Food Network Magazine's Irish Pub Awards
Let’s raise a glass to America’s most impressive Irish bars.
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And the Winner Is...
The popularity of Irish pubs in America isn’t just a matter of luck: Between 1820 and 1860, more than a third of all immigrants came from Ireland, and they settled in urban areas, where bars became essential community centers. Today, there are thousands of Irish pubs from coast to coast, beloved for their well-pulled pints of Guinness and friendly craic. For our first-ever Irish Pub Awards, we searched the country for the standouts. Cheers to these winners!
All text by Audrey Morgan for Food Network Magazine.
Oldest Pub: McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York City
NYC has more Irish bars than any other city in America, and McSorley’s was the first: The pub opened in 1854! Original paintings and tchotchkes still hang on the walls, and the drink menu hasn’t changed much either. Options include only light and dark ale, and an order will get you two half-pints.
Most Green Beer Served: Coleman’s Irish Pub, Syracuse, NY
This bar typically throws an annual Green Beer Sunday festival in February, serving 12,000 gallons of green beer to revelers. We’d expect nothing less from a pub in Syracuse’s Tipperary Hill, a neighborhood with so much Irish pride that it has a traffic light where the green light sits above the red!
Most Storied History: The Plough & The Stars, Cambridge, MA
Grab a seat, and maybe bring a book: Authors and poets including Philip Roth and Seamus Heaney once frequented this historic pub and music venue. The founders of the Boston literary journal Ploughshares also used it as a meeting place.
Most Vegan-Friendly: The Old Shillelagh, Detroit
Pubs aren’t typically known for their vegan options, but this bar has a full plant-based menu that includes Reubens and corned beef sandwiches made with jackfruit “meat” and vegan cheese. There’s also a vegan take on shepherd’s pie made with plant-based beef.
Coolest Irish Coffee: Molly’s at the Market, New Orleans
In the ’80s, this pub invented a frozen Irish coffee as an antidote to the Crescent City’s famous heat, and it’s still a favorite today. The recipe is a secret but likely includes cream, coffee liqueur and brandy; it’s topped with coffee grounds.
Most Silver Screen–Worthy: Emmit’s Irish Pub, Chicago
Emmit’s story could easily be the plot of a movie — it was once a bank with mob ties — but the bar has carved out a role for itself as a movie set instead. Location scouts love the mahogany interior and the classic worn look: It has appeared in Only the Lonely, Uncle Buck and Backdraft, but it’s probably best known for hosting George Clooney and Matt Damon in Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve.
Most Spirited: Paddy’s, Portland, OR
Paddy’s might have the most fearless bartenders in the country: A ladder is required to reach most of the bottles on the wall of 600-plus spirits. Most are whiskeys, including rare bottles like a Port Ellen 35-year-old scotch. If you don’t like your whiskey neat, the staff is happy to make you an old- fashioned or Manhattan.
Most Interesting Drinking Buddies: Silky O’Sullivan’s, Memphis
Silky O’Sullivan’s is not a typical pub: It dishes out Memphis-style barbecue and it has a goat pen. Late owner Thomas “Silky” Sullivan bought one of the animals in 1993 after visiting Kerry, Ireland, where residents crown a local goat for the annual Puck Fair. Today, two goats join the guests in the outdoor seating area, and they’ve been known to sneak a pint!
Most Valuable Ceiling: McGuire’s Irish Pub, Pensacola and Destin, FL
When the co-owner of this pub made her first tip in 1977, she tacked the $1 bill behind the bar for good luck. According to McGuire’s, its two locations now have more than $3 million worth of autographed dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling. The growing number is counted every year at tax time!
Most Inventive Potato Dish: County Clare Irish Inn & Pub, Milwaukee
This pub turns the simple Irish mashed potato dish colcannon into not-so-humble poppers: The potatoes are whipped with Irish cheddar, cabbage and onions; rolled in panko and deep-fried; then served with gravy.