How it’s New York: A lot of the pubs in the book are located in New York (and why should they not be?).
How it’s Irish: With a whole book about pubs, stout, whiskey and good honest craic, how could it NOT be Irish?
Few institutions occupy the same revered status in Irish and Irish-American culture as the “local,” the neighborhood pub. Everyone has their own favorite local; this reviewer happens to have a soft spot for Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair.
But what makes a pub authentically Irish?
Surely there is more to it than having a few kegs of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s on tap and Céad Míle Fáilte engraved over the doorway.
Robert Meyers and Ron Wallace seek to answer that question a little bit, and provide a good list of places to have a pint, with “Irish Pubs in America: History, Lore and Recipes.” The result is a quite entertaining and informative look at locals and the people who love them.
“Whether in Ireland or some faraway country, an Irish pub is an exuberant refuge where you see people of all stations in life enjoying camaraderie, drinking ales and whiskey, debating and having a good time,” the book says in the introduction.
The book is an A-Z guide to a selection of Irish (and Irish-American) pubs around the United States.
The pubs themselves are, quite rightly, the key players in the book, but Meyers and Wallace take great care to tell the stories of the people associated with them, including owners, founders and regular patrons. The story of how Johnny Foley’s in San Francisco got its name is especially entertaining; Foley had gotten a court summons for singing too long after closing time, and then gotten OUT of that summons by singing for the judge. There are also sidebars about the history of beer brewing, the thatching of roofs and even the “lace” of a pint: the pattern that foam leaves on the edge of the glass as the beer is consumed.
Readers of W.B. Yeats will recognize the name of Seattle’s A Terrible Beauty; the pub’s name comes from the refrain of Yeats’s elegy written after the 1916 Easter Rising, which will be marking its centennial this year. The Black Rose in Boston takes its name from “Róisín Dubh,” the ballad of Little Black Rose or Dark Rosaleen.
As with any travel or restaurant guide, always check the status of bars beforehand: while the 39th street Tir na nÓg in New York is alive and kicking, the status of the pub on 33rd Street is unclear (a bartender wasn’t sure). It appears as though “A Terrible Beauty” may also be closed.
Obviously, this book is not going to mention every single Irish pub in America; to do so would require the [pullquote]Whether in Ireland or some faraway country, an Irish pub is an exuberant refuge where you see people of all stations in life enjoying camaraderie, drinking ales and whiskey, debating and having a good time,” the book says in the introduction. [/pullquote]equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The authors freely admit so:
“We sought a variety of pubs from quite small and intimate to large establishments capable of serving hundreds of people at a time. As in Ireland, some pubs are independently owned; others are part of groups of pubs with corporate ownership. We realize that many wonderful pubs are not included.”
The back of the book includes several tasty-sounding recipes provided by the pubs in the book:
from Guinness Beef Stew at Boston’s The Green Dragon and the Boxty (a savory potato cake) at O’Reilly’s in San Francisco to the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake at the Perfect Pint and several different kinds of bread pudding.
With “Irish Pubs in America,” we may say that Meyers and Wallace did a good accounting of what might perhaps have been “the longest pub crawl in history.”