St. Patrick’s Day is to Boston what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans: a no-holds-barred, citywide party. But how should you spend said day of reckless Irish (and faux-Irish) enchantment and ballyhoo? From singing along to Dropkick Murphys at your favorite local spot, reading some Joyce over a quiet pint, or even just quoting Boondock Saints while some chick wearing a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” bra sprinkles green glitter on all the recently laundered stuff you own, you can’t go wrong with one of these great Irish pubs.
The Best Irish Bars in Boston
The name says it all: during the week, this dark brick, bookshelf-lined pub is on the quieter end, hosting trivia night and regulars hoping to catch some of whatever game is airing. On the weekends, it turns into a party spot, with all 11 TVs on and a low roar reverberating through the room. The hearty pub food is exactly what you might expect, with a few offbeat options, like the kale potstickers with mango habanero dipping sauce, or spicy Scholar mussels.
Named after an Irish playwright, the Behan is in many ways the bare minimum: no kitchen, no TVs, no schmancy cocktails. Meals are BYO, which turns some people off, but we’re OK with that. While the bar occasionally hosts live Irish music and local bands, we love it, because it’s not about watching what’s going on around you so much as having a great conversation over a beautiful black Guinness.
The Burren made our list of 10 bars you’re not allowed in after you turn 30 (which is a shame because it’s a great place, when it isn’t infested with Tufts students). St. Paddy’s Day, however, is arguably an exception. The pub was originally opened by a pair of musicians and features live music more often than not, including some traditionally Gaelic bands. The menu houses Irish mainstays like Guinness beef stew, bangers & mash, fish & chips, and shepherd’s pie. On weekends, you can get a full Irish breakfast during brunch (including all the requisite rashers, sausage, pudding, and beans). All this has made The Burren pretty popular, which has resulted in it becoming less of a pub and more of a party spot: perfect if you’re looking to kick it with the sparkly shamrock antennae kind of crowd.
Doyle’s is the place that has inspired the “iconic” Boston pub scene. It’s been around since 1882, during which time so many film crews, politicians, and St. Paddy’s Day revelers have left their mark on the place that it almost feels like stepping into a time machine. The vehemently local pub pours Irish imports, microbrews, and the newest releases from the Sam Adams brewery located next door. It’s a part of Boston drinking culture you don’t want to miss.
Like Doyle’s, this Dorchie hangout is steeped in history. It’s not actually a “gentlemen’s bar,” as it says on the sign, but the patrons are still mostly older guys looking to unwind after work. It’s basically where your grandpa goes to get a $1 hot dog and a dark pint. Actually, more than any other reason, that’s what makes it authentic. It’s also where President Clinton kind of danced on a bar and where Mark Wahlberg hung out before he got famous.
Another ancient Bostonian institution, Foley’s has a Downtown location in addition to the 1909 South End original. It’s a pretty chill spot that doesn’t have any one particular kind of patron: everybody goes there, or has been there, or will go there eventually. Guinness is the first thing on the beer list and is what 90% of people order, but there are also a couple more Irish beers and a small selection from East Coast breweries, perfect to wash down your Foley Fireballs (aka deep-fried macaroni with spicy cheese sauce and ranch dip). There’s also corned beef and Irish pudding on the regular.
More raucous than traditional, Phoenix Landing is where you go to watch the game (any game) or kill some time before heading to the club. The happy hour food is a great deal, and the sports bar/dance club vibe makes it one of the most popular pubs in town. If you’re willing to brave the line, you can snag a seat on the patio in the summertime or relax with one of many excellent drafts. St. Paddy’s Day here is guaranteed to be a line-out-the-door, high-energy, Murphys-sing-along experience (minus the awful green beer). So break out your shamrock sunglasses and prepare for a crazy good time.
This super-old-school pub is chock-full of patriotic Irish swag and features live music every single night. The food is on the pricier side, but it’s worth it to sit by a fireplace and devour some Guinness beef stew while your friends misguidedly sing “Sweet Caroline” for the 18th time. Besides, you can always drag them back in the morning for an Irish breakfast.
This, the most hipster of Boston’s Irish pubs, goes way beyond Guinness. The extensive selection of tap beers and cask ales are each served in their own very specific glasses, which means everyone can tell what you’re drinking and thus judge you for it. (No, we’re kidding: they’re actually watching the game -- and that could literally be anything from the Pats to Australian rugby.) This place has something different every day: 25-cent wings on Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays, and Fish and Chips Fridays. Try the short rib poutine, wicked chili, or the Death Wish burger for pub food that’s a little different than what you’re used to.
A crowd favorite for its Irish staff and all around coziness, The Druid is one of Boston’s best spots every weekend. It is often home to barflies from every community and age range, making it one of the safest bets around town. The “Voted Best Fish and Chips” are probably the most popular menu item. On St. Patrick’s Day, it blows up faster than you can say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” -- so get there early.
Most pubs stick to beef stew and fish & chips, but Squealing Pig has made a name for itself by branching out. The seasonal Cape Cod fish fry, various curries, and organic pig burger with gorgonzola are just some of the things you should try, along with a pint from the specially curated draft list. It’s not exactly a traditional place, but it’s definitely a great one if you want to grab a bite and hang out.
The Plough and Stars is a no-nonsense little pub that serves some of the best bar food in the area -- even if it’s a little on the pricey side. It’s good for a solo Guinness but also nice enough for a date. Plus, there’s live music pretty much every night... so you’ll have plenty to do if you don’t actually want to talk to each other.
