Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Bull & Castle

Gargoyle friend at The Bull & CastleBack in the day – you know, the late aughts to the mid-2010s – Ireland had very little going on from a craft beer perspective, especially compared to its neighbour across the Irish sea, or the larger one on the other side of the bigger body of water. And yet, a small-but-dedicated group of beer enthusiasts and homebrewers used to regularly meet and exchange notes at the subject of this week’s entry: The Bull & Castle.

While these days, the craft beer coterie tends to gather at The Underdog, there’s still plenty to enjoy at The Bull & Castle, and some amazing steak, to boot. Also: bonus ghost content! Well, dodgy ghost content, but surely, one expects nothing less. There is a literary connection, in any case, but it’s neither James Joyce nor Brendan Behan; it isn’t even Yeats!

The upstairs bar at The Bull & CastleBut back to the pub itself: The Bull & Castle is very much ‘sleek steakhouse with taxidermy and statuary’ downstairs, and if you’re simply looking for the bar, you need to head up the stairs. But before you do, it’s worth noting that the steak is top-notch; it’s part of the FX Buckley family, and if you are a meat-eater who hasn’t had their steak, well…you should probably get on that, whether at The Bull & Castle or one of their other locations around Dublin. Upstairs, there is also excellent food, but also a more pub-like atmosphere. There are a variety of local craft beer options: on my most recent visit, some Trouble, lots of O’Hara’s choices (also in bottles downstairs), including the house pale ale, The White Hag and others, plus a wider selection of ciders than you typically find in most places around town. It can feel a bit hidden, since you don't enter into the main bar right from the street as in so many other pubs, but that can add to the charm as well.

A goat friend downstairs at The Bull & CastleAnd, of course, there’s the aforementioned literary connection and ghost story. Poet James Clarence Mangan, whose bust can be seen watching over St Stephen’s Green, was born in a house on the site of The Bull & Castle, and legend has it that he makes his presence (absence?) known via cold spots and a melancholy atmosphere. Now, why he does this in the current building, which is not in any meaningful way the one in which he was born, merely on the same site, is a question for any passing mediums, but it’s a fun story. Regular visitors to my expanded universe will know we recently interviewed buildings archaeologist Dr James Wright on the Beer Ladies Podcast, and this connection certainly seems like one worth both revisiting for some mythbusting, as well as digging into for more concrete evidence – it’s entirely likely many other interesting stories could be unearthed as well.

While the street-level steakhouse feels more like an ‘occasion’ restaurant, don’t sleep on the bar upstairs; it’s a lovely spot with a lot of interesting history, both in recent events from a craft beer perspective, as well as of the more ‘shrouded in myth’ variety.

Where: 5-7 Lord Edward St, Dublin 2, D02 P634
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 150, 151, 11-ish minute walk
Food: All the good steak, other smaller options in the upstairs bar
Sport: Big events
TVs: Some discreet televisions upstairs
Music: Jazzy downstairs, more chill vibes upstairs
Family-friendliness: All the FX Buckley steak places are great with families
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Lord Edward, The Christchurch Inn, Tailor’s Hall, The Beer Temple/The Oak are all more or less in one direction, with The Thomas House, Love Tempo, Dudley’s, Swift, Arthur's and other Liberties spots (including a certain Guinness Storehouse) in the other; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Local sites of note: Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen's Church, Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle
Haunted: Mangan likes the cold? Sure, why not?
Other notes: The side door going straight upstairs doesn’t always seem to be open, but when it is, it’s a welcome sight
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Hynes’ Bar

Outside Hynes' BarFrom the exterior, Hynes’ Bar still looks to be an Old Man Pub; indeed, this was one of storied pintman Paddy Losty’s haunts, back in the day, and if you’re unfamiliar with the lore around Dublin pintmen, a visit to Publin for the backstory is well worth your time. But step inside, and it’s evident that Hynes’ Bar today welcomes a much broader array of regulars and characters (dogs included – this is Stoneybatter, after all), with a beautifully-restored interior, gorgeous beer garden and great lineup of local beers (Kinnegar, Trouble and Rascals, plus the usual suspects), cocktails and amazing food – plus well-curated tunes.

