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 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…

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: The Stag’s Head

Outside The Stag's HeadLook! We’ve gone south of the river! It does sometimes happen, if the right opportunity presents itself. And so, to The Stag’s Head.

While I had been to the pub at some point in the dim and distant past, long before I moved here, it was very much as a tourist. And while it does still feel a bit like a ‘tourist’ bar, with its well-preserved Victorian interior (see also The Long Hall, The Hut, The Palace Bar) and Temple Bar-adjacent location, there is some genuine local colour as well. That’s what brought me in most recently: a friend’s birthday party, and she chose the location because it has a very niche place in Irish music history: it is (so the story goes) where Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh dreamt up The Duckworth-Lewis Method – birthing the world’s finest cricket pop over (more than) a few pints. As an aside, the two have a new song out under Walsh’s aegis – check it out!

Stag's Head mosaicBut back to the pub itself: while the ground floor hosts the main bar and generous snug, there are smaller spots to sit with a pint or a few friends, or even to host a corporate or life event – indeed, before we settled into the upstairs lounge, with its view over the alleyway, a wedding was in the process of winding down. The beer selection is mostly the usual suspects – a well-poured Guinness and the odd Five Lamps ‘crafty’ option – so not necessarily my first choice, but it’s worth noting that for a city centre Guinness, it’s not a bad price, and certainly cheaper than many (likely most) in the immediate vicinity.

A pint in the upstairs barIt does feel a bit less welcoming than the places I more typically frequent, with a bit of a wait to be served, even without a queue, but some of that may be that the staff had already slogged through a wedding, and it was by that point a Friday night, so very understandable, especially in this part of town. But it is a beautifully-maintained spot, and there are times when simply relaxing with friends over a Guinness is called for.

The parting glass - a blurry photo of the main barAnd as a folklore nerd, I’m curious to see what one of their Folklore & Fairies evenings is all about, though I suspect it would be full of the louder spectrum of The People From Where I Came From, and I tend to avoid that crowd – still, perhaps something to try with a few friends rounded up in advance…if more local craft beer options were on offer, I’d be in!

Where: The Stag’s Head, 1 Dame Ct, Dublin, D02 TW84
Access from the city centre: You are there
Food: Toasties, oysters, pub grub
Sport: All sorts on the televisions
TVs: TVs in the main bar
Music: Live trad bands Fridays & Saturdays; stereo soundtrack was ‘wedding favourites’ on my visit
Family-friendliness: Likely depends on the time of day
Pub-crawl-ability: High – very short walk to The Oak/The Beer Temple, O’Neill’s, The Lord Edward, The Bull & Castle, The Brazen Head, The Porterhouse and all of Temple Bar, if you hate your money
Local sites of note: Olympia Theatre, Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia
Haunted: Surely a quality candidate for ghosts, if ghosts like dark wood and leather
Other notes: Extensive whiskey selection

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