – this is the suburbs, after all – but you could hop the Luas back toward the city…
Haunted: Perhaps in a sort of late-stage capitalism, Municipal Gothic sense
Local sites of note: Dundrum Town Centre, Airfield Estate
Other notes: Walk-ins only, unless your group is large

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Old Spot

Not in Dublin: A lovely beer at Beer Run in NYCI had every intention of writing something about the couple of new-to-me bars I had a chance to pop into in New York while I was over for work – Beer Run, for obvious running-nerd/beer-nerd reasons was a standout to me, and I was thrilled to have a few festibiers from around the region (I’m the weirdo who prefers the darker, grainier, more bready American festbiers to their modern German counterparts – sorry/not sorry), but instead, I ended up with a longer hiatus as I came back from the States with Covid – thanks, Obama!

Luckily, I was recovered by this past weekend, and I had the chance to get to one of our favourite pubs on the fancier side of Dublin: The Old Spot. We don’t get over this way terribly often, although we used to live around the corner, just on the other side of the Aviva, so going to the stadium in question gave us a perfect opportunity. After watching the Irish Women’s National Team beat Northern Ireland, we headed around the corner to The Old Spot for dinner – and it does feel very much, to me, like a ‘nice dinner’ spot (Spot?).

In Dublin: A pint of HopeIt’s certainly on the ‘gastro’ end of the gastropub spectrum, but it doesn’t try to hide this, and with that said, it’s entirely family-friendly and has both ‘good’ kids’ options and ones my currently-very-picky younger one will accept. As a side note, the vast majority of pubs and restaurants, even the ‘higher end’ ones here in Ireland tend to be welcoming to children (presuming it’s not terribly late) in a way that just isn’t as common, at least in my experience, in either the US or UK, where there is often a tendency to treat even older children as annoyances or somehow not members of the same species. And while I am not, on the whole, the biggest fan of ‘other people’s children,’ I find them much better-behaved and more like fully-baked humans when they are given the opportunity to exist comfortably in public spaces. Again, this is by no means universal in either direction, but Ireland seems to sit more in the ‘European’ camp in this regard, with the Anglo-American attitude being typically (though not always) considerably less inclusive – but I digress, back to the food and drink!

I’m a big fan of the food at The Old Spot – even the burger simply seems ‘elevated’ compared to what you find in most pubs, and there are always interesting specials that I would consider actually ‘special,’ but by no means fussy. And in addition to a really lovely cocktail menu, they have Hope and Kinnegar on tap, and in their own glassware, so Irish craft beer is well-supported. There is also an excellent whiskey selection, which pairs well with the always-interesting dessert menu, so I’ve never left in any way hungry.

DessertI know that some find the décor a bit twee, but I really enjoy the whimsey of it – plenty of on-theme pigs around, and there’s always the more ‘bar’ bar area at the front if you prefer simply stopping in for a pre- or post-match pint.

I need to get back that way more frequently.

Where: The Old Spot, 14 Bath Ave, Dublin 4, D04 Y726
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 7, 7A, 38, 38A, 39 39A, 56A, 77A, DART
Food: Gastropub, with many specials
Sport: Better for before or after the game
TVs: Nope
Music: I always feel targeted
Family-friendliness: Thoroughly welcoming
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – The Bath Pub, Slattery’s, The Chophouse, The 51, The Gasworks and The Merry Cobbler are all a short stroll in various directions
Local sites of note: Aviva Stadium, Beggars Bush Barracks, National Print Museum
Haunted: There are some lovely older homes in the area – maybe some ghosts wander in?
Other notes: Worth making a reservation, it can fill up

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Porterhouse Temple Bar

Upstairs bar at The PorterhouseThey don’t have German beer on tap any more.

While The Porterhouse has been serving its own beer in Temple Bar since 1996, it used to highlight more overseas craft and traditional beers as well; or, at least, that is how it seems to stick in everyone’s memory – ‘everyone’ here being the group I most recently visited with – we all had pre-Covid memories of finding a range of interesting German, Belgian, British and American craft beers on tap, alongside The Porterhouse’s own well-known porters and stouts.

