Dublin provides the perfect canvas for any New Yorker (or anyone on the East Coast for that matter) looking to binge drink for a couple days in a city that is way the hell older on average than the one you came from. A city where a pub from 1840 is considered new-ish and fire safety laws are dubious at best. Ethnically diverse Dublin is not, and they really seemed to like to hang people in public squares back in the day. I think they’re done with the latter, but I declined to touch any bread that didn’t belong to me just in case.
So, we flew out of Newark, NJ on a 5:20PM flight on a Wednesday. Why does that matter? Because, as you’ll see, waking up at 6:30AM on a Wednesday morning, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be going to sleep on a Wednesday night. And that’s half the adventure. As you’ll see, if you’re not able to sleep on a plane, things get funky real quick.
Day 1, Thursday
The Fitzwilliam Hotel [6:00AM Thursday morning]
A nice, modern hotel right off St. Stephen’s Green. I can’t say we spent a whole lot of time in the hotel, but it’s a good location, our room was clean and comfortable and they had complimentary umbrellas, which is super-helpful in a city where it always seems to be raining.
Hatch & Sons [Breakfast]
I little, hipster-ish joint near our hotel. The menu sounded better than it tasted, though the bread was decent. Note: double-baked eggs are weird.
We then moved on to tourist stuff, because it seemed just a bit too early to start drinking. We took one of those double-decker, hop-on, hop-off buses around the city like true dorks. But it was actually a good deal and somehow less embarrassing than it sounds.
I’m not sure I was awake enough or in the mood to read about Vikings, but apparently Vikings did some shit in Dublin. They didn’t seem like very nice people, but the large-ish exhibit to them is probably kinder on the senses than the actual stink-fest it must have been back in their day.
Christ Church Cathedral
Giant, old churches are always cool to look at. It’s amazing how much money the Catholic Church put into building these Christ palaces when their people were out in the streets starving to death. Just sayin’…
Guinness Storehouse [Had our first drink @ 12:30PM, now up for about 24 hours]
This feels like something everyone must do when visiting Dublin. It’s a giant Guinness tourist trap, but it’s actually really cool. You learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and then go up to a great glass room where you get one complimentary beer with a view overlooking the city. Definitely worth the trip.
The Drinking Starts In Earnest
The Brazen Head
This is the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1198. We had lunch here — the fish and chips were perfunctory — but as a first stop it was perfect with a Guinness tasting good in a spot just built to serve it.
The Stag’s Head
Apparently we only go to “head” bars, but this 1770 pub is absolutely fabulous. It’s a high-ceilinged Victorian joint with lots of wood and animal heads that is like something you’d dream up. Definitely a place I’d revisit.
I hate the Blue Devils, so it was with some hesitance that I agreed to go here. It’s been around since 1822, so I suppose they’re doing something right, though we only ducked in because we’d been up for about 34 hours at that point and realized we were starving. We sat in the back section, which was pretty generic, and managed to order some appetizers (potato wedges and the like) right before the kitchen closed. They could have served us shit on a shingle and we would have been happy. We sat and drank some more and inhaled our food and settled into our sleep deprivation.
The ladies decided to retire for the night, but Hipster Friend and I hit this bar around the corner from the hotel for a nightcap. This large, subterranean (but weirdly tall) space apparently dates back to the 1700s, but was closed and reopened in 1989 as a sports bar. I imagine it’s a great place to watch some football (the European kind) and drink some beers with the lads. We actually revisited this bar the next night and there was a DJ playing some of the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. Nobody in the bar seemed to be enjoying it and we were waiting for someone to punch him out. Shame, as it could have been just fine if they shut that shit down.
We finally went to sleep a little after midnight Friday morning, 36 hours after waking up Tuesday morning. It was a day of insane swings in energy, including nodding off on the second floor of a bus in the rain. Booze helped.
So, we rented a car and went outside the city for some sightseeing. I wasn’t driving, but started to recall what it’s like driving on the opposite side of the road, especially when every junction is a rotary/round-about into which you have to enter backwards. It’s super-disconcerting. I drove around Ireland eighteen years ago for over 2000 miles, but was certainly glad Hipster Friend was doing the driving this time. Also, their toll booth rules are confusing, which caused us some panic. But we made it out to our destination.
I’m not certain how we chose this place, but presumably it was something cool and old that wasn’t too far outside of Dublin. It turns out it is both cool and old. We toured the castle, hearing about invading hoards and the help sleeping in the kitchen with the livestock and seeing the painting with the eyes that follow you as you climb the stairs. There are really nice grounds (the rain keeping us from going too far afield) and a butterfly house and a semi-decent cafeteria. Again, definitely worth the relatively short day trip. Castles are cool.
The Drinking Gets Real
Chambers Pub [changed names like two weeks after we were there. Now Napper Tandy’s]
On the way back from the rental car place we stopped here for some beers. It was serendipitous, but not a bad find. It seemed like after-work locals. We sat in the front space, which was comfortable and warm. This kind of epitomized an Irish pub. Which is just fine.
Another pretty cool joint. It’s a small bar, but has great style that would be a hit no matter where it happened to be. Apparently it’s snugged in next to another bar that is way more popular than it is, so people accidentally walk into this place looking for the other bar. The bartender, despite the sign behind her basically shouting at people that it isn’t the other bar, kept having to redirect people next door anyway. I liked it.
