a dublin bar fight: kehoe's ties grogan's for best

BY ANA KINSELLA

“GIVE ME BACK MY CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN.” “YEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.”

I am sitting outside Grogan’s on Dublin’s South William Street, drinking a Friday afternoon pint with my boyfriend, watching the world go by. What goes by, exactly, is this: a drunk woman swinging a plastic bag and holding a can of Tesco lager, followed by a tired-looking man on crutches attempting to catch up with her. My boyfriend turns to me and says, “you know, this really is my favourite pub in Dublin.”

If you go anywhere else in the world and ask around for the best watering holes, I'd wager that you’d get quite a variety of suggestions. Most cities play host to any number of different kinds of booze sanctuaries, from gilded parlours to raucous beer halls.

This is not the case in Dublin.

In Dublin, what you are given forever and always is "character." "Character" is the tourist-friendly word for charming drunks and beer-sodden carpets. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been to regular bars and lounges and dive bars and even fancier lounges around the world and still, nothing compares to the sticky charisma of Ireland's tried-and-true old-man pub land.

And everyone has a favourite. Mine are the ones where you see more of the "real city." There's none of that "Dublin as a place for lost writers and drunken musicians" tourist nonsense. Dublin is for the most part an overgrown village, a city only by its population count, and like any good village it’s got no shortage of comfy nooks and inviting crannies to have a drink in. Here are two of the best:

GROGAN'S, CASTLE MARKET

Grogan’s is a people's pub. People, conversation and an excellent pint of Guinness. The inside of Grogan’s is set-up like a living room, with art of hugely disparate quality lining the walls. There is no TV blaring here, no background music. What you have instead, is some of the best conversationalists in the city. I mean, that’s how they’d describe themselves, at least. If you’ve come for peace and quiet, bring your stoniest glare lest the dilettante of the hour decides to tell you about his grand plans for an epic novel about two brothers (but they’re not actually brothers… you see??). Regardless, it’s always an ideally inviting place to bring a newspaper and a friend and while away an afternoon with a pint and a cheese toastie. Put your iPhone away and make some conversation for once. This is the place to do it.

KEHOE'S, SOUTH ANNE STREET

As a lady with refined manners and sensibilities, I am a fan of the pub snug. Any pub that has a designated, curtained-off private corner with access to the bar but out of sight from the crowd is a modern marvel, paying tribute to a time in history when it was not seemly for ladies to drink in public. Times have changed, but I will still always opt for a snug if it’s available. Upstairs there’s a swish rooftop smoking area and a bizarrely fancy bathroom, and there’s dark corners galore filled with old men talking about the more famous old men who used to drink in Kehoe’s. Anywhere a little bit hidden from view that lends itself to a little bit more of debauched antics is at the top of my list.

11 July 2012

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