Bottles from around the worldThe bottles of beer from all over the world – a good portion of them from now-defunct breweries – still line the walls, there are sessions happening in multiple parts of the building, but there does seem to be a sense that things have changed – and perhaps it’s more because the local craft beer scene can now fill more of those taps, even in a huge venue like The Porterhouse. Indeed, the downstairs bar was nearly all local options like Lineman, The White Hag, Kinnegar and Whiplash, which was delightful to see – and the prices were not terrible, despite the Temple Bar location.

When The Porterhouse first opened here, Temple Bar itself was not the combination tourist trap/stag-and-hen destination it has become in the past decade or so, though it is worth noting that while the immediate area is a nightmare for a nice pint at a normal cost (without a bit of effort), there are still interesting places to go for tourists and locals alike – the Project Arts Centre and Smock Alley Theatre are great for performances of all sorts, and the National Photographic Archive has all manner of excellent exhibits. You may well have to avoid or step over certain kinds of revellers, and there are pubs to simply skip because they will charge you something like €‎14 for a Guinness, but having a spot like The Porterhouse that is a known quantity does provide a bit of a refuge from that aspect of the area.

A session breaks outThere is probably some sort of thesis possible in terms of determining whether Temple Bar and its flagship modern businesses, including The Porterhouse, ever had a specific ‘heyday’ in between the overall regeneration of the area to pinpointing when the tourist trap tipping point happened – and I’m far from being best-placed to determine when that happened. And while the recent-ish news that Conor McGregor would be buying the brewing arm of The Porterhouse did not thrill most local beer nerds, it can’t be said that this turn of events is in any way reflected in the pub – yet. There was no sign of his stout, already brewed by the same team, and no obvious change in the overall ‘feel,’ though as the pubs are not part of the deal, we may not expect that to happen any time soon (or it may have already ‘happened’ to the old Porterhouse Central, now ‘Tapped‘ – a makeover about which I Have Opinions).

So, on balance, the absence of German beers nowadays may be a sign of the growth of the local industry – though I wouldn’t mind a nice radler in this hot weather. Mind yourself on the cobblestones.

Where: Porterhouse Temple Bar, 16-18 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 VR94
Access from the city centre: 6-ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pasta, cheese boards, desserts
Sport: It’s on when it’s on
TVs: Scattered around, just keep an eye out
Music: GenX and elder Millennials are aggressively targeted by the playlist before the sessions – this is fine
Family-friendliness: While it can get crowded, its size usually makes it fine during the day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Stag’s Head, The Long Hall, The Lord Edward, The Beer Temple/The Oak…or walk across the river to hit The Black Sheep and Underdog. Oh, and there’s all of Temple Bar, if that is your thing
Local sites of note: Dublin Castle, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia, Olympia Theatre
Haunted: Big old building like this? Surely…
Other notes: Don’t get me started on Tapped

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Piper’s Corner

Piper's Corner signPiper’s Corner is very much a trad bar, and while I end up there not so infrequently, I’ve oddly never been in when a session is on, despite being something of a folk music nerd. And while at some point I will have to remedy that, I enjoy the pub for a variety of other reasons.

First, though, some more background: Piper’s Corner opened in 2017, replacing the former Sean O’Casey’s Bar, which was less of a music experience and more of a dive one. And yet Piper’s Corner seems to have been embraced from the start, possibly because it offered a more ‘authentic’ trad experience, vs the more tourist-forward ‘trad evenings’ on offer in some places. I’m aware I’m on slightly dangerous ground here, as there’s absolutely a place for the shows aimed at tourists (if they are willing to pay for a specific kind of experience that’s keeping musicians working, why not?), and also because folk music is never static – it’s always evolving, so there’s no one ‘right’ way to play or enjoy trad tunes. Now, this doesn’t mean visitors are not welcome – not at all – just that it seems to be a more organic experience (for lack of a better word – and this is largely based on word of mouth, since you know I’m asleep by then most of the time). But even having missed out on the music, I have a special fondness for Piper’s Corner for another reason, too – one beyond its extremely handy proximity to the Abbey Theatre, making it an ideal pre- or post-play spot.