Blur or Oasis?On a recent Saturday evening, I found people making the most of the remaining visit from the sun in the beer garden, which comes complete with a DJ booth and Oasis-v-Blur cigarette disposal – a reference that here in Ireland is both a GenX comfort blanket and general Father Ted reference that even the younger set who don’t recall the 1990s will recognize – they know all about Fathers Dougal and Damo (though I note that as I write this, it’s the 30th anniversary of the release of Parklife, so I may crumble into dust before we’re through here – let’s see!). But the mural on one wall does pay homage to Paddy’s probably-apocryphal ‘wouldn’t be fond of drinking’ quote, so Old Stoneybatter is still here, too.

Inside Hynes' Bar

It could also be said that Old Stoneybatter persists in another way, too – Hynes’ Bar is one of several around town that hosts regular Irish language events, and you can get a discount on a pint if you order as gaeilge. While Stoneybatter was once considered one of the ‘…last Irish-speaking areas in Dublin,’ it’s probably better-known now internationally for its ‘cool‘ status, but don’t be put off by that; it comes by it pretty honestly, meaning that you can still find trad nights alongside DJ sets, open mic nights and all manner of pop-up markets and seasonal events, both at Hynes’ and in and around its excellent neighbours like L. Mulligan, Grocer and The Barber’s Bar, to namecheck just a few.

Beer garden at Hynes' BarAll told, it would be a challenge to find a more inclusive, welcoming spot, and the bao buns are absolutely fantastic. If the sun does come out again at some point, make a beeline for the beer garden; it’s a glorious spot.

Where: Hynes’ Bar, 79 Prussia St, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, D07 FH51
Access from the city centre: Buses 37, 39, 39A, 46A, 70
Food: Currently Vietnamese-adjacent – bánh mì, spring rolls and more from The Streets
Sport: The odd pre-rugby pint, it seems
TVs: If they are still there, they are well-hidden
Music: It was lit at the club!
Family-friendliness: Probably more for the post-uni+ set
Pub-crawl-ability: High – L. Mulligan, Grocer, The Barber’s Bar, The Belfry, Kavanaugh’s, Walsh’s, The Glimmer Man, and only a short stroll to Smithfield for The Cobblestone, Fidelity
Local sites of note: TUD Grangegorman, local Sheela-na-Gig
Haunted: Is Paddy still looking for another pint?
Other notes: Dogs are very welcome – they could easily do their own pub crawl in Stoneybatter; keep an eye out for events and music nights on the socials
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen

Outside O'Neill's: sign & clockAs tourist season seems more or less nearly in full swing, we’re sticking with Dublin city centre this week and O’Neill’s Pub and Kitchen – a tourist-friendly but also authentic pub that caters to a range of tastes and preferences – and one that’s large enough to offer a different experience depending on where you are in the pub (and just how crowded it is on the day or evening).

The snug downstairs at O'Neill'sI recently had the unpleasant experience of stopping in a pub I’d never tried, and which shall remain nameless here, that was so aggressively diddley-eye that I had to flee after a single quick pint – the Clancy Brothers on a loop, too loud; a complete lack of non-Guinness options, the various tin signs and old farm equipment on the wall just that little bit too much like an Oirsih Pub of the sort you find anywhere in the world, and that doesn’t need to exist in the middle of Dublin. When I asked the bartender if there were any local craft options, she claimed not to know what that meant. Now, that in itself isn’t a dealbreaker, there are some excellent Guinness-only pubs that are well worth a visit – The Gravediggers and The Hut immediately come to mind – but add in the twee décor, the music (and I love good trad…just not the same four or five particular bits that get played endlessly to tourists) and the Americans wearing Peaky Blinders hats, and it was a big nope.

Barrels on the way up the stairsHappily, O’Neill’s is nothing like this, and visiting it not long after The Pub to Remain Nameless made its positive features stand out all the more. Yes, there are trad sessions – good ones are always welcome – but the usual background music is quiet enough to chat, not painfully loud. Yes, there are various old photos and signs, even some barrels as you head upstairs, but they seem like a more natural accumulation over the past 150-200 years, rather than having come from a warehouse as part of a kit. The ground floor is something of a warren (in the best possible way), with the bar serving several distinct spaces, including a pleasant snug by one of the doors. There is a good variety in terms of local craft options on tap (again, we’ll let the decorative hand pulls set high up on a shelf slide – there’s no cask here), but it’s always a good idea to have a backup choice selected; in my experience, the first choice is nearly always the one that just kicked. Happily, though, there are some good options (Lineman, Bullhouse, Whiplash and Trouble, to name a few independent Irish breweries showcased on my most recent visit, with Third Barrel upstairs), so it’s in no way a hardship.