At nearly 20 years old, Grafton definitely holds its own against the Hub’s other establishments. It’s just a stone’s throw from The Wrong Kong but, thankfully, couldn’t be more different. Named after a cobblestoned street in Dublin’s famous Temple Bar area, Grafton is a really modern pub that gets its Irish chops largely from its bartender, Emerald Isle native Paul Barry. He claims to pour the “perfect pint” of Guinness and has put together a pretty robust menu of Irish whiskeys. This, in addition to a rather appealing cocktail list, makes Grafton a popular hangout among local 20-somethings and the theater-going weekend crowd.
1. The Thirsty Scholar70 Beacon St, Somerville
2. Brendan Behan Pub378 Centre St, Boston
3. The Burren247 Elm St, Somerville
4. Doyle's Cafe3484 Washington St, Boston
5. Eire Pub795 Adams St, Dorchester
6. J.J. Foley's Fireside Tavern30 Hyde Park Ave, Boston
7. The Phoenix Landing512 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
8. Black Rose160 State St, Boston
9. Olde Magoun's Saloon518 Medford St, Somerville
10. The Druid1357 Cambridge St, Cambridge
11. The Squealing Pig134 Smith St, Boston
12. The Plough and Stars912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
13. Grafton Street Pub1230 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
The name says it all: during the week, this dark brick and bookshelf-lined pub is on the quieter end, hosting trivia night and regulars hoping to catch some of whatever game is airing. On the weekends, it turns into a party spot with all 11 TVs on and a low roar reverberating through the room. The hearty pub food is exactly what you might expect, with a few offbeat options like the kale potstickers with mango habanero dipping sauce and spicy Scholar’s mussels.
This classic Irish pub is named after Brendan Behan, an Irish writer and notorious booze-lover. Guinness headlines a large list of draft and bottled brews at this Irish pub with regular live music; It's a space where modernity meets old Irish tradition. It's no wonder that Boston Magazine honored the pub four times with the title of "Best Irish Bar in Boston." Whether you're feeling thirsty or just in the mood to hang around some good vibes, this pub caters to everyone (including dogs)!
There are plenty of reasons to visit The Burren, and their emphasis on live music is definitely at the top of the list. You can also enjoy authentic Irish dinner dishes and a wide variety of beers to pair with your meal. Stop by The Burren if you are in need of a pint in Davis Square.
A Hollywood-blockbuster scene that has been around since 1882 (it feels like a saloon... if you're into that sort of thing), Doyle's plays host to the yearly St. Patrick's Day merriment, serving up standard Irish-American cuisine and lots of beer.
For over 50 years, The Eire Pub has been a quintessential Boston fixture. The Irish pub is located in the heart of the historic city, and became especially famous in 1983 after a surprise visit from President Ronald Reagan. Since then, it has been dubbed the "Presidential Pub." The notoriously politico friendly neighborhood bar has also welcomed guests such as Bill Clinton, who stopped by for a pint of beer only a few days before his election. They serve a variety of beers, have a full bar, and a great lunch menu. PSA: It's cash only.
Locals love hanging out at J. J. Foley's for many reasons. Their backroom dartboard, late-night bar menu, and great beer selections are just a few of the things we appreciate about spending time at J. J. Foley's. We highly recommend this bar to anyone looking for a fun place to drink in South End.
TPL is a relaxed Cambridge bar, offering up loads of fried bar food during the day... but turning into a full-on nightclub at night. If you are in the mood for drinking a pint and watching a soccer game, or a Guinness- fueled dance party, Phoenix Landing is the bar for you.
This super-old-school pub is chock-full of patriotic Irish swag, and features live music every single night. The food is on the pricier side, but it’s worth it to sit by a fireplace and devour some Guinness beef stew while your friends misguidedly sing “Sweet Caroline” for the 18th time. Besides, you can always drag them back in the morning for an Irish breakfast.
Olde Magoun's is a great spot to sit down and enjoy some hearty Irish and American pub fare in a friendly atmosphere. They will accommodate a liquid diet as well -- their draft list (full of craft beer) and craft spirits list (full of small batch bourbon) won't disappoint.
Inman Square’s highly regarded, very authentic Irish pub offers a highly regarded, very authentic homage to this classic dish. Fresh cod and hand-cut fries take center stage in the Druid Fish & Chips, and then house tartar and the traditional “wrapped in newspaper” presentation steal the show. (Just like Ireland, except closer.) Suggested pairing: beer.
Wooden tables and bar stools bring a casual vibe to this Irish bar/resto, replete with a 100+ beer selection and actual Irish waitresses on hand to serve them. The menu features Curry and Tuscan fries, a Mars Bar toastie and pizza toppings like grilled shrimp, chorizo and arugula.
This local hot spot has been owning the Boston bar scene since 1969, and hasn't changed over the years. Their atmosphere is friendly, their bar staff is knowledgable, and they have a pretty solid draught menu. Locals and Plough and Stars regulars love this bar, so we highly recommend stopping by if you are looking for a pint.
If you are looking for an Irish-inspired pub that puts more emphasis on a delicious menu than a rowdy drinking atmosphere, you need to visit Grafton Street Pub. Their food is a far cry from pub food, instead featuring fancier dishes. Check their website for an updated food menu.