Image of glass of beer with shamrock leaf on pub table

America’s Essential Irish Pubs

BY Briana Brady | March 12, 2024

For those of you whose greatest association with St. Patrick involves green beer, don’t worry,  I’ll catch you up. Patrick, pre-sainthood, was born in Great Britain but ended up in Ireland near the end of the Roman Empire. Thanks to this animated masterpiece I watched in my youth, in my mind, he was a Welsh prince who was captured by Irish pirates when he went swimming off the coast – which, despite its slight inaccuracy, is an excellent story. Upon arrival, he became a shepherd (true), found his way back to Britain (true), became a priest (true), was called by God to return to Ireland (debatable), and eventually cast all the snakes out of Ireland (not true) and came up with such a rad metaphor – the three-leaf clover – for explaining how Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit could all be the same deity that the entire country converted to Christianity. (legendary).

Despite all this, in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day is more about diaspora than religion. For such a small country of origin, there are a shocking number of people around the world with Irish heritage – including almost 10% of the U.S. population. Between 1841 and 1851 alone, around the time of the Great Famine, almost a quarter of Ireland’s population – 2 million people –  emigrated to the U.S. And, though you might want to argue with me about this, as a descendent of Irish people who decided it was worth it to cross an ocean, I think one of the greatest contributions Irish immigrants ever made to this country was pubs. Not bars. Pubs. Wood-paneled spaces where you can have an actual conversation and most people are drinking what’s on draft. Go to pretty much any city in the country, and you’ll find one. So, yes, absolutely attend a parade. Wear green if it suits you. Head to mass if that’s your bag. But the best way to honor what the Irish have given us might be to sit and have a beer in a pub around St. Patrick’s Day. 

You don’t have to be in Boston to find a great Irish pub. So here’s just a few to try out, all around the 50 states. This list attempts to avoid places serving green beer. Because I have self respect. And you should too. 

New Orleans

Photo courtesy of Dennis Yang | CC BY 2.0

While New Orleans might be known more for its French, Caribbean and West African cultural roots, tucked into the Garden District is an area known as the Irish Channel, named for the immigrants that made a home there in the 19th century. While the neighborhood, like any neighborhood, has changed since then, it still hosts the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, and there are a couple of pubs nearby: Tracey’s and Parasol’s. If you’re looking for smaller spots, New Orleans has a number of tiny Irish pubs such as St. Pat’s Coffee House, where you can get your Irish coffee in the morning and your whiskey at night, and Erin Rose, a dive alternative. If what you’re after is something that feels closer to pubs you might find in Ireland – or at least good pours of Guinness and Smithwick’s –  there’s locally beloved spot Finn McCool’s in Mid-City, where you’ll often find rugby or soccer playing up on the television. 

New York City

Photo courtesy of Joel Bez | CC BY 2.0

So, yes, New York City is home to one of the country’s oldest operating pubs. And McSorely’s is definitely worth it for the specific experience of getting a round of dark or light half pints and chatting about the purposes of the sawdust covering the bar’s floor. However, New York has so much more. For music, head to Paddy Reilly’s in Kipp’s Bay, where they host a live band seven nights a week. There’s also Dead Rabbit, which has an Irish music seisiún (session, in Irish) every Sunday, or the older Molly’s Pub for a mixture of New York history and servings of lamb stew. 

And if you’re in Brooklyn, you should have some soda bread at Clinton Hill’s Hartley’s before you take the short trip to my neighborhood pub, The Canary, and say hello to one of the owners, Karl, who grew up in Ireland and is often behind the bar. They’ve got Guinness on tap and I’ve hardly ever been in there without hearing at least one Cranberries song. 

Kansas City

Kansas City hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country – attended by around 400,000 people. Appropriately, it’s also home to a number of Irish or Irish-inspired pubs. If you’re looking to try some boxtys (potato pancakes that are definitely not latkes, but do taste excellent with applesauce) or cottage pie, you should head to Brady and Fox. Gilhoulys, Kelly’s Westport Inn and Fitz’s Blarney Stone offer a more dimly lit bar experience. If you want some music with your beer, head to O’Dowds to the south or the O’Malley’s 1842 pub in Weston. 


Photo courtesy of Huron Tours & Travel | CC BY 2.0

Paddy’s Pub, a la “Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” may not exist, but the plethora of Irish pubs in Philadelphia is very, very real (Rob McElhenney, who played bouncer and bar-owner Mac on Always Sunny, does actually own a bar there now). If you’re in the mood to watch some rugby there’s Tir na nÓg, named after the mythological Irish otherworld of eternal youth. More important than rugby, however, might be attending one of the pub sings every first Monday of the month at Fergie’s Pub in Center City. They’ve also got traditional music nights, live band karaoke and a poetry series going. The Plough and Stars a few blocks to the west offers a full Irish breakfast, live music and, at least on St. Patrick’s Day, dancers throughout the day – the perfect opportunity to practice your hop-two-threes. For a more traditional feel, there’s also McGillin’s, Con Murphy’s or Fadó.


When I tell you that O’Donnovan’s in Minneapolis imported their bar from Ireland, I’m not talking about the long stretch of wood they’re serving beer on. The entire pub was built and sent in pieces to Minnesota. Authenticity might be something that’s hard to pin down, but we have to give them an A for effort. About 400 feet away is Kieran’s Irish Pub, which was not imported across the ocean, but does offer a version of boiled dinner (the New England corned beef and cabbage staple) for those seeking out some Irish-American comfort food. If you’re in St. Paul, head to Patrick McGovern’s or The Dubliner, the latter of which often has live music and hosts a céilí (a social dance, pronounced kay-lee) every Wednesday with dancing instruction for those who are new to the steps.


Agreement seems to be that the best Irish pub in Portland is TC O’Leary’s. Owner Tom O’Leary grew up in Killiney, Ireland and at one point starred on a popular Irish soap opera. Beyond the curry chips and shepherd’s pie, they’ve also got live music five days a week, an Irish book group that meets once a week (here, I’ll get you started), and an ancestor wall dedicated to not only the owner’s predecessors, but many of the patrons. For other spots where you might want to get a beer or pick up some fried fish try Dublin Pub, Paddy’s, Whelan’s Irish Pub or Kells


Part of Louisville’s downtown is known as Irish Hill, named for the immigrants that settled there in the 19th century, and it’s still home to a number of Irish bars. While they’re all pretty large spaces, Flanagan’s, Molly Malones and O’Shea’s are all dishing out fish and chips or shepherd’s pie alongside American bar food. For something smaller and with a menu dedicated to the likes of bubble and squeak (a fried mashed potato and cabbage) and lamb stuffed cabbage, head to The Irish Rover in Crescent Hill. Not only are owners Siobhan and Michael Reidy dedicated to bringing a bit of Ireland to the U.S., they’ve also been leading tours of Ireland and Scotland over the years.