Upstairs near Whiskey CornerAnd speaking of ‘upstairs,’ there’s a nice ‘Whiskey Corner,’ all red leather and dark wood, though of course you’re welcome to drink anything you’d like (and the whiskey selection is indeed a very good one). It can be quieter up here (not necessarily on big game days, of course), especially during the afternoon, and it can make a pleasant spot on your literary pub crawl, given its Seamus Heaney connections, among quite a few others. But again, there is a good variety of seating, with many little nooks and snugs, so it’s also a nice escape from Grafton Street shopping, just outside.

So, while my more usual MO is to hit up one of my locals before heading into town proper, my most recent visit to O’Neill’s was a good reminder that there are very nice spots right in Dublin city centre as well – they are not all tourist nightmares, even when you are absolutely in the middle of everything. Good times are possible!

Where: O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen, 2 Suffolk St, Dublin 2, D02 KX03
Access from the city centre: You are there
Food: What I would term ‘tourist pub fare’ – Irish stew, soups, sandwiches, toasties and then burgers, etc.
Sport: Various screens for various sports – football, GAA, horse racing, etc
TVs: See ‘sport’
Music: Quiet enough to have a conversation; also trad events
Family-friendliness: Plenty of food options if it’s not late/too crowded
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Bowes, Cassidys, Mulligans, The Palace Bar, JR Mahon’s, The Oval, Porterhouse Temple Bar, Tapped and many, many more are all within a very short stroll
Haunted: With its literary cred, a ghost would be a big plus, but no obvious stories
Local sites of note: Grafton Street, Trinity College, NATIONAL WAX MUSEUM, Irish Whiskey Museum…you are central
Other notes: Not to be confused with O’Neill’s Victorian Pub & Townhouse on Pearse Street
Socials: Nothing updated for quite a few years

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Fagan’s

Fagan's - mosaic tile floor outsideBill Clinton wuz here. And you’re not likely to forget it, as he seems to be on every wall in Fagan’s, somewhere.

Of course, to Dubliners, Fagan’s is better known for its Bertie Ahern connections, but I think it’s the Clintoniana I’ve always found a little bit off-putting; in short, for us Gen X folk of all political and national stripes, that aspect of the décor can seem a bit, well, Boomer. However, it’s not every pub in Dublin that’s had national and world leaders enjoy a Guinness (or other beverage) there, so it’s entirely understandable that there would be more than a few clippings on the wall.

Bill & Bertie with a pint of O'Hara's

And, to be fair, it’s not truly throughout the entire pub, as Fagan’s is enormous. The front bar is the original section from 1907, and the (presumably purposefully-designed) barn-like extension to the rear was added much more recently, though care has been taken to give the back bar an air of Victorian respectability, with dark wood and plenty of glass; there’s also the requisite snug, just to the left of that bar. There are also fake hand pumps, which is moderately enraging for a cask nerd, like me, but the less said about that the better. If you carry on even further to the back of the pub, there’s a carvery, and it always seems to be popular. I confess I’ve never quite grasped the appeal of a carvery – I am probably scarred from living in the UK in the 1990s, where that meant (perhaps still means?) something along the lines of a Toby Carvery or Brewers Fayre, with steam tables galore, but I do recognize that it’s A Different Thing here in Ireland…I’m just not sure entirely how. In any event, I am clearly not the best person to judge, but it very much has its fans.

Front bar at Fagan's

I have had quite good a la carte food options here for family meals in the past, but it’s never become one of our go-tos, despite it being a short walk away; while there is a craft beer tap (O’Hara’s Pale Ale on my most recent visit), it doesn’t have the variety of beers you find just up the road at The Cat & Cage (or even Juno, in the other direction), and that’s probably a big reason we simply don’t go there as often – yes, the Guinness is good, though when I’m in a plain-old-Guinness mood, I’m more likely to head to The Gravediggers or The Hut. I’m not even certain I can articulate why that’s the case…it’s simply a pattern I seem to have fallen into.

Back bar at Fagan's

However, in the interests of science, I called in to Fagan’s after a lengthy absence the other day, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it more welcoming than I had remembered it in the past, and that despite its somewhat cavernous feeling toward the back of the pub, there were some cosy nooks and smaller spots to escape to.

I may never truly understand the appeal of a carvery, but I might just stop in more often in the future for a quiet pint (hopefully without accidentally ending up in government).

