The Best Irish Pubs in Boston to Hit Up on St. Patrick’s Day
Including our fave Irish pubs in Boston with live music and the oldest Irish pub in Boston.
Boston remains home to the country’s highest concentration of Irish Americans—and with all that Irish ancestry comes the prevalence of pubs.
While you are sure to come across a few that are little more than mere thematic copycats, most of the older bars in the area have a storied history that remains true to tradition. From the look of the bar itself, to the jovial vibes of the clientele—from offering up classic dishes like Shepherd’s Pie and Beef Stew, to pints of Guinness, and pours of Irish whiskey— there is nothing quite like the authenticity and excitement that awaits you at a Boston pub.
From popular city center destinations to friendly neighborhood haunts, these are the best Irish pubs in Boston. Sláinte!
Plough and Stars
Big things continue to happen in this tiny (watering) hole in the wall. Opening back in 1969 and endearingly referred to as “the Plough” by locals, it’s long been a haven for live music and eclectic pub fare. Serving lunch and dinner, and still maintaining a 7-day-a-week live music schedule after all these years, the often-crammed bar and stage-less venue is famously known for giving some of the city’s biggest musical acts their start. Plus, with its smart location between Harvard and M.I.T., you probably have some of the highest odds of striking up conversation with one of the world’s most renowned philosophers or astrophysicists.
L Street Tavern
Just off the beaten path in Southie, the L opened back in 1962 and quickly became a popular neighborhood haunt for loyal locals. Back in 1997, word spread suddenly about this hidden gem once it was discovered that Good Will Hunting’s infamous “How bout them apples” scene was filmed here. Surely being put on the world stage can change a lot, but you can still bet on getting proper pour and a little bit of that rugged South Boston charm.
Murphy’s Law is just one of a few Southie bars that managed to survive the area’s continued transformation. Featuring traditional Irish pub fare and a full bar, Murphy’s Law boasts live entertainment, darts, and a selection of video games like Golden Tee. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Murphy’s Law,” it’s the idea that anything that can go wrong, will. We prefer to take that more as a general life lesson than something bound to happen to you while you are here. Cheers.
If you’re looking to watch football (soccer) or rugby among Dorchester locals, this is your spot. The Banshee promises, “If your game is being broadcast in North America, then you can rest assured that the Banshee will be showing it on one of its 10 flat-screen televisions.” A local meeting place steeped in Irish heritage with the added intrigue of being a bustling sports bar, The Banshee is an exciting spot to cheer on your favorite European teams and down a few pints.
The Black Rose
With more than four decades of slinging brews and Irish fare under its belt, The Black Rose has long been known as one of the most popular Irish pubs in Downtown Boston. While the large space remains relatively quiet during the day, its proximity to the waterfront and Faneuil Hall helps pack the place to capacity at night. Open 365 days a year with live (mostly) Irish music every night, the Black Rose is a great escape from all the rowdy tourist traps nearby. The menu serves traditional Irish cuisine coupled with New England seafood favorites—in the winter, nothing compares to spooning some Clam Chowder next to the fireplace.
Brendan Behan Pub
The Behan has long been the place to go for a quick pint in the nearby suburb of Jamaica Plain. Named after the Irish Republican poet, novelist, and playwright, this dimly lit, cozy neighborhood spot is quaint, friendly, and increasingly hip. There are no TVs and no kitchen, but you can bring your own food into the establishment (you can even bring your dog). If you’re looking for a pint amongst locals and without the multitudes of tourists, stop by the Behan. Few places are as comfortable and as welcoming.
With an all-Irish staff delivering back home hospitality, this Irish-owned establishment provides the consummate across-the-pond pub atmosphere. All of the bartenders here hail from County Claire with some staying for years while others eventually head back home. The cozy venue has a small bar and an even smaller kitchen, but despite its small stature, the food emerging from the kitchen has long been the toast of the town. From Fish and Chips and hefty burgers to a Chicken Soup that’s a local remedy for curing winter colds, the menu covers all the comfort food classics. Plus, Guinness Stew and Shepherd’s Pie are on the menu for those seeking Irish fare. On Sunday afternoons and Tuesday nights, catch a local pick-up session packed in the corner booth playing traditional Irish music featuring flutes, fiddles, and accordions.
Located on the border of Beacon Hill and the rest of Downtown, Emmets is a prime after-work spot for State House employees and other professionals who have been waiting all day to loosen their ties. But just a block from Boston Common and a quick detour from the historic Freedom Trail, you’re also sure to find plenty of out-of-towners seeking a libation to break up their walkabout the city. With traditional Irish brunch served on weekends and a live Irish band setting the scene right after, you can spend the entire day soaking in Irish culture (and a few pints of Guinness) at Emmets.
The Green Dragon Tavern
If you’re looking for a cold one along Boston’s famed Freedom Trail, stop into the Green Dragon Tavern for a historic pint. Established in 1654, The Green Dragon’s original location was just blocks away on Union Street until it was demolished in 1854. Known as “The Headquarters of the Revolution,” the Boston Tea Party was planned on site and has since been documented as Paul Revere’s favorite watering hole. Reincarnated on Marshall Street, the bar is adorned in revolutionary memorabilia and memories from the old location, plus it offers a menu of traditional dishes like Guinness Beef Stew, Cottage Pie, Shepherd’s Pie, and a sampler that allows you to try all three.
J.J. Foley's Bar & Grille
There are actually two bars in Boston known as J.J. Foley’s—both landmarks in their own right. The Berkley Street destination in the South End opened way back in 1909 and has long been a local go-to for politicians and newspaper reporters alike (Boston Herald’s headquarters was once nearby). The newer bar of the same name is located on Kingston Street, and though they opened 50 years later, the location has long been the focus of local lore. A haven for Boston’s after-work and post-concert crowd, the once stellar jukebox has changed, but the old tiled floor, pub fare, local brews, and many of the bartenders remain the same.
As a popular destination for Irish Americans and Irish appreciators alike, Mr. Dooley’s has friendly bartenders slinging jokes, pulling the finest Irish beer, and offering up the best in Irish whiskeys. The bar is usually filled with sociable regulars who intermingle with the barkeep, creating a hospitable atmosphere and a spirited dialogue between customers. The spot is open early every day and stays open late to host traditional Irish music seven nights a week. There are no TVs here, so don’t come here expecting to watch the game; come for the comforting sounds of fiddles and accordions.
The Phoenix Landing
The Phoenix is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to your traditional Irish bar, but it’s still one of the city’s go-to destinations when it comes to live televised European football and rugby matches. If there’s a game, it’s on. If it happens to be an early and important match, they’re open early and most likely busy. During the day, expect clientele to be clad in football jerseys cursing at the bar’s nine televisions. At night, however, the venue transforms into a nightclub, making it almost unrecognizable from its daytime Irish pub vibes. Drum and bass, throwbacks, house, and hip-hop—DJs and dancing happen here seven nights a week. As far as drinks go, there are UK favorites for the football crowd, local microbrews for the nerdy Cantabrigians, and enough popular pours to satisfy partygoers.