Fade St. Social Restaurant [Dinner]
This is the only “fancy” thing we did while in Dublin. Though it’s not really fancy, but it’s more fancy than a 200-year-old pub. A modern eatery that serves mostly meat-based stuff, similar (in my mind, at least) in both attitude and menu to something like Cochon in New Orleans. I ended up with a braised beef Guinness stew of sorts, which wasn’t exactly what I expected, but wasn’t bad. Others has some steak, rabbit and some other meat substances. There were also drinks. And then wine. And some more wine. I think we were all relatively happy with the food, the service was top-notch and we enjoyed the space and had a great time.
Oliver St. John Gogarty
So we ended up in Temple Bar. My understanding is that that’s the equivalent of hanging in Times Square. When a tourist, do touristy things! We stood in a crowd of like a million young people listening to an Irish cover band on the second floor of the pub and then wended our way downstairs through the masses. And this is what makes these large Dublin pubs weird. There are like 47 different ways to get in and out of them and it’s easy to get lost. There are nooks and crannies and various levels and all sorts of people pushing their way hither and thither. It’s highly entertaining, though disorienting after a while.
The Temple Bar
This place was relatively indiscernible from the previous bar. It was like a bar connected to another bar, connected to another bar. There were like atriums and outdoor spaces and schmutz all over everything and everywhere, everywhere, everywhere people. We eventually ended up drinking outside on top of a barrel. Because we could.
In all honesty, I don’t remember much about this joint. We may have gone in to use the toilet, or I may have had seven (7) beers. Whatever the case, it’s one letter away from Ms. Hipster’s last name, so we were probably enticed for all the wrong reasons.
We thought we’d take it more low-key after the two giant kid bars above. Little did we now that drink and revelry would find its way to us. And let me tell you: that whole thing about bars in Ireland closing early is bullshit. We rolled in here at 12:35AM and the party was just getting started. A cover band was jamming, playing songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. And it was glorious. And drunk. Mostly the latter. I mean, how can you not love a bunch of Irish people singing along to “Livin’ On a Prayer?” Everyone was friendly and inebriated and non-threatening. It was like Boston, but with less menace and better accents.
Inn On the Green Bar
This “pub” is actually in our hotel. It’s honestly not much more than a small bar with some hotel-like tables and seating. It could be in a Holiday Inn in Peoria. As it stood, there was some weird Irish dude there who has an app that does something that sounds suspiciously like Uber — and he was selling. But he was also buying! So I might have accepted a couple drinks that I clearly didn’t need. Funny enough, I got to chatting with him and the other people in my party pulled Irish exits and left me alone with him. I think I waited for him to go get his wallet and ran away myself. But who can recall?
Day 3, Saturday
O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen [Breakfast]
The drinking and lack of sleep finally caught up with us. Head full of cement, Ms. Hipster and I (minus our travelmates) made our way here for breakfast. Turns out they only serve breakfast until 11:30AM. And we couldn’t even get there in time for that.
Bewley’s Grafton Street Cafe [Breakfast Take II]
Definitely a popular place, it reminded me of that old joint, Payard, on the Upper East Side. It’s a vaguely French-ish place where ladies lunch. I literally ordered bread. Just bread. A basket of wheat-based stuff. It’s all my stomach could take, quite honestly. And it was way more stuff than I alone could eat. It’s very nice.
The Drinking Continues
We signed up for a whiskey tour, because we’re gluttons. It started at 4:00PM, so our heads were clear and we were ready for more. The idea was not only to drink some Irish whiskey, but to learn a little. We did both!
This was a small, cozy bar with your typical stained glass and little tables and stools. Our whiskey lessons were interrupted by cheers and jeers from a group of men at the bar watching some sport on a television that was either rugby or Australian rules football or something in between. I tried to follow it for a minute, but it made no sense. Good bar, though.
Whiskeys tasted: Teeling Single Grain Whiskey & The Whistler 7 Year
The Palace Bar
They unlocked a door and took us up a side staircase to the best bar in the world. No, seriously, this little sidecar bar to the main bar was like the speakeasy that you dream about. It’s small and awesomely old (1823) and precious in a perfect way. Far and away our favorite bar in the city that we saw. I imagine this private-seeming room is open to the public later in the evening, which makes Dubliners lucky-ass people.
Whiskeys tasted: Green Spot & Palace Bar 12-Year-Old Single Malt
Gallaher & Co. [Dinner]
More beer, but this time with food! We chose this place on a whim. It was one of those weird European things that is somehow a coffee place and a bistro that serves steaks. It’s also a modern-seeming space, but was apparently built in 1891. Which I guess is technically modern for Dublin. I had a linguini with some chicken and parmesan cream sauce. It was a perfect break from an otherwise meat-heavy diet and coated my stomach for more drinking (which I didn’t end up doing that much of).
The Rag Trader
I have no idea if this is related to the same-named bar in NYC (the font is the same or similar), but it’s actually a pretty chill, cool bar. Kind of a modernized version of an old-school pub or tasting room, it had a great whiskey selection and the lighting was spot-on. Our energy level started to wane after hitting up many, many bars and sleeping very, very little, so unfortunately this was our last new bar in Dublin. As mentioned above, we did hit up Sinnotts again on the way back to the hotel, but after a couple beers the awful music drove us away.
Day 4, Sunday
No more drinking for us. We were beat. So all that was left was going to the airport. We left a million hours early, which turned out to be a great decision. It seems that, unlike every other foreign country I’ve been to, customs happens on the Ireland side. So you walk into a series of rooms to what looks like one of those snaking Disneyland lines filled with hundreds and hundreds of people. It’s bad. And despite us making it through the line on time, our plane was held up, as people transferring to our flight from other planes had to go through that same line. So we sat and sat. Let it be a lesson to you and beware.