Piper's Corner - other barBack in 2019 – so, think 1-2 ‘normal’ years and a few extra-long ‘Covid years’ here – I went to a fateful meetup at Piper’s Corner. I was briefly in town for some meetings, waiting for everything to come through for our big move from the US, and it happily coincided with a Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland event – I would finally get the chance to meet some of my Twitter Friends (as people were back then) in person, and get some great tips for local beer (of course), neighbourhoods, schools, commutes (still a thing) and so on. Fast-forward four years, and some of the friends I made that night are now some of my firmest – and I’m still a huge fan of Kinnegar Scraggy Bay, which was very much a feature of that evening.

Handy badgesI was back with a few of them the other evening for a Beer Ladies Podcast planning session that turned into more of a session (still not a music one, though), and it was lovely to have some of the same group back in a spot with such warm memories. There were a few little features that made our beer nerdy hearts collectively happy too – the first, of course, being that Piper’s Corner still very much supports smaller Irish breweries, with a whole series of craft beer taps on one side of the bar. Given that a not-insignificant number of pubs that used to have a craft tap or two abandoned them post-lockdowns, it’s a much-appreciated effort, though of course you can get a well-poured Guinness or any of the other usual suspects as well. But the other nice touch is that instead of having to wander over to the other bar to see what’s on, they’ve popped the badges onto the main bar, underneath the other taps – a small but helpful touch that makes ordering that little bit faster.

At some point, I’ll need to actually stay up past my bedtime and catch a trad session or two…

Where: Piper’s Corner, 105-106 Marlborough St, North City, Dublin, D01 FD28
Access from the city centre: 7-ish minute walk across the river, LUAS Green Line
Food: Possibly some crisps, but it’s otherwise a traditional ‘wet pub’ of the sort we heard so much about during lockdowns
Sport: Very much a pre-game spot for GAA, and big games are shown
TVs: Mostly, no, but screens for the abovementioned ‘event’ GAA games
Music: So much trad!
Family-friendliness: I tend to find non-food pubs more adults-only, but I’m sure you could get a Coke on your way to a game at Croke Park
Pub-crawl-ability: High – a short walk to Kimchi Hophouse, The Flowing Tide, The Confession Box, Cassidys, The Palace Bar and many more; there’s a ‘Spoons around the corner as well
Local sites of note: GPO, The Custom House, Busarus, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Abbey Theatre
Haunted: Perhaps someone brings a haunted instrument?
Other notes: Also a good whiskey selection; covered upstairs ‘outdoor’ patio for your smoking/vaping friends

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Kimchi Hophouse

Kimchi Hophouse signIs it a pub or a Korean restaurant? Why not both? Indeed, the Kimchi Hophouse is resolutely two things at the same time – a slightly scruffy, traditional Irish pub, and a thriving Korean restaurant, in one slightly-creaky building. The former Shakespeare Pub still bears its previous branding, with the small addition of a small rectangular sign with the current name just under the gilt Victorian (Edwardian?) one.

The main bar at Kimchi HophouseParnell Street is sometimes called Dublin’s Chinatown, in that there is a pretty decent concentration of restaurants and supermarkets representing many different Asian cultures and cuisines, and you could do little better than listen to the excellent Three Castles Burning episode on the street and its history, which also highlights its many African and other influences – there’s a lot going on here.

And in this case, it seems that it’s entirely accurate that Kimchi Hophouse is the oldest Korean restaurant in Dublin – it’s so rare for an ‘oldest’ anything to pan out, yet here we are. The pub can feel a bit warren-like – there’s the main bar when you walk in, which shows signs of various configurations over the years, plus a dining room off to the side, as well as a curving hallway to the extremely pleasant beer garden – something of a hidden oasis in this part of the city. Indeed, tidy outdoor space is hard to find in much of Dublin, but especially so around here, so the covered space with the colourful murals is most welcome.

Beer garden muralsBut while there’s plenty of authentic bibimbap and other deliciousness, punters are equally welcome to simply come into the pub for pints – being au fait with the latest Korean food trends is by no means required, and on a typical day, you see the full spectrum of pub-goers here, from old-man pub denizens to hipsters on a night out. And while there’s naturally the well-poured pint of Guinness, plus all the other usual suspects, local craft options pop up, too, most recently Rye River and a bit of Galway Hooker.

