Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Juno

I’ll be honest, my expectations were not high.Juno

I only had a passing familiarity with The Red Parrot as it was – an awareness of its reputation as an old-man pub, saw it absolutely packed outside on Croke Park game days and had picked up the odd takeaway pint during the no-wet-pubs time, but that was more or less the extent of my knowledge. Still, it was (and is) my closest pub, so when it was evident that it was not going to re-open in avian guise, and that some fairly significant refurbishment was taking place, I kept a close eye on developments.

When the new signage appeared, I assumed ‘Juno‘ was a nod to Seán O’Casey, born just down the road. As there is now a cocktail called The Paycock on the menu, that would seem to track. I’m not sure there’s a hard-and-fast rule that every pub in Dublin needs to be mentioned in Ulysses and/or has a Brendan Behan anecdote, I am all for bringing in other local writers. I had zero familiarity with the ‘beers, beats and Battlestar Galactica’ reference now above the front door, but much cooler Young People have told me it’s to do with The Office; I’m not one of those people who is Not Into Television as their personality, I just never had time to catch that one (see also: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos – essentially anything else on American television between about 1992-2008 or so), so I really had no reference point as far as what kind of ambience it was suggesting inside. But the fresh paint outside was still encouraging, and clearly, much work was happening in the pub’s interior. The initial keg delivery was – for me – underwhelming, with the usual suspects you see at nearly every pub, but I was still curious.

A pint at JunoIn the summer of 2022, the doors began to occasionally open on weekends; as I walk by several times a day as a matter of course, it was important to stop in to investigate, For Science. At the time, only the main bar was open, and the single craft-y tap was a Brewdog one, but the Guinness was in good shape, and the décor was a good start – freshly-painted all around, with framed pictures and art that celebrated Dublin (local art, Three Castles Burning, Shane MacGowan) without veering into theme pub territory, and an assurance that more was coming – at the time, the bar on the other side of the building was still very much under construction. I became cautiously optimistic that good things were not far off, that time I walked past a burning dumpster next to the bar notwithstanding – sometimes, these things happen when you live in the city.

I caught a glimpse of the other part of the bar during the holidays, when they opened briefly to host an excellent local arts and craft market, and I really liked what I saw – it wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but the bar area had been beautifully tidied up, and some lovely snugs with comfy seating were being readied.

Fast-forward to early 2023, when Juno began offering food and independent Irish beer, and it was time for a re-visit or two. This time, all the impressions were not just positive, but outright excited. Scraggy Bay is one of my favourite Irish beers to find on tap anywhere, and the freshly-tapped keg did not disappoint. The White Hag’s Little Fawn is another excellent go-to, and I had a wander around the entire space, eventually settling in one of the snugs, which now has not only a sofa and comfy chairs, but books of an especially eclectic thrift-shop selection – something I am very much here for.

A snug at JunoSome may find the upcycled church fittings in this part of the pub a little too ‘hipster’ for them, but I’ve always had a soft spot for that kind of thing, so I am a fan. They are now definitely ticking all the boxes for ‘great spot for solo pint and book’ and as they are mere steps from my door, I am not remotely mad about this. And, depending on when you read this, we have either just recorded and/or just dropped a Beer Ladies Podcast episode on what makes a great pub, and we spent a fair amount of time on furniture and atmosphere – it’s worth considering.

In fact, I’m thrilled that all my ‘hipster bar with boring beer’ misgivings have been proven wrong – there’s a lot of character here, some excellent beer and a variety of spaces to sit or stand. I’m sure it’s going to become absolutely slammed on game or concert days going forward, but that’s no bad thing – and being able to pop over for ‘just the one’ on quieter days looks like a regular future activity.

It’s a worthy addition to the list.

Where: Juno, 58 Dorset Street Lower, Dublin 1, D01 EP86
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 16, 40, 122; 25ish minute walk
Food: Brand-new food menu has just launched
Sport: Screen for big games of all sorts – footy, rugby, GAA
TVs: Chiefly in the main bar
Music: Good mix of indie faves; no live music so far
Family-friendliness: Still trying to figure this one out…more testing required
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium; there are other pubs within a 10-15 minute walk, but the closest few are not terribly exciting
Local sites of note: Croke Park, Royal Canal, Mater Hospital
Haunted: Is there a ghostly taxidermied parrot? Only time will tell
Other notes: Some interesting cocktails and good mocktail selections, too, plus main-floor toilets

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Black Sheep

As promised last week, we’ll be visiting a number of Galway Bay pubs in this series; while one of the things I really enjoy about their various bars is that each has a bit of its own character and style, I’m particularly lucky that one of my favourites happens to be a relatively short walk away from my now-home – something of a happy accident. Let’s rewind.

