10= An Beal Bocht Cafe
445 W 238th St, Riverdale, Bronx
Subway 1 to 238th Street
“You want salt & vinegar or cheese & onion crisps?”
I was surprised that the bar tender, who was clearly American, had used the word “crisp”, especially as I had, hoping to blend in, asked for a packet of potato “chips”.
I chose salt & vinegar and as she handed me a packet of Irish Tayto crisps I asked if her use of the English/Irish word for the snack was down to the fact they were made by an Irish company.
“It says crisps on the packet”, she said, “so I guess they are crisps”.
The Tayto crisps were great and so was this place.
It had a lovely L-shaped bar with about 8 stools around it. The main bar was situated in a room whose walls were covered in Irish memorabilia. There was also another side room with a small service hatch to the main bar area and this seemed to serve as a restaurant. I didn’t have the chance to eat on my visit but the food they were serving there looked delicious
The pub is named after a famous Irish novel ( translation – “the poor mouth”) by Brian O’Nolan. It is crammed full of Irish culture; photographs and pictures of Irish writers adorn its walls and there are frequent Irish live music performances, comedy acts and poetry readings. On the night that I was there Mary Courtney, a famous Irish folk singer , was giving one of her regular performances. I sat and listened to her and she was absolutely terrific.
The only possible drawback is that the pub is located out in Riverdale. It is in the extreme north west of the city and quite a way out of the centre of Manhattan. It is certainly worth a trip out though.
11 = Donovan’s Irish Pub
57-24 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside, Queens
Subway 7 to 61st Woodside
“That is quite a useful innovation isn’t it?”
The barmaid had noticed that I had located the USB charger underneath the bar and had started to charge my phone. She was right. What a great idea for when your battery was low: drop in for a refreshing pint and a bit of free electricity on the side.
She was a native New Yorker and must have been in her 40s. She asked if I was Irish and when I told her where I was from, she told me most of her ancestors had been Scottish. In fact she had been over there and done a big tour around.
By coincidence she was about to embark on a trip to the west of Ireland in the coming weeks and she told me all about her plans for the trip.
Donovan’s is a great little place. It sits almost underneath the subway line and is easily reachable on the “7” train to nearby Woodside station. It is also directly opposite a large Catholic Church, so I guess it must get quite a crowd in sometimes.
The building looks the part both inside and out and the interior exudes quite a lot of charm. The long bar leads on to a series of rooms that are used as dining areas. It almost seems bigger on the inside than out.
12 = Farrell’s
215 Prospect Park W, Brooklyn
Subway F, G to 15th Street Prospect Park
“It is in a can. Is that alright?”
I nodded to the bartender and then watched as he pulled the ring tab on the Guinness, poured it into a glass and then put it onto the bar in front of me.
I knew I had ordered the “wrong” thing because as I looked along the bar almost everyone was drinking draft beer; some were in glasses but a lot were in Styrofoam cups.
I was standing, as most people were, at the bar. It was a busy Friday afternoon before 5pm and the place was full of (what I later learned were) construction workers drinking and chatting. I had been quickly welcomed into an empty space by two guys. I began sipping my drink and smiled to myself as I did so. The post-work atmosphere was infectious.
I asked my neighbour for the story on the Styrofoam cups and I got a long interesting explanation. It was a tradition of the place to sell large draft beers in the cups. Sure enough there was a massive pile of them on the counter and people all along the long bar people were supping from them.
“It started as a way of being able to take the beer home, a kind of take out” the guy to the right of me explained. “and then it became a habit to serve large beer in this way” he added.
The two guys to the left of me joined in:
“The police around here would never really bother you if you were caught with a container from Farrell’s, even if you were driving”
Then there was a discussion on whether that was still the case. Someone thought it was or at least it could be. Although all agreed that you wouldn’t get away with it if the policeman was new to the area.
“Not with a rookie cop” one said.
“No, not with a rookie cop” the others quickly agreed
We carried on like this for a while; discussing police tactics, drinking offences, violations and fines. Not once in the conversation did anyone ever remark on my strange accent or the fact that I wasn’t a local. For a brief moment these really friendly guys just accepted me as one of them and involved me totally in their own conversation. For the second beer, I dispensed with Guinness and got a large Styrofoam job.
Although it claims to be a “Bar and Grill”, Farrell’s doesn’t serve food. It is a traditional local’s bar. It dates from a time when the area was a lot more Irish than it is now. It is probably better described as an American bar with deep Irish roots than an Irish bar per se. Perhaps I am being unfair, but it is difficult to excuse there being no Guinness on tap. Nevertheless, as I found, it is a friendly and welcoming place with genuine locals and it is well worth a visit.
Farrell’s is located in a little shopping area just to the south of Prospect Park. The area has quite a lot of character and it contains old-style launderettes, food shops and more.
The pub is almost next to the 15th Street Prospect Park subway station, but it can also be reached by walking through Prospect Park itself. The team who designed Central Park were also responsible for Prospect Park and apparently they considered the Brooklyn version an improvement on the Manhattan one.
It is certainly worth a wander around. I recommend exiting the subway at the Grand Army Plaza and then talking a long walk through the park to build up a thirst.
Be sure to ask for a large beer and don’t be surprised when it doesn’t come in a glass!
13 = The Wicked Monk
9510 Third Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Subway R to Bay Ridge 95th St.
“That is quite some mural isn’t it?”
I had been sitting there for a few minutes with a pint of Guinness in my hand before I had looked up to the ceiling.
The middle-aged guy next to me continued to explain that the painting was supposed to represent angels bringing down beer from heaven. It was a great idea, we both agreed.
He introduced himself and we got chatting. He was from a part-Norwegian background and he explained that Scandinavians were well represented in the part of Brooklyn we were sitting in. He had been over to Europe and he told me all about his trip to see long lost relatives all over Norway and Denmark.
He was working in a local hospital and we extended our conversation to include the medical systems of our respective countries. He wasn’t too enamoured with the conditions in his own hospital and had been rather more impressed with things in Northern Europe.
Much of the décor at the Wicked Monk comes from a real monastery in Ireland. There is a pulpit to pass by on the way to the rest rooms and wonderful back lit stained glass windows behind the bar and on the other walls. It is like drinking in a gothic cathedral.
The pub is located at the south eastern edge of Brooklyn within sight of the famous Verrazano Narrows Suspension bridge that links the borough to Staten Island. It is a way out of the centre of Manhattan but it is easily reachable by riding the R train to the last station, Bay Ridge 95th Street, and then simply walking one block over to Third Avenue.