The Irish pub is an institution both in Ireland and around the world. Americans love their Irish pubs wherever they can find an authentic one, and authentic pubs can be found wherever Irish Americans have settled. New York City has a number of famous Irish pubs, including McSorley’s Old Ale House, The Dubliner, Slainte, Swift, and The Thirsty Scholar. Chicago, another U.S. city known for its Irish population, boasts such stand-bys as Celtic Crossings, Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro, and Schaller’s Pump. Even San Francisco, which isn’t famous for it, has Tiernan’s, The Irish Bank, and Johnny Foley’s. San Francisco’s The Little Shamrock is one of the oldest bars in the United States (established 1863). (New York’s McSorley’s has it beat, since it opened in 1854.)
What makes an Irish pub great? Well, you have to have a great selection of tap brews. There’s no way that the Irish pub experience is as good with bottle beer. And of course, you have to have a fantastic selection of Irish whiskeys. In Irish Gaelic, whiskey translates as “”waters of life,”" while water translates as “”waters of sleep,”" so it stands to reason that the Celtic experience is incomplete without the waters of life.
Next comes the food. Does your pub serve an excellent shepherd’s pie? If not, why not? Fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, steak and mushroom pie, and sausage dishes are all traditional as well.
Some pubs also distinguish themselves with traditional Irish music, either live or on the jukebox.
None of these, though, are the characteristic that truly distinguishes the finest of pubs. That defining quality is atmosphere. If it isn’t a friendly, welcoming place that makes you want to come back, if the bartender doesn’t learn your name after a few visits, then it’s not the best that the Irish pub experience has to offer.