During the Potato Famine in the late 1840s, Irish immigrants fled to America, and with them came the traditional Irish pub. Fast-forward to today, and New York City has almost 2,000 Irish bars in which to pound Guinness and whiskey -- an astounding number that also makes it pretty difficult to separate the real-deal watering holes from the less authentic replicas. So we sifted through the clovers to bring you the absolute best Irish bars throughout the city, where you can always expect draft beers, loads of whiskey, tasty bites, and an especially riotous crowd -- whether it's St. Patrick's Day or not.
Molly's has lived several lives at its 3rd Ave location. It started off as a bar in the 19th century, before becoming a Prohibition-era grocery store, and eventually serving alcohol again post-repeal. Things have hardly changed since the early 1960s, when it became a Tudor-style Irish pub (there's sawdust on the floor, wood-worn bench booths, vintage photos, and plenty of Irish staff). It's also home to a completely under-the-radar, 10oz bacon cheeseburger and a great shepherd's pie -- both of which go perfectly well with the Irish beers on tap.
There are a few things to know about Paddy Reilly's, other than that it's been around for over 30 years: 1) there's only Guinness on tap, 2) there is always live music playing, which could be anything from bluegrass to classic rock, but more often than not is traditional Irish, and 3) the bartenders are all Irish. It's the kind of place that actually makes you feel like you're in Ireland, rather than a bar in Murray Hill.
In operation since 1868, this storied Hell's Kitchen pub has since seen plenty of renovations and owner changes over the years (the third floor was a speakeasy during Prohibition), but it still manages to maintain its old-school feel with an original mahogany bar and tin ceilings. Most importantly, it continues to serve excellent Scotch eggs, shepherd's pie, and plenty of whiskey.
Named after Irish writer Jonathan Swift, this cozy NoHo bar is the perfect place to go with someone you want to talk to without having to shout. There are plenty of snug tables to camp out at (particularly up front) and a solid craft beer selection that goes above and beyond what you expect from a typical Irish pub (that means drafts of Stone Lukcy Basartd Ale and bottles of Saison Dupont). Still, things are decidedly Irish here, namely the down-home food like chicken & sausage pot pie and corned beef & cabbage tacos.
This totally unassuming, shamrock-speckled Staten Island bar offers both dollar drafts of Miller Gold and the best burger in Staten Island (a thick and juicy half-pound patty on an English muffin with crinkle-cut fries). It's definitely a local haunt (particularly when there's a game on), but it's also been known to drag out some non-locals.
This corner pub in Woodside happens to be located on one of the most populated streets in Queens, though you'd never know it from the inside. The cozy tavern, which has maintained its Celtic spirit in a nearly unchanged space since 1966, is speckled with antiques and stained glass windows, and offers a reliable selection of on-tap beers and famously beefy burgers.
Located next to the 9/11 Memorial, O'Hara's (which was a common drinking ground for Ground Zero workers after the attacks) is lined with police and fire badges and still boasts a beautifully random mix of patrons (on any given night you can find tourists, finance guys, and neighborhood locals all drinking here), plus $3 draft Bud Lights every day.
You'll have to head out to Riverdale for one of the most authentic Irish bar experiences in the whole city. This tiny pub is filled with old knick-knacks, a snug L-shaped bar, and a handful of scattered tables, and offers live music, poetry readings, and comedy shows from both local and Irish artists almost every night. Grab a seat and choose from a generous selection of bourbons, whiskey, and Scotch, to be paired with traditional Irish comfort foods like bangers and mash.
McSorley's is a New York institution. The historic pub has been pouring drafts in the East Village since 1862, making it the oldest tavern in the city (it was one of the last "men-only" pubs in New York -- finally allowing women in 1970). It famously offers just two beers -- the house ale, either light or dark (two for $5.50) -- and absolutely nothing else.
A frequent winner of casual titles such as "World's Best Bar," this tri-level FiDi cocktail bar (run by two Irishmen) is really more of an ode to the Irish pub. Its ground-floor taproom has a wooden bar, old photos covering the walls, and an enormous whiskey list. Upstairs is strictly about the cocktails, notably the city's best Irish coffee, made with Irish whiskey, demerara syrup, French press-brewed coffee, and fresh whipped cream.
If this Bay Ridge pub looks a little like a church, that's because most of the interiors were ripped directly from one. The Wicked Monk's wooden bar, stained glass windows, and beer barrels were all shipped to Brooklyn from a monastery in Cork, Ireland -- though the rest of the place is decidedly unholy (note the ceiling mural featuring floating monks with beers in hand and the generally rowdy crowd). Grab a seat at the bar with a Guinness and make friends with the locals.
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