I first encountered The Black Sheep on a work trip to Dublin in 2016; at the time, we were living in Seattle and had no plans to move (again). I recently came across the old WhatsApp group that was used to coordinate post-meeting sustenance and frivolity. In those conversations, I saw The Black Sheep described as ‘kind of like Brave Horse‘ – the now-shuttered bar in the middle of the Amazon campus where people would go to extend their desk-crying sessions over a pint – and also as ‘one of those hipster beer places, but more Irish.’ However, I was also warned that it was ‘far from most other things’ and that the area was ‘kind of sketch, but no guns, so all cool!’ Thus prepared, I set out with a small group of fellow Amazonian beer nerds after a long day of meetings, looking at the ‘trek’ from the offices to the supposedly ‘sketch’ Northside of Dublin as quite an adventure.

Cask Corner in the Before-TimesIf memory serves, there was mild disappointment from some in the group on the nearly-complete lack of ‘sketch,’ but everyone was very pleased to find The Black Sheep had something for everyone in our group – cask ale (sigh – more on this in a moment), some good Galway Bay beers, a guest tap or two that catered to other tastes, and possibly the oddest nachos I’ve ever come across – the chips on the night were certainly not made from corn, but whether that was a case of ‘the kitchen ran out and improvised’ or whether that was the recipe at the time, I cannot say – jumping ahead briefly, I am pleased to report the current state of Black Sheep nachos is very different – in a good way! On that occasion, we sat at one of the big tables on the Cask Corner (sob! again!) side of the pub, but I made a firm mental note of the comfy couch by the window and the bar seating on the other side, and immediately made plans to return on my own a few days later. For the record, Untappd tells me that on that initial visit, I had a White Hag Little Fawn and Galway Bay’s own Pilot 014 – Dortmunder Lager.

Some of the Father Ted artAs planned, I stopped back in for a solo pint on the couch before heading home, taking in the Father Ted wall decorations and the usual tin brewery signs, I thought about what a thoroughly pleasant pub it was, and that this was somewhere I would visit regularly if I lived nearby. As that was not even a vague idea, I thought no more of it, but continued to make a point of stopping in on subsequent work trips – the fact that it was not especially close to the Amazon offices, but was quite convenient for Chapters Books may well have played a part; once again, Untappd let me know that in March of 2019, I had some lovely cask pints – from Kirkstall, in this case – over some newly-acquired books. And then, later that year I got the unexpected offer to take a new role in Dublin and, well – here we are.

While we initially lived south of the river for a year – a combination of a pandemic, a relocation agent who refused to believe that we actually meant it when we said we were ‘city people’ and the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland, when we finally had the chance to move to the Northside, we took it, our landlord from the old house telling us, in all seriousness, that we were ‘so brave,’ notwithstanding. (Some Southside Dubliners have a very skewed idea of what happens once you cross the Liffey – it’s a thing). While we had not planned it, we ended up only a few minutes’ walk from The Black Sheep; although it’s not quite close enough to be our local, it’s a very easy sell to head in that direction.

The first pint backWhen pubs could finally re-open, after the last of the major Covid restrictions were lifted in January of 2022, The Black Sheep was the first place I headed to get a pint at the bar (again, for the record, a BRU Xtra Pale Ale and a Weights + Measures). Sadly, a combination of Brexit and all things pandemic meant that the Cask Corner did not return to its full function…I give it a bit of a sad look and a sigh each time I’m there, but I am always hopeful that it may, at some point, go back into at least partial use. But even without that, there is much to enjoy at The Black Sheep: the standard Galway Bay beers are always in tip-top shape (I am especially partial to the aforementioned Weights + Measures as well as the Bay Ale), and the guest taps have been varied and interesting, featuring other Irish breweries as well as some international options.

And I have to say, again, that the nachos are the real thing now – although sister bar Taco Libre has closed, some of the skill that went into their excellent chips and guac has settled into The Black Sheep. I am always a fan of the halloumi fries, too, and seem to find an excuse to get them at every Galway Bay location.

Also worth noting is the absence of televisions; for the non-sportsball fan, The Black Sheep can be an oasis of calm when every other pub is full because ‘the game’ is on. And while there are many times when I do want to go see whichever ‘the game’ is on, it’s nice to have alternatives when it’s not your sport or team – or just to have that relaxing solo pint.

That couch is still a very comfortable spot, and it’s wild that I can simply walk there any time.

April 2023 update: Cask Corner lives again! Keep an eye on The Black Sheep’s socials on Thursdays – there’s a lot of good stuff headed our way.