Lights inside the Kimchi HophouseIt’s an unfussy, unpretentious spot to while away the time until everyone realizes that edamame is the Best Bar Snack. It’ll happen, some day.

Where: Kimchi HopHouse, 160-161 Parnell St, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 Y4A7
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 9, 11, 13, 16, 44, 46A, Luas Green Line, 12-ish minute walk
Food: Korean (obvs), and a nice break from potato-heavy bar snacks elsewhere
Sport: Football & rugby are both represented, one presumes other sports pop up as well
TVs: A fair few scattered around for the footy
Music: Seems to always be ’80s hits when I’m in
Family-friendliness: Likely depends on the time of day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – a short walk to The Big Romance, Mema’s, The Confession Box, Piper’s Corner, The Flowing Tide…even the Spoons isn’t too far away, in case you wanted to downgrade your food options
Local sites of note: Parnell Monument, The Spire, GPO, Garden of Remembrance, Gate Theatre, Rotunda Hospital, Hugh Lane Gallery
Haunted: Definitely an atmosphere
Other notes: Don’t hesitate to order things extra-spicy if that’s your preference – some things are dialed a long way down

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Bonobo

Bonobo: candles, beer and a menuWhile I very much consider Underdog the only ‘true’ craft beer bar in town, we do have some pubs here in Dublin that reside comfortably in Craftonia, and this week, we’re heading to one of those: Bonobo.

Bonobo is part of what seems like an ever-growing team of bars with animal-themed names – Caribou in Galway, Impala in Cork, and the recently-opened Jackal in Navan, with another sister bar in Dublin, Kodiak, in Rathmines (which I keep going past on the Luas when it is not open – I must remedy this). However, as is usually the case when something is aimed at people who are Much Cooler than I am, the names are less about animals and more to do with electronic music (which, to be clear, is a thing I like, but my close familiarity with any artists ended around 1997, unless you count Philip Glass, or people sampling anonymous numbers stations).

Couch inside BonoboThis introduction may sound like I’m being a bit snarky about it, but in fact, I absolutely love the atmosphere at Bonobo – the weird-old-religious-books-and-jazz-records aesthetic is something I am very much here for, and the different areas of the bar each have a slightly different vibe. I’ve seen the odd complaint on local Reddit that it’s ‘snobby’ but I’ve never personally found that to be the case; I’ve always had a warm welcome. Granted, it’s possible that being a purple-haired woman who knows all the breweries on tap may mean I am already among the elect, but there are plenty of ‘normal’ beers on tap – no difficult entrance exam is required.

Adorable cactus and thumb-printed glass at BonoboI’ve also heard someone refer to it as ‘one of those IPA bars,’ which is an interesting if worrying linguistic development – it’s bad enough that ‘craft’ meant everything and nothing, and now ‘IPA’ seems to be heading the same way. And, in any case, it’s hardly accurate – Bonobo always has a range of styles on tap (often a fair few sours of late), with the likes of Trouble, Kinnegar and Third Barrel representing the Irish contingent, and plenty of Spanish (as in actually from Spain, unlike Madri) and Scandinavian options most of the time as well. Again, there is no shortage of Guinness/Hop House 13/Madri if that’s of interest to someone in your party, along with some quite interesting cocktails – most tastes seem to be catered to.

Also inside Bonobo - a fireplaceThere is also quite tasty pizza – unless you are a monster who refuses to eat pizza with sauce, but I suspect that is unique to my smaller child. And while some may sniff and/or roll eyes at just how Instagrammable Bonobo is, with its candles, plants and vintage lamps, I think it’s quite charming, and I certainly won’t complain at how much better my low-effort photos look there, nor am I the only weirdo photographing my beer.

