It’s that time of year to celebrate the most universal of all entities – the Irish pub. No matter where we travel, the warmth and flavors of Irish pub food, companionship and a common language are comforting elements in a sometimes stressful world. However, when I saw quesadillas and fish tacos on the menu of a respected Irish pub in New York, it was a moment of enlightenment. If Irish pubs can wink at local tastes and traditions, why can’t non-Irish pubs adopt Irish treats? And so, here’s a random look at “pubs” — Irish and others — that have become my favorites near and far, more for the food and drink than for the St. Patrick’s Day party. – Jay Lloyd
124 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
My newest Philly favorite is old style. An old, classic building at 18th and Sansom that’s been gutted and rebuilt in the design of a Victorian era English, not Irish, pub. Two comfortable bars, a warming fireplace and a lot of wood fixtures and floors help set the tone for meals that began as pub staples. Here, they’re ratcheted up to a work of art by skilled chefs at this recent Stephen Starr addition to the Philly food scene. (Okay — that’s my subtle way of saying be prepared to spend a bit more and you’ll see suits and dresses mixed with the khakis and jeans!) The fish and chips on a cutting board accompanied by crisp fries, sauces and a lemon wedge will intrigue the eye as much as the palate. And all the usual suspects are on tap. You get the idea.
ST. JAMES GATE
441 Amsterdam Ave. (81st. St.)
New York, NY 10024
New York probably has about as many pubs as Dublin, maybe more. But if you’re going Irish, just the name “St. James Gate” has to get you in the door, just out of curiosity. St. James Gate is the portal to the famous Guinness Storehouse in the heart of Dublin. Joined by my son, Spencer, we hung at the namesake New York bar which is known for close companionship. That means at happy hour, there’s little elbow room, so you want to be friendly. The food was classic, plentiful and robust. Spence tucked into the bangers-and-mash, and I went for corned beef and cabbage. We’ll do it again…and again…and again.
St. James Gate
Dublin 8, Ireland
Let’s zip across the pond for a minute, as long as we’re talking about all-things Irish. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. That means that right now, with the American dollar skyrocketing and the Euro tanking, the buck goes a long, long way. And if you find yourself in Dublin, take the Guinness Storehouse tour and learn everything you ever wanted to know about the dark, stout brew that has captured global renown for centuries. After the tour, head to the upper deck pub for a spectacular panoramic view of the classic city. Enjoy a pint of the brew that has fortified pubs the world over.
RUSSELL HOTEL PUB
26 The Scores
St. Andrews, Fife
KY16 9AS, Scotland
As long as we’re in the neighborhood, let’s skip over to Scotland and the pub-laden Mecca of golf, St. Andrews. Now, you could just stop at the St. Andrews Pub in New York, but hitting golf balls in the theater district is frowned upon. So, in this ancient Scottish town, pull up a stool at the Russell Hotel Pub next to a guy in a blazer carrying a wedge like it’s a security blanket, then order a fine single malt. The bar and lounge menu varies and haggis is generally available, but the fish and chips is a constant meal and the smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches are a treat. We’ve stayed here on five visits and were never disappointed.
45 Stone St.
New York, NY 10005
The entry point for most 19th century Irish entering America was Castle Garden, the immigration center before it moved to Ellis Island. It’s just a short stroll to Stone Street, home of the Dubliner Pub, which one of my New York favorites when in Lower Manhattan. The chatty bar and a great beef and Guinness stew make this place irresistible. The bartender helped, too. She recognized my KYW logo jacket and immediately told me she had been a student of KYW’s Vince Hill at Temple. Then she tapped the Guinness, and I was compelled to spend a few hours!
CORCORAN’S IRISH PUB
Many of you who travel will likely find yourself in Paris this year. After all, France is also Euro-bound, and the dollar really stretches. You’ll be tempted to buy drinks for the bar. I include an Irish pub in France on this list, because it’s impossible not to. It jumps out at you on the first visit to Montmarte. Climb the stairs to the world famous Sacre-Coeur church, turn around to see stunning views of the Parisian streetscape below and right on the plaza is Corcoran’s Pub. It might not seem to fit, but try the fish and chips or meat and cheese boards and you’ll find a nod to fine French cuisine.