Where: The Black Sheep, 61 Capel St, Rotunda, Dublin
Access from the city centre: 10 minute walk, 46 bus, Luas Green Line
Food: Galway Bay standard pub grub menu
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope
Music: You are safe here, fellow Gen Xers
Family-friendliness: Kids’ menu, always a welcome at the usual times
Pub-crawl-ability: High – all of Capel Street is right there (edit: and now, the reborn Underdog!), from early houses like Slattery’s to other Galway Bay pubs like The Oak and The Beer Temple on Dame Street if you keep walking…also a short walk to Smithfield and beyond…
Local sites of note: Capel Street, Chapters Books, Wolfe Tone Square, Jervis Centre, ILAC Centre, 14 Henrietta Street, King’s Inns
Haunted: Only by the absence of cask ale, unless anyone has a story to share CASK IS BACK!
Other notes: Everything is on a single floor – no need to trek to a basement toilet; excellent bottle list

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: Doyle’s Corner

Exterior of Doyle's CornerWe’re heading back to Phibsborough/Phibsboro this week, with a visit to Doyle’s Corner.

Dublin pubs – and, to be fair, other businesses – have a habit of lending their names to road conjunctions. In the case of Doyle’s Corner, this has happened twice: originally known as Dunphy’s Corner from the 1870s, with the requisite Joycean name-check, the intersection in front of the pub has been called Doyle’s Corner since at least the early 1900s. Although built by Thomas Dunphy in 1873, allegedly with leftover stone from nearby St. Peter’s Church, the Dunphy name receded when John Doyle bought both this pub and The Boh(emian) across the road. There is, like last week’s featured pub, The Cat & Cage, also a Brendan Behan connection, but there’s no evidence he offered to do any work here in exchange for a drink.

Although the pub’s name was changed (in the mid-2000s?) to celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle, it reverted to John Doyle’s, and then, re-opened in 2018 as Doyle’s Corner. For Dublin real estate enthusiasts/masochists, it’s worth noting that the pub sold for €4.2 million in 2006, but then had to ‘reduce its price‘ to €850,000 in 2011. These days, it’s a stretch to find many decent houses in Dublin for under that amount, much less a public one, but back to the bar…there are still some nods to Conan Doyle in the snug, with prints of various Sherlock Holmes illustrations on one wall.

The main bar at Doyle's CornerI never saw the pre-renovation interior, but I find the current atmosphere very pleasant, with distinct personalities in the two main floor sections. The main bar feels, well, pubby, and the snug, with its fireplace and wood, more ‘Irish pubby’ – at least, that’s how my brain likes to interpret it. But I would hasten to add that it feels ‘Irish pubby’ in the authentic sense, not in the came-in-a-kit regard you get from overseas ‘Irish pubs’ (and, sorry to say, at least one near me, though I will likely simply never mention that particular pub here). I seem to almost always end up next to the bookshelves near the front door, which is no complaint; it’s very comfortable and an ideal spot to be tucked away for a sneaky solo afternoon pint. And, given that I walk by the pub at least twice a day, it’s extremely handy for that solo pint for me – with bonus points given as I have never been accosted by That Guy here.

The snug at Doyle's CornerI confess I have not checked out the newer sports bar and/or party venue upstairs, which makes me feel like I’m cheating to some extent by mentioning it without that more thorough exploration, but I’m very happy with the spots I in which I tend to be placed downstairs, in both sections. The chief draw for me, beyond the convenience factor and comfortable seating, is, of course, a selection of independent Irish beers. There’s always Kinnegar Scraggy Bay on, and usually something from The White Hag, Trouble or Yellowbelly. Guinness is, of course, well-represented, so it does cater to a range of tastes, with some cocktails included in the lineup as well – the Island’s Edge is kept far off to one side, where it belongs.

Doyle’s Corner is very much a pub in my ‘regular circulation’ – a fresh pint of Scraggy Bay is always worth the walk.

