You don’t have to have red hair and a penchant for wearing green to enjoy a cold pint of Guinness in Charleston. There’s something warm and homey about a dark, wood-paneled bar playing the sounds of traditional Celtic music (or even some nontraditional Flogging Molly) while the barflies sip their whiskey... and then some. We’ve rounded up Charleston’s best, most authentic Irish bars that will get your soul into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. As they say, sláinte! (It's a thing. Look it up.)
If you picked up Dunleavy’s, transported it across the pond, and set it down in the middle of Dublin, no one would know it hadn’t always been there, because it looks (and feels) like one of the many Irish pubs you’d encounter on Essex St... in Dublin (in case you didn't put that together). It’s very casual, with a friendly staff, ice-cold beer, and signature chargrilled chicken wings. A word to the wise: bring extra cash, because it doesn’t accept credit cards, and you’ll want to spend hours at this gem of a beach bar.
Madra Rua is a neighborhood favorite in both Summerville and Park Circle for its welcoming atmosphere, delicious food (if you haven’t tried the brunch, you haven’t lived), and cold beer selection. Futbol fans rejoice, because Madra Rua proudly subscribes to the MLS package, so you can enjoy all your favorite games. Take advantage of the spring weather out on the “Paddy-o” (see what it did there!?)
The key to a great Irish pub is that it feels like a community gathering. And there’s no better example of that in Charleston than Seanachai on Johns Island. You won’t find any TVs on the walls, but what you will find is great local music, an eclectic mix of clientele, and one of the best outdoor patios in the city. When you’re hungry, order one of the authentic boxties, cottage pies, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a salt cod croquette. Of course, there's always the option to stop by on a Tuesday for a $10 burger & beer special.
Named after the brewery in Dublin founded by Arthur Guinness (yes, that Guinness), St. James Gate is Folly Beach’s first Irish pub. The space features three bars; a main indoor bar, an outdoor patio bar, and an upstairs bar that also serves as an event space. The food is fantastic, but its true claim to fame is the frozen Irish coffee -- which is basically a Frappuccino that gets you rather buzzed.
The Celtic Knot is one of the more inventive Irish pubs in the Charleston area. In addition to traditional fare like shepherd's pie and corned beef & cabbage, this place offers specialty drafts like a Snake in the Mud (Holy City Pluff Mud Porter over Angry Orchard), a Black & Blue (Guinness over Labatt Blue), or a Belgian Brunette (Guinness over Stella Artois) for you to enjoy. It also makes a homemade Celtic Knot Cream (think Bailey’s) that is featured heavily in its drop-shot menu, in specialty drinks like an Irish Car Bomb, or its original “Knotty Bomb," Celtic Knot Cream and whipped vodka dropped into cold coffee, a twist on the classic Irish coffee.
When you think of some of your favorite Irish drinking songs, like “Beer, Beer, Beer” by The Clancy Brothers, you probably imagine listening to it while sitting in a place like Tommy Condon’s -- largely because there’s nothing fancy about the space. It has some exposed brick walls covered in graffiti, a large hardwood bar, a covered patio overlooking Church St, and a little stage for the live music that plays almost every night. For a cold drink on a hot day, Tommy Condon’s definitely hits the spot.
Featuring over 50 beers on tap and in bottles, Mac’s Place is your no-frills Irish watering hole Downtown. This Chicago-themed Irish bar off Market Street features a number of arcade games and flat screen TVs, including mini flat screens above the urinals in the men's room (I've been told), so you don't miss a minute of the action. The food is a step up from your standard bar food, with crowd-pleasing options like Irish nachos, sweet potato tots, and mac & cheese bites (yes, please).
Having been around for over 20 years in the tourist heart of Charleston, The Griffon has managed to find the delicate balance that makes it perfect for both locals and visitors alike. Though lacking in any decor or theme identifying it as a specifically Irish pub (other than a mean dish of fish & chips), The Griffon embodies everything that makes pubs so great: the walls are papered with dollar bills, and the floor is coated in the grime of happy hours past. And yet, you still feel at home here.