Plant, pint & lamp at BonoboIt’s true that I may occasionally feel like the oldest person there – not something I mind, incidentally – I (mostly) attribute that to the proximity of the TUD Grangegorman campus – I will have to put this assumption to the test by finally getting over to Kodiak; clearly, I need to head south of the river, for science…

Where: Bonobo, 119 Church Street Upper, Inns Quay, Dublin 7, D07 E128
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 37, 70. 83, 140, 145, 155, C2, C3, Luas Green Line, 20ish minute walk
Food: Pizza & flatbread
Sport: Not really that kind of thing
TVs: I have never noticed any, but it’s possible some are hiding
Music: Typically very GenX-friendly, even if it’s really for their GenZ offspring and/or younger Millennials
Family-friendliness: Depends on the time of day, but I’ve certainly seen the hipster babies and have taken my own smaller offspring for pizza
Pub-crawl-ability: High – it’s essentially in between Underdog and L. Mulligan. Grocer, with The King’s Inn, The Cobblestone, Bar 1661, Fidelity and many more within a short walk
Local sites of note: Smithfield, St Michan’s Church, Collins Barracks, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: Maybe some haunted paintings? Definitely a spot for that kind of thing
Other notes: Plenty of board games available to borrow for a session, lots of doggos, outdoor deck

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The King’s Inn

Outside The King's InnI was busy doing Important Work Stuff in London last week (only time for one half-pint of cask, alas, but at least it was a lovely Sussex Best), but we’re back at it with Weirdo Dublin Pubs this week.

It would be hard to think of a pub with a more lived-in, traditional interior than The King’s Inn, but in fact, the current owners only took it over and refurbished it in 2018 – and after it had been shut for 3 years. The same team behind The Flowing Tide (more recently spruced up and discussed here) worked their magic here first, and their attention to detail shows. The prints and pictures around the pub are all genuine nods to the immediate neighbourhood – 18th century Henrietta Street and the enormous King’s Inns (plural, though the pub is singular) complex of roughly the same vintage, still a key site of the country’s legal training, so law-related themes are very much on view inside the pub. And it does come by the age posted outside honestly – although it was originally built as a residence, it has been a licensed pub since at least the 1860s, if not before, so the ‘since 1842’ signage is certainly more accurate than many with a date advertised outside.

Inside The King's InnWhile there is a peculiarly ersatz suit of armour, the overall feeling is still much more genuine; you don’t feel you’ve been transported into an Oirish Pub, with its random assortment of road signs in Irish and black-and-white images of stone walls, or, possibly even more worthy of hand-wringing, a Wetherspoons with all its LOOK AT OUR LOCAL CULTURE posturing (though to be fair, the ‘Spoons would at least have cask).

The 'suit of armour'Lack of cask ale notwithstanding, and that’s hardly unusual here, there is nothing to complain about with the beer here: traditional though it may feel, with plenty of well-poured Guinness, there are also taps for the likes of Trouble, Kinnegar and The White Hag – indeed, similar to the lineup in their sister pub nearer the river. Unfortunately, on my most recent visit they had run out of toasties – the only reason my smaller companion for the afternoon had agreed to leave the house – and so we had to move on elsewhere, but as there is so much in the immediate vicinity, it was easily managed. Ironically, the very next day I listened to the Publin episode about toasties, so there must have been something in the air.

Although it is generally handy for me as it’s a relatively short walk, it’s also extremely useful for anyone visiting the excellent 14 Henrietta Street museum, a must-do for anyone touring Dublin who wants to find out more about the Georgian architecture all around, and how this area’s fortunes changed over time – there are few better social history museums anywhere, and given how difficult Dublin likes to make it to look after its built heritage, the entire street, anchored by The King’s Inn is an example of how it can be done well.

Hopefully, next time I head over, the toasties will be back.

Where: The King’s Inn, 42 Bolton St, Dublin, D01 EH56
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 40, 46A, 122, Luas Green Line, 20ish minute walk
Food: Toasties, crisps
Sport: ‘All the big sports’ per their Instagram, but certainly plenty of GAA
TVs: For the sport
Music: Gentle indie tunes on my last visit, but turned down for the sport
Family-friendliness: No one seemed to mind my smaller food & drink partner of a Sunday afternoon, but it could easily be too crowded for the younger set at peak times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Underdog, The Black Sheep, Bonobo, Bar 1661, The Church, Slattery’s…you could easily carry on to L. Mulligan, Grocer and/or Fidelity
Local sites of note: 14 Henrietta Street, King’s Inns, The Hungry Tree, Smithfield
Haunted: Given the history of the local area, the entire street must be haunted
Other notes: Lovely fireplace in the back for chilly and damp weather, very dog-friendly