Where: Doyle’s Corner, 160/161 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, D07 R26N
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, excellent warm cookies on the dessert menu
Sport: Most major Premiere League & international football matches; rugby & GAA as well
TVs: An entire sports bar section upstairs; screens come down for big games in the main bar, TV in the snug
Music: You can program the music from your phone; also live music weekly
Family-friendliness: Kids’ menu; plenty of the smaller ones about at reasonable hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High – The Hut is right next door, The Boh across the street, The Bald Eagle and The Back Page just a few short blocks away in opposite directions, with a few more in the immediate area
Local sites of note: Dalymount Park, Blessington Street Basin, Mountjoy Prison, Mater Hospital
Haunted: Poltergeist? Allegedly a ‘noisy ghost‘ ‘terrorised patrons on the second floor‘ in the early 2000s
Other notes: Possibly the most pleasant women’s bathrooms in a pub, anywhere; also a list of cans and bottles from local breweries

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Cat & Cage

Recemt;y-repainted exterior of The Cat & CageThe sign outside The Cat & Cage declares that it has been trading here since 1690; its website repeats this assertion, though footage of the pub from the 1960s gives the founding date as 1750. While I am typically not inclined to take the ‘ancient’ claims of most Dublin pubs at face value, I’m more open to an earlier date for The Cat & Cage – and not just because I happen to think it’s a wonderful pub, though that helps.

It was known by the 1780s as ‘…a famous old punch house…kept by a witty blacksmith’ in an 1860s review of Sydney, Lady Morgan’s autobiography; her mother had kept a country retreat nearby. And the literary references do not end there – no, not an appearance in Ulysses, but rather, in Sean O’Casey’s Pictures in the Hallway. The playwright was a regular and, at least per his book, got into a few scrapes here. In the same vein, Brendan Behan (allegedly) painted the exterior and was, so the story goes, at least partially paid in pints. His statue, not a terribly far walk away on the Royal Canal, would no doubt approve. But, back to ‘just how old is this pub?’

Once again, The Cat & Cage was described in the 1870s as ‘a very old two-storey thatched tavern’ whose heyday had been ‘thirty and forty years ago’ – a similar jab was levied at the pub in the early 2010s, so, it seems, ’twas ever thus. The insistence that a pub was once pretty fantastic, but now, leaves something to be desired reminds me very much of M.R. James’s rules for ghost stories: ‘For the ghost story a slight haze of distance is desirable. ‘Thirty years ago,’ ‘Not long before the war’, are very proper openings.‘ There seems to be a parallel tendency to think a pub is ‘past it’ – but the recently-renovated Cat & Cage is anything but…even if it’s not entirely clear exactly how old it is.

The snug inside The Cat & CageBut let’s look at what it looks like now: the exterior could easily pass for anything between ‘improved’ 18th century to late 19th century, while the interior has benefitted from a thoughtful facelift, marrying exposed stone with modern lights, design and seating, plus an old-school snug and an airy upstairs space that kept things ticking over as a bottle shop-and-takeaway-pizza spot during lockdowns, while the renovation in the main pub was happening downstairs. There are two sets of taps downstairs, one with the usual suspects of Guinness, Heineken and Lagunitas, but with a few always-on local craft taps from Trouble and Rascals. The other side of the bar, which opens into another, wallpapered room, features some other craft options, often from Scandinavia or Spain, and other locals like Wicklow Wolf or Whiplash. The upstairs lounge – formerly Knead, the aforementioned pizza-and-beer spot, also has a few taps, and some lovely bottles and cans.

A pint inside The Cat & CageI love that each part of The Cat & Cage has its own personality (and a variety of beer options), and that the renovation did a great job of showing off some of the building’s historic fabric, but allowed it to be very comfortable and modern at the same time. Given the pub’s age, regardless of which date is ‘correct,’ it’s nice to see it move with the times, but retain the aspects that give it character. And if I put on my amateur architectural historian hat – those archaeology degrees give me just enough knowledge to be dangerous, if not wholly accurate – I’d be willing to wager on something in between the two dates, and perhaps even to consider something a bit older, albeit spottily recorded. There would have been a small settlement here in the 17th century, and the church and churchyard just a short walk away was old enough to have been ‘dilapidated’ and needed a rebuild by the 1740s; nearby Belvedere House dates to the 1660s-70s, and given that The Cat & Cage was established enough to be a postal stop and coaching inn that featured in the 1798 rebellion, well…there are certainly possibilities. And while I could go do actual research, as with The Bald Eagle, it’s also nice to leave a bit of a mystery – and I’d rather just relax and enjoy a pint.

Fun wallpaper at The Cat & CageAnd that brings me to the other positive of this pub; it’s great for kicking back with other (grownup) friends, yet they will also happily handle my smaller child’s bizarro no-sauce pizza order without blinking if it’s a family afternoon or evening out. And while I sometimes feel that I need to campaign for more mac & cheese options in Ireland – why should the US have all the fun when the cheese here is an order of magnitude better? – the recently-returned-to-the-menu mac & cheese suppli are the best bar snacks around. I may have, on occasion, stopped in just to get some. Well, and a pint, but that goes without saying, and having a real variety of beers that aren’t all 6%+ helps keep things going.