Where: Fagan’s, 146 Drumcondra Rd Lower, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, D09 YR83
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 13, 16, 44
Food: Pub grub, pastas, stir-fries, carvery
Sport: All the usual football, rugby, GAA, etc
TVs: Quite a few for the sport, all over
Music: Can be a bit MOR, but they also played ‘Hey, Big Spender’ on my last visit – was it a sign?
Family-friendliness: There are chicken goujons, etc., for the pickier kid, as well as more ‘mature’ kids’ options
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium; Kennedy’s is next door, but you’d be better off walking up to The Ivy House and The Cat & Cage, or stroll across Griffith Park to The Tolka House, The Gravediggers or The Botanic; Juno is not too far to walk, either…at least, by my reckoning
Haunted: Entirely possible that the BVM statue in the park across the street moves
Local sites of note: Croke Park, National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin Cemetery
Other notes: Can be exceptionally crowded on match days at Croke Park, as are all local pubs
Socials: Instagram, Facebook

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Dudley’s

Outside Dudley's at nightWe’re back in the ‘my sort of Dublin pub’ category: one with great craft beer – and a good variety, not simply one or two taps – there are 28 in total at Dudley’s, which is one of my favourite spots in The Liberties. But it’s not just the beer and the deep, rich colours that make this one of my go-to places when I’m in this part of town; it’s that it’s always welcoming and feels like a part of the fabric of the community – a pub for many different occasions. As with some of the other locations that make up the always-excellent Libertine Market Crawl each month, it’s a place that caters to many different demographics; I’ve seen groups (and solo drinkers) of all different ages, looks and preferences, whether that’s those with a taste for the Guinness that was brewed down the street or an Irish craft beer from the likes of Lough Gill, Whiplash, Hopkins & Hopkins or Trouble; the lineup is always changing, as are the styles.

Mac & cheese and a pint at Dudley'sDudley’s opened in 2021 when the previous pub on the spot closed during the Covid shutdown. Its name now commemorates Thomas ‘Bang Bang’ Dudley, a renowned Dublin character who roamed the Liberties and surrounds, using a key to ‘shoot’ buses and passers-by; the key is also remembered in the pub’s signage; Phibsborough’s Bang Bang Café is another nod to the man himself. Inside, the renovation is still looking fresh, with deep colours and a variety of seating options – two sides to the bar, with bar stools and tables around both, and cozy mezzanine and downstairs areas as well. I’m also a fan of the food; I’m always baffled that we don’t have more mac & cheese in Irish pubs, since we have The Best Cheese here, but Dudley’s is one of the few places in Dublin that provides.

T-shirts at Dudley's - yes, you can buy one, but no, you don't have toIn short, even though it’s not one of my locals, Dudley’s is always a must-visit when I’m over in that direction; it’s great for a chilled-out solo pint, a pause on the Libertine Market Crawl with friends or family, and a fantastic spot to kick off a little Liberties pub crawl with friends.

But with such a nice variety of beer, food and ambiance, sometimes the crawl ends where it begins…there’s no compelling reason to leave!

Where: Dudley’s, 48 Thomas St, The Liberties, Dublin, D08 Y44A
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 123, 150, 151, G1, G2, 15-ish minute walk
Food: Slightly fancier pub food, Sunday roast, mac & cheese!
Sport: Football & rugby on for bigger games
TVs: Screens for larger sporting events
Music: Live sessions on Sundays at 7, great jazz & indie faves the rest of the time
Family-friendliness: I’ve found the mac & cheese a great success in the afternoons
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Love Tempo, The Thomas House, Swift, Arthur’s, The Christchurch Inn, Tailors Hall, The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Beer Temple/The Oak; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Haunted: No obvious tales circulating, but this part of town has seen some things…
Local sites of note: Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen’s Church
Other notes: Also ideal for pre- or post-gig pints & food at Vicar Street
Socials: Instagram

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Christchurch Inn

Outside The Christchurch InnAs a general rule, when I’m in this part of town, I head to The Oak, or wander further into The Liberties for spots like Dudley’s or Arthur’s (or, really, anywhere that is a stop on the always-excellent Libertine Market Crawl – a highly-recommended monthly craft market that takes place across multiple pubs). And while I’ve spent a goodly amount of time in this week’s pub, it was in its previous guise as The Beer Market, one of several Galway Bay pubs that the chain has shed over the past several years – a topic we’ll return to in a moment. But I recently had occasion to visit The Christchurch Inn, as it is now known, and can report that the interior is much brighter, so if you were a fan of the dark, dripping candles from The Beer Market era, you may need to head to Cassidys to get your fix nowadays.