Not a lot of places in Charleston have Smithwick’s on draft, but McCann’s has that and more -- like Magner's, Harp, and Guinness Blonde. It also has a healthy selection of Irish and Scotch whiskeys. As far as food, its menu is a harmonious mix of Irish classics with a modern twist, like corned beef balls or bangers & mash sliders, to name a few. Come on a Sunday and soak up all your alcohol and regret with a full Irish breakfast! Nothing cures a hangover faster.
1. Dunleavy's Pub2213 Middle St, Ste B, Sullivans Island
2. Madra Rua Irish Pub1034 E Montague Ave, North Charleston
3. Seanachai3157 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island
4. St. James Gate Irish Pub11 Center St, Folly Beach
5. Celtic Knot208 Highway 78, Summerville
6. Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub & Seafood Restaurant160 Church St, Charleston
7. Mac's Place Pub And Grub215 E Bay St, Charleston
8. The Griffon18 Vendue Range, Charleston
9. McCann's Irish Pub2700 N Highway 17, # 120, Mount Pleasant
Dunleavy’s has one of the coolest bar interiors in the country. It’s decked out from wall to wall, inch to inch with mugs, cans, signs, framed photos, helmets, street signs and license plates. The family-owned and operated business brings a slice of New England to the South. Stop in for weekly live folk, country and acoustic music , and some good ol’ bar fare.
Located in Park Circle, Madra Rua is an Irish pub that’s a favorite among locals for its authentic Irish recipes and ice cold drafts. Along with the classic Irish bar fare, Madra Rua’s wood decor and modern Irish jig music bring a bit of Ireland to South Carolina. The mahogany bar, dart room and TVs make it a cool hangout stop to catch a game or eat with the fam. Service is friendly and attentive.
John Island's Seanachai is so serious about their whiskey and Irish food fare, they only accept members into their popular tavern: but don't panic, one-night-only entries run just one dollar. Two Irishmen run the place and, as only two Irishmen could, they nail their country's iconic dishes in a beef-stout cottage pie, bangers & mash, corned beef croquettes and towering burgers. Among the best whiskey selections in the area features blended and single malt bottles, with a house Manhattan (Irish whiskey, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, maple bitter) poured from a barrel.
The St. James Gate pub is named after the strip in Dublin known for beer and breweries, including none other than the famous Guinness. The restaurant offers over 20 craft beers, specializing in an Irish and a craft selection served at three bars— an indoor main, outdoor patio, and upstairs bar. The menu offers authentic Irish fare and fresh seafood in a casual atmosphere.
This classic and cosy joint is a favorite among locals. There’s a stage for live music and entertainment and pool tables. The dark interior is remnant of traditional Irish bars, and this dive will make you feel right at home. Even if you’re not a regular, you’ll feel like one with the friendly and attentive service.
Check out this Irish pub just half a block off Charleston’s historic market. Tommy C’s has an outdoor covered deck, warm interior pub section, and back dining room. With enormous flat screens indoors and outdoors, it’s a perfect local spot to catch a game or chow dow for vacation. It’s also got a lively nightlife at the hardwood bar, which serves your favorite classic and craft beer.
Located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, Mac’s is a go-to place for good food and a fun time. Happy hour is from 4-8 Monday-Friday, offering a whopping 50 beers on tap, in bottle and can. The menu features traditional Irish bar fare. Try the Irish nachos— fried scalloped potatoes topped with melted cheese, tomatoes, Japanese, crumbled bacon, ranch dressing and the option to add grilled chicken or ground beef. This spot is especially great for catching a game, equipped with flat screens around the room.
This dive bar is located in one of the most tourist-friendly areas of the city and has been a Charleston staple for over 20 years. Southern food and plenty of beer make for a filling, delicious visit. Don't leave before taping a signed dollar bill to the wall. Like the decor, the food is worth a million bucks.
McCann’s has a great selection of whiskey and beer (both Irish and local craft) and serves portions of delicious pub food like sliders, chips and gravy, wings, scotch eggs and shepherd’s pie, and other American options. Large murals of the Cliffs of Moher and Giants’ Causeway decorate the walls, adding to the authentic feel of this dive bar. The owners are from Ireland, so they know just how to create an authentic experience. Its lively, causal atmosphere is especially fun for sporting games.