I have yet to collect any specific ghost stories, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be mad about it – a resident spook would be a perfect fit for a pub with such a heritage.

Plaster likely isn't all that old, but it's atmosphericWhere: The Cat & Cage, 74 Drumcondra Road Upper, Drumcondra, Dublin, D09X620
Access from the city centre: Buses 1, 11, 13, 16, 44
Food: Pizza, tacos, pub grub, gorgeous mac & cheese suppli
Sport: Most major Premiere League & international football matches
TVs: A few small ones, with a screen that comes down for bigger games
Music: Often top 80s and 90s jams on the speakers, though not live music
Family-friendliness: No specific kids’ menu, but smaller sizes are available and children are welcome
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium: The Ivy House, Fagan’s and Juno are all within a reasonable walk, but allow for strolling in between
Local sites of note: DCU St Patrick’s & All Hallows Campuses, Drumcondra Church & Churchyard, Griffith Avenue, Belvedere House, Croke Park, Tolka Park
Haunted: One would hope so – vibes
Other notes: Excellent bottle/can list

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: The Bald Eagle

The bar at The Bald EagleIt’s time for the first instalment of my Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs.

You guessed I’d start off with my own local, right? While *technically* I have several other pubs within much easier strolling/stumbling distance, one of the many benefits of city living to someone like me who is essentially incapable of living anywhere non-urban, is having a number of choices and opting for the one that’s a slightly further walk, simply because it’s more what I’m in the mood for on a given occasion. So, today, it’s a look at The Bald Eagle, which stands next to the Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal in Phibsborough (or, if you prefer, Phibsboro – it’s a thing).

For the uninitiated, Phibsborough is one of the World’s Coolest NeighbourhoodsTM, at least according to Time Out, and as a former staffer from back in the 1990s, I have to agree, right? Well, having lived or worked in a few of them, frequently long before they were cool (side note: Walthamstow was most certainly Not Cool when I lived there, but hey, why not now?) because I am An Old, I do (mostly) agree in this case. Although I am not personally cool enough to live in Phibsborough itself, I’m in and out of it several times a day – it’s just a short walk up the canal for me, so I get all the Cool Neighbourhood benefits without the full Cool Neighbourhood price. And Cool Neighbourhoods need cool pubs, but it’s all about being just the right level of cool, and not trying too hard – and that (finally) brings me to what I love about The Bald Eagle.

Dalek mural at The Bald EagleWhile the interior is, at first glance, your ‘typical’ Irish pub with a lot of dark wood, a lovely snug, some old pictures, mirrors and a wee bit of taxidermy, it’s spruced up with a splash of pop culture and nerdery: Star Wars and other action figures that seem aimed squarely at my demographic, as well as a tattoo aesthetic toward the back and outside on the sun-trap deck – well, on days when there is sun, that is. There’s also a life-sized mural of a Dalek out back, again, targeting My People very directly.

Of course, it’s also about the beer: there are almost always local beers from Hope, Rascals and Trouble on, and not infrequently another guest tap or two, along with the usual Guinness and Friends lineup you will find everywhere else. There’s always a warm welcome from the staff who make a point of saying hello whenever we appear, even if it’s busy, and it’s the kind of place I can go for a quiet solo pint on a rare afternoon off, an evening out with friends or for a family dinner with the kids in tow – the desserts are always crowd-pleasers, and the seasonal cocktail offerings are a nice change from the beer on occasion.

Solo pint at The Bald Eagle, in the snugIf this all sounds too much ‘of the now’ for you, there is also a heritage here: although it’s only been The Bald Eagle for a few years, there has been a pub on this spot – or, at least, very near – since the 1740s, though maps from the 1830s onward seem more certain about this being part of the origin story of the current pub; one has to assume the workers at the mill just a bit further along the canal would have wanted a drink. But sometimes it’s nice to leave a bit of mystery, too – something to come back to later, which suits a pub like this perfectly.

I do come back often.

Where: The Bald Eagle, 114-115 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 VX23
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pizzas, desserts
Sport: Most bigger Premiere League, Rugby and GAA matches are on
TVs: Visible from most of the pub, including the deck, but not overpowering
Music: Usually excellent ’90s jams on the speakers, though not live music
Family-friendliness: Useful kids’ menu and friendly welcome at reasonable hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High. Multiple options within the immediate area: Doyle’s Corner, The Boh, The Hut and The Back Page in one direction, with The Botanic, The Gravediggers and The Tolka House in the other…
Local sites of note: Royal Canal, Mater Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Dalymount Park
Haunted: Not obviously
Other notes: Handy for a Guinness 0.0 when needed, also some cans and bottles of other local craft beers