Best Irish Pubs

Seeing Green: Our favorite spots for lifting a pint on St. Paddy’s.

The Brendan Behan: For drinkers, there’s no finer place to pass an afternoon than the Behan. The dark wood décor lends a warm, worn-in feel, heightened by the live Irish trad played regularly (which in turn is enhanced by several rounds from the well-selected beer menu). And though many other bars compete to see who can cram the most TVs on their walls, the Behan goes without, forcing customers to devote their attention to actual conversation, the volume of which invariably climbs as the daylight begins to wane. That alone makes this spot quintessentially Irish. 378 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-5386, brendanbehanpub.com.

The Druid: With perfectly pulled pints of Guinness, bartenders who hail from the Emerald Isle, and a brunch that features black-and-white pudding, it’s hard to find a truer Irish pub than the Druid. This Inman Square watering hole satisfies patrons with tasty fare like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, not to mention twice-weekly Irish music and, just for kicks, Wednesday-night trivia. With that much in its favor, it’s not hard to see why the Druid has so many regulars — native Irish, Bostonian, Cantabrigian, or otherwise. 1357 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-497-0965, druidpub.com.

Green Dragon Tavern: Set on a cobblestone street by Faneuil Hall, this 350-year-old pub once played host to Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty, and now rallies a bustling after-work crowd that comes for well-poured pints of stout, excellent fish and chips, live entertainment, and one mean Boston cream pie. Sláinte! 11 Marshall St., Boston, 617-367-0055, somerspubs.com.

J. J. Foley’s: Short for “publick house,” a true pub should be a gathering place where drinkers of all ilks can set aside their differences and drown their daily woes in a few frothy pints. Whether you’re an off-duty cop, reporter, politician, yuppie, hippie, banker, or socialite, everyone’s got a seat at Foley’s well-tended bars. 21 Kingston St., Boston, 617-695-2529; 117 E. Berkeley St., Boston, 617-728-9101; jjfoleyscafe.com.

James’s Gate: The best pubs purvey mysterious dark corners, crackling fires, and Guinness. But James’s Gate is a cut above, with high-grade bar food that almost makes the selection of 20 draft beers a secondary glory. Almost. Anytime’s fine for the country-pub ambiance and neighborhood craic. 5–11 McBride St., Jamaica Plain, 617-983-2000, jamessgate.com.

Mr. Dooley’s: Think of Dooley’s as the well-mannered sibling of the area’s wilder Irish bars. It’s far from stuffy, but its polished touches — a long mahogany bar, brass light fixtures, comfortable booths, and respectable pub dinners — make it the perfect place to hole up during a late-winter storm, to hoist a glass on St. Pat’s, or to take the out-of-towners. 77 Broad St., Boston, 617-338-5656, somerspubs.com.

Plough & Stars: What separates this pub from the garden-variety Tam O’ Purple/Rose/Shamrocks that dot downtown is its conspicuous absence of Erin-go-schlock accoutrements: no gaudy four-leaf clovers dangling from the ceiling, no shot girls in naughty leprechaun outfits. In fact, unless darkness counts as minimalist accessory, there’s hardly any décor at all. Instead, conversation is everything at the Plough, and the regulars have a knack for nimbly mixing genius with the profane (the Plough sits halfway between Central and Harvard squares, in philosophy as much as geography). 912 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-576-0032, ploughandstars.com.

The Squealing Pig: The Pig boasts a particularly welcoming open layout, with kitchen at one end and fireplace at the other; outsize beer selection; and very Irish puckishness (heavy metal/kung fu film fests; “toasties” made with Mars bars). All of which makes slipping inside this decade-old Mission Hill pub like a conversation with an old friend: effortless. 134 Smith St., Boston, 617-566-6651, squealingpigboston.com.

  • Mary-Ellen

    What are the best local pubs/restaurants serving St.
    Pat’s fare, Joe? Any ideas?? Have been looking forward to a nice corn beef/cabbage dinner!