First, though, some background; I was trying to determine when I’d first visited The Beer Market, and I got as far as figuring out it must have been on a work trip in 2016 or 2017, long before we moved to Dublin. I’d been impressed enough by the beer lineup – all Galway Bay and other local craft options – and the cosy, candlelit atmosphere that I bought a t-shirt; one that I suppose must now count as a collector’s item. I’d been back more than a few times after we arrived here permanently, though the pandemic and my general reluctance to go south of the river if I didn’t have to meant it wasn’t anything like a regular spot for me. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised when it was sold off, along with some other Galway Bay-owned or branded locations, early in 2023* – but only because I’d just been there shortly before the shuttering, and there was no obvious indication at that point of its imminent demise. But on paper it did make sense – it was so close to The Beer Temple and The Oak, and even Against the Grain isn’t terribly far away – so it was a bit of a Galway Bay saturation point.

The main bar in The Christchurch InnWithout getting into the specific behind-the-scenes workings that are, frankly, none of my business, the pub ended up in new-but-familiar hands, and was rebranded as The Christchurch Inn, reopening in mid-2023. And so, finally, to what it’s like now. While there is still a bit of décor left over from The Beer Market, notably the outdoor signs indicating ‘beer’ as a daily event, the interior of the pub is now much brighter, with more of a ‘generic Irish pub’ feel, with old adverts and the like. A quick search of recent reviews, especially from overseas visitors, indicates a certain belief that this has been a ‘traditional pub’ from time immemorial, and they aren’t entirely wrong; census records from the 1850s onward show a ‘grocer’ and/or ‘wine and spirits dealer’ on the site, so while the names and looks may have changed over the decades, the use case has (mostly) not.

Looking upstairs at The Christchurch InnBut while it has much less of a ‘craft beer bar’ feel and more of a ‘catering to international tourists’ vibe, there is still a strong lineup of local options, albeit without any from Galway Bay. On our visit, there was some well-kept Ambush, Happy Days, Big Bangin’ and Rustbucket from Trouble, Rascals, Rye River and Kinnegar, respectively; even some Galway Hooker (no relation) appeared, plus a La Chouffe tap for the odd Belgian hit. Obviously there’s Guinness as well, both the real thing and 0.0, and some of your standard lagers as well. And it must be said that it really does feel much less like a locals’ craft beer pub and more like a tourist pub nowadays, though that’s completely understandable, given the location. And on this particular visit, there were many, many North American accents on display (not just mine), and I didn’t have the usual warm-fuzzy feeling from the playlist, which in most pubs I frequent is more ’90s Irish, UK and European tracks – I first moved out of the US in 1995, so haven’t heard any new music From There since then, and I couldn’t identify anything playing without the help of Shazam…it was all American bands I’d never heard of. And to be clear, I’m not saying I’m cool to not take on board New Things, just…old. So, if you’re an American or Canadian younger Millennial or older Gen Z traveller, it will probably get you right in the feels; not everything needs to be just for me, and that’s fine!

But that said, I can certainly see stopping back in for a recovery pint or lunch after a session at Dublinia with the smaller kid (especially if Other People’s Children have been particularly loud there); the staff were fantastic and they clearly know their audience well. And as it’s not a given anywhere in Ireland that any pub, much less a more touristy one, will have any local craft beer offerings, the fact that much of, if not most of, the customers here seem to be tourists is no bad thing, and giving them an opportunity to find something they love beyond Guinness is a fantastic opportunity to keep them coming back. Fair play!

Where: The Christchurch Inn, 13 High St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8, D08 K09
Access from the city centre: Buses 27, 77A, 150, 151, 11-ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub and a few extras
Sport: Usual big games on for football, rugby, GAA
TVs: Several throughout the pub
Music: Live music on Fridays & Saturdays; otherwise, popular(?) American music
Family-friendliness: So close to Dublinia, easy menu for your picky people
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Tailors Hall, The Lord Edward, Bull & Castle, The Beer Temple/The Oak are all more or less in one direction, with The Thomas House, Love Tempo, Swift, Arthur’s and other Liberties spots (including a certain Guinness Storehouse) in the other; The Brazen Head is also a short walk away
Haunted: Many local ghost tours go through The Liberties…surely, a collaboration opportunity to create a Philip-style ghost, if there’s not one already?
Local sites of note: Christchurch Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audoen’s Church, Guinness Storehouse, Vicar Street, Olympia Theatre
Other notes: The pub layout is the same as before, over 3 levels – you can find a bit of a different vibe in each space
Socials: Instagram

*BRÚ House Fairview was a more recent casualty and will be re-opening under new management as The Strand House in the near future; stay tuned for more on that, though it’s curious both pubs now have a bright red frontage – is this A Thing? Perhaps we’ll see…

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 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

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Gravediggers

Outside The GravediggersIt had to be done.

