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: 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: Fidelity

A glass of beer at FidelityAnd…we’re back!

After a brief Easter break, which included starting a new job and a quick trip to London (two not-unrelated activities – although I am mostly remote, my new office is a short stroll from the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and I am not *cough* remotely *cough* mad about that – sorry/not sorry), it’s back to business as usual for Weirdo Dublin Pubs, with more or less weekly updates.

We’ve previously covered The Big Romance, and this week, we’re heading to their sister bar, Fidelity, which is very much brought to you by Whiplash, with the music-geek vibe begun at The Big Romance turned to 11 (or whatever it would be people who are *really* into their sound systems would say in 2023 – I just appreciate the tunes). But that respect for the music and the atmosphere still means that it’s not too loud to enjoy conversation, except when the currently-still-smallish spot is packed in the evenings, though there is work going on to expand the space. And while they also have great cocktails and some things I am told are called ‘wines’ on a few taps, this is a proper Beer Appreciation Chamber, with the taps not only as the aesthetic focal point of the bar (MANIFOLD POURING SYSTEM, FOLKS!), but with the form following function – each one can be dialled (literally with an analog dial, so I am told) exactly to the ideal temperature for the specific beer it dispenses. This level of nerdery may be lost on many, perhaps even most, patrons, but it’s not simply window-dressing; the emphasis on quality is real.

manifold taps, y'allThe beer list over the bar is also very intentionally designed in a way that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I quite like it, and, more importantly, I love what it communicates – a varied lineup of styles, strengths and guest taps, often from a brewery that’s in town to do a collaboration with Whiplash; recent and upcoming partners include England’s Left-Handed Giant and Track, as well as Spain’s Garage, plus other Irish breweries like Mescan. I’ve especially enjoyed Whiplash’s own Bowsie Brown Ale (everybody knows that I love…brown ale) and The Dead, a heritage-recipe porter, and it's been a treat to try beers I’ve only ever previously had canned fresh on tap – Dark Steering, their glorious schwarzbier, is especially nice.

It's like that - speakers & artAnd while it’s slightly disappointing that there won’t be a Fidelity beer festival this year, it’s great to have another craft beer outlet within a reasonable walking distance – the fact that it’s ‘only’ Whiplash and Friends is no bad thing.

I still prefer to visit Fidelity relatively close to when they open – as an official Old, I like my bars to be a bit less crowded – but I’m also very glad to have Fidelity in the mix; it’s a great addition to Dublin (and, of course, on the Right Side of the Liffey, too).

Where: Fidelity, 79 Queen St, Smithfield, Dublin 7, D07 DW3R
Access from the city centre: Buses C1, C2, C3, C4, 37, 39, 39A, 70, 83, 83A, Red Line Luas, 20ish minute walk
Food: Not at the moment
Sport: No
TVs: Definitely not
Music: Very serious, but Good Serious
Family-friendliness: I’ve seen people with hipster baby carriers in for a drink (not judging, I’ve been that person), but it’s not a great spot for the small folk
Pub-crawl-ability: High – Bonobo, The Cobblestone, The Belfry, The Brazen Head and L Mulligan, Grocer are all within a few minutes’ walk – and that’s just getting started
Local sites of note: Collins Barracks, Four Courts, St Michan's Church, St Audoen's Church, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: There is a history to the spot, so perhaps there are ghosts from the former Dice Bar
Other notes: Keep an eye on the socials for tap takeovers and collab announcements

Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs: L. Mulligan. Grocer

Outside L. Mulligan. Grocer, at night. Some offspring pictured.I have a relatively small list of ‘must visit’ pubs that I recommend to overseas visitors, but, especially for those who are looking to sample local ingredients, craft beer and unique Irish whiskies, this week’s pub is very much in the top portion of that shortlist.

My first visit to L. Mulligan. Grocer, back in 2019, was an auspicious one. At that point, we knew we were moving to Dublin, but we were still waiting for the details and paperwork to fall into place. We had been looking at neighbourhoods online, though without knowing much more than what we could see and read there. We had made an initial connection with our relocation agent, who had what I can only describe as an idée fixe about which parts of Dublin were ‘appropriate’ for ‘people like us,’ and it was clear we had very different ideas on that front. I had heard nothing but good things about the beer and food at L. Mulligan. Grocer, and so made it a point of stopping in on a work trip to check it out, as well as the surrounding area, which looked from afar very much like one that was (shock!) suitable for ‘people like us.’

Halloween decor on that first L. Mulligan. Grocer visitI had an event at the nearby Lighthouse Cinema, so walking the extra 5 minutes from Smithfield to Stoneybatter was a no-brainer, and I immediately felt at home upon crossing the pub’s threshold. It was suitably dark and ‘pubby,’ but with a selection of unfamiliar-to-me (then) tap handles – definitely a good sign. I had a Trouble Dark Arts Porter and a lovely chat with everyone behind the bar; it was a quiet weekday, so a perfect way to do some fact-finding. I’d not been in long when a man came in and ordered a Guinness; upon being told they did not serve Guinness, but did have some alternatives from smaller local brewers, the man simply turned and walked out without another word. I was somewhat slack-jawed, but was told it happened not infrequently – indeed, I’ve now seen similar behaviour (and worse) at a number of local pubs – this is something we will be revisiting as a theme in this series. Don’t get me wrong, I like Guinness, but I find that specific type of Guinness Enthusiast very odd indeed, and they are legion – but I digress.

My sortie around the area after the pub visit confirmed that this was much more our style than the suburban, South Dublin newish-build/bland gated townhouse ‘communities’ we had been sent – having a pub like this nearby could only be a positive; this was somewhere I could see visiting regularly, and I made a mental note to do so. But such things took a little bit longer than expected…

Inside L. Mulligan....atmospheric.Fast-forward a global move, a pandemic (during which we enjoyed some online whiskey tastings and take-out meals from the crew) and pubs finally being able to re-open, and we finally had the chance to start visiting L. Mulligan. Grocer more often. Although we did not end up moving especially close to it, we’re not terribly far, either, and we’ve enjoyed some lovely events there – pumpkin painting two years in a row for Halloween (accompanied by Trouble Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale, of course), community book sales and, most recently, a lovely belated birthday dinner for me (there was a Lough Gill Mac Nutty Brown Ale on tap, so BROWN ALE JOY was all around).

While there are many wonderful Dublin restaurants featuring local ingredients, it’s more of a rarity for them to also promote Irish beer and spirits beyond those from the familiar megacorporations; on the flip side, relatively few pubs champion Irish meat, cheese and produce as well as drinks from smaller local producers; L. Mulligan. Grocer, covers that full spectrum, and they do so in a friendly, inclusive way – it’s never pretentious, it’s simply baked into its DNA.

Sometimes the longer walk is just what you need…

Where: L. Mulligan. Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, D07 KN77
Access from the city centre: Buses 37, 39, 39A, 70, 83, 83A; Luas Red Line, 30ish minute walk
Food: Fab chips and charcuterie boards, ‘fancy’ mains – definitely not your typical pub grub
Sport: Nope
TVs: Nope
Music: Has always been GenX-friendly on my visits
Family-friendliness: Elevated-but-approachable kids’ menu & house-made soft drinks
Pub-crawl-ability: Medium-High: The Cobblestone, The Belfry, The Barber’s Bar & Bonobo are quite close; Fidelity and (at present) The Underdog aren’t too much further away
Local sites of note: The Lighthouse Cinema, Arbour Hill Cemetery, TUD Grangegorman
Haunted: Haven’t heard any stories, but… Update: CASUAL GHOSTLY VIBES
Other notes: Amazing whiskey selection