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Dublin pubs: The best grub, pints and good cheer

Irish hospitality and Irish spirits are well-known in travel circle...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 8:33 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 8:33 PM

Irish hospitality and Irish spirits are well-known in travel circles for good reason. And Dublin is the merry center for all this food and drink.

Here's a handy sampling of the best pubs and other types of nightlife spots you'll find in Ireland's capital. Some of these places are fairly new while others go back to the 1800s or earlier.

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The Black Door

The Black Door is so exclusive that even most Dubliners might have a hard time finding it.

The swanky, split-level cocktail cavern/club/piano bar is hidden behind an unmarked black door on Harcourt Street. Inside, bright young things with far too much money flit about holding glasses of bubbly and vintage Scotch, but the staff won't scoff at regular folk (though you might have trouble getting by the doorman if you're wearing ratty jeans).

The party gets going and the volume turns up as the night goes on, and on it goes -- well into the wee hours. If you're looking for a place to sit and converse, this isn't it, but for night-owl mingling and meeting (and possible celeb-spotting), it's a sure bet.

The Black Door, 58 Harcourt St., Dublin 2; +353 1 476 4606

John Kavanagh (aka Gravediggers)

For the few and proud who can find their way to this Northside fixture, it's the best pub in all of Dublin. Operated by the namesake family that established it in 1833, "Gravediggers" sits beside the sweeping Glasnevin Cemetery.

It earned its nickname by purportedly serving lunchtime pints to Glasnevin's gravediggers through a special window onto the graveyard.

John Kavanagh is old and wooden and about the only thing they pour here is Guinness. And it's good.

In recent years, the owner has begun serving top-notch Irish-Italian fare in an adjoining room. You have to take a bus and walk up an all-but-invisible alleyway to reach Gravediggers, but there's something unabashedly wonderful about the place that keeps regulars coming back for lifetimes.

John Kavanagh --The Gravediggers, 1 Prospect Square, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland; +353 1 830 7978

Fallon & Byrne Wine Cellar

This upmarket grocer doubles as one of Dublin's finest wine bars. Follow the stairwell down and find yourself in a cozy, candle-lit wine cellar replete with high, dark wood tables and deep glasses.

Yes, this is a wine shop and you're welcome to purchase and take away, but feel free to browse the wine racks that line the walls, choose a bottle of something interesting, and the staff will open it for you. (Corkage varies depending on the night but is always reasonable).

There's also a food menu prepared by chefs from the gourmet restaurant on the top floor (worth a stop, as well) that claims to be light bites, but it's really substantial enough to make an entire meal of sharers or nibbles.

Fallon & Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 472 1012

Mulligan's

To find out what a Dublin pub looked like a couple of hundred years ago, one need look no further than Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street, which has been in continuous operation since 1782. It claims to have played host to Judy Garland, James Joyce and revered Irish sportswriter Con Houlihan.

The wooden floors are permanently damp from generations of beer slosh, the pew seating is uncomfortable and the ceilings are lower than men of average height might prefer, but it all adds to Mulligan's ambiance.

It has been said many times that Mulligan's pours the best Guinness in Dublin. If you drink only one pint of the good stuff in Dublin, Mulligan's is the place to do it.

Mulligan's, 8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 677 5582

The Long Hall

Beyond old school. More like continuing education.

Another firm favorite among Dubliners, The Long Hall is an old school pub with seriously ornate Victorian flair and the type of classy management that keeps Dublin pub-goers happy.

In addition to perfectly poured Guinness and the usual suspects of international lager, The Long Hall is known for serving potent gin and tonics. Barmen still wear white shirts and black ties, a sign that this is truly a historic establishment.

If there was any question, one peek inside at the filigreed mirrors and carved wooden snugs (enclosed booths) assuages any doubts about the Long Hall's historical antecedents -- and, for that matter, its beauty.

The Long Hall, 51 S. Great Georges St. Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 475 1590

The Black Sheep

One of the first of its kind in Dublin, the Black Sheep is an ale pub that serves the precious few (and delicious) craft beers made in Ireland.

Styled on a modern British gastropub, the vibe is shabby chic, complete with mismatched tables and chairs, board games and a vaguely homey ambiance -- yet still bright, owing to its multi-windowed corner location.

On tap are several Galway Bay Brewery ales and other heretofore rare-in-Dublin Irish craft beers, which come and go according to what's available. The Black Sheep also offers a menu of gastropub fare, though the focus here remains on the brews.

The Black Sheep, 61 Capel Street, Dublin 7, Ireland; +353 1 873 0013

Bowes

Bowes is one of those pubs that no Dubliner can fault and yet few tourists see. Just far enough off the beaten path to be nigh invisible to visitors, yet only two minutes' walk from the Temple Bar area, Bowes is small and atmospheric, with deep, worn wood throughout and stained glass dividers that suggest a different era.

With little in the way of seating, Bowes is largely a standing-room affair, but if you can suffer that, these are among the best pints of Guinness and friendliest crowds in the city.

Bowes, 31 Fleet Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 671 4038

Traditional music pubs

Traditional Irish music, or simply "trad" as it's known in Ireland, used to be a way of life; a mode of entertainment in the tiny villages and local boozers within which Ireland's social life has always been centered.

While the popularity of daily trad may have waned in modern decades, there are still numerous pubs around Dublin where traditional Irish music lives on, much as it has for centuries.

The mark of a good trad session is one that is unplugged, with musicians seated around a regular pub table, knocking into one another with their fiddles and accordions and drinking far, far too many pints. Though plenty of mucky, plastic music calling itself trad is to be found in the more obvious tourist pubs, here are a few where the real thing is still treasured:

The Cobblestone

The Cobblestone calls itself "a drinking pub with a music problem."

Nice problem to have. Some of Ireland's top musicians lead traditional Irish music sessions every day of week in this intimate venue. It's even attracted some American singers. You'll find it in the Smithfield neighborhood.

In 2017, CNN had a drink here with The Cranberries.

The Cobblestone, 77 King Street North, Dublin 7, Ireland; +353 1 872 1799

The Stag's Head

This is the winner of the 2016 award for best pub by the Hospitality Ireland association.

If that doesn't impress you, the original Victorian ambiance and storied history will probably do the trick. A tavern has been on this site since the 1780s, though it emerged as The Stag's Head in 1894.

You can catch comedy acts along with live music.

Stag's Head, 1 Dame Ct., Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 679 3687

O'Donoghue's

Paddy and Maureen O'Donoghue's bar came onto the Irish music scene back in the 1930s. The popular Irish folk group The Dubliners had their roots here back in the 1960s, and it's hosted the likes of Bruce Springsteen since then.

There's live music seven nights a week.

O'Donoghue's, 15 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, Ireland; +353 1 660 7194

The Brazen Head

There's history -- then there's history. The Brazen Head's roots go all the way back to 1198.

As for music, you can hear traditional Irish tunes or you might catch it on a night when more contemporary musicians are in the house.

Bands such as Straight From the Crate and The Brazen Hussies have a regular following here.

The Brazen Head, 20 Bridge St, Dublin 8, Ireland; +353 1 677 9549

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