“Where can I find a REAL Irish pub?” I asked the vinyl shopkeeper in Dublin. “You mean one without tourists who believe in fauking leprechaun and want to see River Dancers?” he replied with disdain for tourists. I get it and appreciated his predicament. He probably relied on the stinking tourists to make a living but hated their ignorance of true Irish history and culture. After some discussion with he and a customer who was trying to be helpful, we had some recommendations and were ready to experience real Irish food and music.
First, we walked to O’Donoghue’s where Glen Hansard, our Irish singer we love, frequents when in town but it was early and not too much was happening so on we walked. As usual, we then wandered into a beautiful local park, which we wouldn’t have normally sought out. A big event was going on with entertainment and music but unfortunately it was sold out and we couldn’t talk our way in but we still had a lovely time seeing how the locals used their parks with jugglers juggling and groups of people doing yoga together on this lovely late summer evening. We had stumbled into Merrion Square, which had been a private park for the rich surrounded by townhomes and is now a public area to be enjoyed by all.
Needing substance, we sought out a pub that I had researched in advance, The Old Storehouse, which did not disappoint with hearty shepherd’s pie for Thom to pack away. After asking the waitress for an Old Fashioned, she asked how I wanted it made. I wanted to give a smart reply like, “If I need to make it or tell you how to make it then why do you have a bartender?” but didn’t want her to spit in my drink so I just replied nicely that whatever way they normally made it would be fine by me. Ha! I received a shot of whiskey (and not a generous one) with orange peel. You would have thought I might learn from that experience but, no, not really. After Thom astounded me with his knowledge of Irish pub songs (which he learned from hanging out in NYC Irish bars since he was a wee lad), we sang along to Molly Malone and other Irish pub standards as well as American classics.
Looking for more real Irish music since the singer at The Old Storehouse ended his set with John Denver, we decided to go with Thom’s brother Pat’s suggestion of the self-proclaimed oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, estd. 1198. Now, it is WAY off the beaten path and quite the walk from Temple Bar area but off we continued until finally finding it. Sharing tables with two gals from Germany, the place was packed and authentic. I felt sorry for the Asian tourists in the corner who were huddled up with strangers and looking very uncomfortable sharing space. I gave up my seat so an elder couple could sit together and I stood at the bar. Got to give it to the seventy-something with a cane venturing out to the pub still to enjoy the music. He deserved a stool.
I sidled up to the busy bar to order a coke for Thom and an Old Fashioned for me to compare with the previous one. “We don’t do cocktails.” The bartender sneered at me and then ignored me. Okay. Should have known better. My bad. “Shot of whiskey and side of water” was better and I was rewarded with a tiny amount of whiskey and a water I would share with Thom. We were there for the Irish music not the spirits, so all good.
Smoking outside the bars and in outside patio areas is common. One guy lit up a cigar and you could smell it all the way inside. I sneered at him on the way out. Didn’t faze him at all and he puffed away, sharing his stench with everyone in and around the pub. Classy. Cheers.