Three of Ireland’s most famous symbols owe a great debt to America: St Patrick’s Day, Irish dancing and the Irish pub. Many Dublin pubs are being refurbished into the “Oirish” style by companies who specialize in it.
Even Dublin pubs with a long tradition feel the American onslaught. In O’Donoghues on Merrion Row, the walls behind the bar are covered in dollar bills with scrawled names shouting out from Pittsburgh, Texas, Napa Valley, Boston, New Jersey and other far-flung corners of the Irish Empire. Posters of traditional musicians cover the back wall: The Fureys, The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones. This is the bar where The Dubliners were formed and it still rings to the sound of live Irish music every night. It is world famous, a fact belied by its dark decor, bare bulbs and cramped, unassuming exterior. From a corner table strewn with empty glasses comes an animated conversation in Afrikaans between four burly, red-faced South Africans.
Almost opposite O’Donoghue’s is Doheny and Nesbitt, a much more spacious, Victorian-style pub with high, papier-mâché ceilings. Its ornate partitions still bear rough brass plates for striking matches on, dating back to the days when smoking created its own thick atmosphere. A few rays of sunlight struggle to make it into the dark interior, while tables of Spanish, Dutch and Swedish voices talk quietly to their own countryfolk.
Then a group of Irish come in and the atmosphere changes as they ask for a sandwich. “Ham and tomato? Ham and cheese or the special?” asks Gerry, the white-haired barman. “What’s the special?” “Ham, tomato, cheese AND onion.” “Why not? Live a little, eh?” says one of the new arrivals. The self-effacing humor is infectious and the whole pub starts to warm up.
Looking for the perfect place to rest your head after a night at O'Donoghue's? Local Expert Cara knows a Truly Wonderful hotel, just a 5-minute walk from the pub!