Although I’m a relatively short walk away, I rarely make it up to The Gravediggers (aka John Kavanagh’s), but as it’s That Time of Year, it seemed only right and proper.

My more usual area haunts (I know) have a few things going for them: they are a bit more directly on the way to wherever I’m going, and they have at least a few local craft beers on tap – and while the first point is more variable, the second is an immovable fact – there is no craft beer at The Gravediggers. Most importantly, my other local spots are not usually full of tourists who have all been told that this is where they will find The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland. However, sometimes that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for, and as I was walking around the area on a cool, intermittently rainy afternoon, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop in for a relaxing solo pint.

A pint by the fireplaceFor those who have never been to The Gravediggers – or, improbable though it seems, have never read anything about it – it’s exactly as you’ve likely heard: the pub is built into one of the walls of Glasnevin Cemetery (only a short stroll from the grave of Brendan Behan, though astonishingly, I couldn’t find much reference to him frequenting the spot – is it the only Northside pub he didn’t regularly drink in, à la The Cat and Cage? I am more than happy to be corrected on this point.), and it has been in the same family since 1833. The plain wood floors and swinging doors divide it into cosy snugs, and the tobacco-smoke-stained walls have certainly ‘seen some things.’ There is no music or television, though on more than one occasion, including this most recent visit, there may be an auld fella surreptitiously streaming a horse race or two on his phone.

Beer Ladies and Ladies of Beer at The GravediggersBut it’s by no means a museum piece – the right-hand side of the pub has more of a lively restaurant vibe, with all sorts of interesting tapas choices; it’s not typical pub grub, and it’s especially great if you’re in with a group. However, on this most recent visit, as it was just me (and I only had time for a brief sit-down), I hit the left-hand door to the bar and took my pint to the back, near the fireplace, where I found a few tourists (yes, even mid-day) as well as regulars. Most importantly, though, it was quiet, with only moderate conversation in the background, and I could properly enjoy my rare alone-time over a pint.

It was a far cry from my first visit to The Gravediggers on a drinky-drinky GhostBus tour some years ago with a group of then-fellow Amazon corporate revellers – I’m sure we were the literal worst kind of group (well, barring British stag parties), though we were largely kept in the back before being popped back onto our bus after another pint, which was entirely fair. I’m sure we were told many tales of the ghosts rumoured to haunt the pub, but I confess my memory of the event is a bit hazy…so I had to Google ‘ghost stories at The Gravediggers‘ – even though haunted pubs and breweries are things that live rent-free in my brain.

There was the typical-in-pubs spooky interference with the electronics – card machines are relatively new here, and there is still no wifi – though I’ve heard similar said of a number of Pennsylvania inns as well when they brought in new-fangled cash registers; perhaps it’s simply part of the long-time publican’s makeup, wherever they are (or whatever plane of existence they are theoretically on). Another story suggests a man in tweed enjoys a pint before disappearing (or heading back into the graveyard?), which seems a pleasant ghost story for a pub.

And is it The Best Pint of Guinness in Ireland? Well, I’d argue that it’s no different from the one you get at The Hut in terms of quality of tap lines and care in pouring, but it does have a lovely atmosphere – especially during the Samhain/Halloween season.

Where: John Kavanagh’s The Gravediggers, 1 Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin, D09 CF72
Access from the city centre: Buses 4, 9, 16, 40, 122, 123, 140
Food: Tapas and coddle
Sport: No
TVs: Not a one
Music: Not a thing
Family-friendliness: Often a mac and cheese tapas option!
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium – about a 10 minute walk to the main Phibsboro pubs, including The Botanic, The Brian Boru, The Bald Eagle, Doyle’s Corner, The Hut and The Boh
Haunted: So they say…
Local sites of note: Glasnevin Cemetery, National Botanic Gardens
Other notes: So, why so few photos of such an iconic pub? Well, it just seems like it would be, frankly, weird, to be taking more than the odd photo or two…it’s more for enjoying the pint itself vs photographing the pint…and I say that as someone who can be very extra about photographing a pint…