The Magic of Irish Pubs
Hearty food, drinks poured with care, a laid-back, unassuming atmosphere, and both craic and ceol as well: these features make Irish pubs some of the best places for being out with friends, listening to music, a meal, reading, writing, or just for a quiet drink. If I'm out, I'd rather go to a place with character, not just some watering hole. A friendly Irish pub really fits the bill.
Of course, pubs and bars in general have a darker side - that of draining a man's finances while at the same time keeping him mentally insulated from the troubles of life - one only has to look at the book Angela's Ashes for an extreme example. This is not a characteristic peculiar to Irish pubs, but to any sort of bar. With that in mind, and with my youthful drinking days behind me, I now only find myself in a pub to appreciate a bit of Irishness, whether that be food, music, decor, tea, or personality.
My idea of a good Irish pub was largely influenced by the book A Pint of Plain, which chronicles a search for authenticity among the many pubs that are leaving their roots behind as Irish tastes change. My full thoughts on this great book are in the link above.
I made the distinction of including any recommendable place in Ireland, regardless of whether it's a traditional pub. It's in Ireland after all, so the culture definitely comes through. For American pubs, though, I've kept the list to a group that sticks to a stricter interpretation.
There are links to either the pub's own website, or a review site of reasonable quality where possible.
Finally, I've included as many place-names in Irish where I could. I think this adds significantly to the cultural aspect, and makes these haunts a bit more exotic. You can read about the language in quite a bit of detail here.
The Palace Bar - This particular pub was the very first that the wife and I wandered into on on our trip to Ireland. We had taken a city bus in from Clontarf, and had hardly done any touring when it was getting dark. Feeling the need for a pint, and trusting my travel book, we picked this one in Temple Bar. We were immediately taken by the warmth and coziness of the place, with partitions separating the bar every few stools. I ordered two pints of Guinness, and was soon in a conversation with a drunken Scotsman, who was annoyed that the barman was serving me - an obvious tourist - and not him. An older fellow at the bar soon told him to hold his tongue, and I now have this great memory of my first time in a genuine Irish pub!
Oliver St John Gogarty - Also in Temple Bar, we came here after the Palace, looking for some food, and of course we recognized this world-famous pub! It offers many floors of bars, music rooms, and tablecloth dining. Though the wait was long, we had a nice (but expensive) Irish meal upstairs next to an English couple, since they sat us at the same table. Later, we came back for a musical pub crawl, which started here. It may be very touristy, but the presentation and decor are very fun and interesting.
The Guinness Gravity Bar - Does it fit the list? Why not? It was an amazing experience to drink Guinness (even the rare Foreign Extra Stout) at the very source, with views from possibly the highest windows in Dublin. Everyone who comes to Dublin should try this out for the sheer spectacle.
John Kehoe's - This pub, just off Grafton Street, was quite crowded when we walked in during the early evening. The upstairs, which was apparently the old landlord's living quarters, was quite comfortable, though it had a very odd red and yellow paint scheme.
Grogans Castle Lounge - A small pub with a half stone and half carpeted floor. There were no TVs, just a lot of people talking. A relaxing place for a pint. We squeezed into the corner of the bar very nicely.
The Ha'penny Bridge Inn - This pub is in a lovely old building on the River Liffey. We went upstairs during a musical pub crawl, and had a great upstairs room to ourselves, with a small bar.
Brannigan's - A north-of-the-Liffey pub with a nice setting for live music upstairs. We came here on the end of a musical pub crawl, and had some Jameson and Guinness.
The Bank - This is a truly beautiful pub, actually converted from a bank, with some enormous vault doors in the basement. The main area has a lot of intricate architectural detail, plus a lovely wrap-around bar and high ceilings.
Hogans - We stopped in here on the way home. It is a dark, no-frills place.
Porterhouse - A fine and unique layout defines this brewpub on the west side of Temple Bar. It has a number of floors surrounding an open central core that features a protruding stage that can be viewed from multiple floors. The decor consisted of large windows looking onto Parliament St, wood, and beer bottles from around the world, usually in glass cases. Good beer and Irish food, too.
Abbey Tavern - This very old Tavern in Howth near Dublin has a large stage for traditional Irish music and dance. The bar area is comfortably warn with dark wood and stone floors. Very atmospheric.
Hogan's - This was our first pub in Northern Ireland, which we visited to eat at instead of the likely-boring dining area at the St. Patrick museum. We had some pretty good fish-and-chips, and, when the owner learned that we were American, he proudly took me outside to show me the American flag flying above the door. Certainly an interesting place...
Whites Tavern - I am a big fan of this pub. Claiming to be Belfast's oldest tavern, it certainly looks the part - rough whitewash on the outside, and heavy, stained wooden beams within. It also looks like it tries to keep its heritage while appealing to a modern mindset, and it appears to be working. The place was quite crowded, and poured a good pint.
The Spaniard - (I think this is where we went) This crowded place appeared to be Bolshevik-themed when I was there. Multiple floors in a sardine-can format. Too close for me, but certainly interesting decor.
Moohan's Fiddlestone - This small town is known worldwide for the distinctive china produced there, and we were there for the tour. However, when it came to getting lunch, we dumped the cafeteria in favor of walking into the village. The Fiddlestone stood out with its traditional pub front. Inside, the pub was cozy but nearly empty, with only a hungover local businessman sitting at the bar. Both he and the barman took interest in us as tourists, and we chatted for a while while we waited for our toasted sandwiches, which were delivered through the front door after a phone call. The simple food, good stout, and friendly people made this pub a winner.
Matt Molloy's - This pub in the middle of Westport is owned and named for a famous member of the traditional music group The Chieftains. Not only was the pub very worn, warm, and inviting, but Matt Molloy himself was there that night along with some other musicians, recording a TV bit in the back room. It was quite the experience to hear this music live, though the design of the pub was really intended for intimate sessions, so we could only peak into where the action was.
Wyatt Hotel - The bar at our hotel featured bright and cheerful decor, and was a good place for a brief drink, or to bring some stout over to the dinner table.
Murphy Brothers - We stopped at this pub along the River Moy in transit to another tour area. The large interior was decorated with local historical items and a lot of standard Irish directional signs for towns. The Guinness was good, and the pub was lovely. And before we were back on the bus, I went down to the river to see some swans.
Eddies Bar, Fairhill House - Our brief visit to this country pub resulted in a story that I've related many times since. Once inside, we ordered pints and tried to find a seat at the rapidly flling bar. There were two stools next to each other, though a half-full pint was in front of one. I asked the barman if it was taken, and he indicated that it wasn't. A few minutes later, a rather grizzled and drunken Irishman emerged from the back of the pub and started complaining that his seat had been taken. The barman winked at us and proceeded to trade abuse with this rather amusing patron. Among the better lines that came out were, "I ought to give you a black eye!" The barman than said, "You and what army?" The fellow, who we later agreed to call "Paddy Murphy," then took to grumbling, though eventually he began talking to me in a friendly but hard-to-understand manner. He wanted to know where we came from in Ireland, but once I told him that I believed my ancestors were Scots-Irish that came through Ulster, he became indignant and started sputtering on about the "Red Hand." Old animosity runs deep, though he likely assumed that I wasn't Catholic. Still, it was a great experience to talk to this local pub denizen. After he left us, the barman indicated that it didn't matter if anyone took his seat, since he would probably just take a barstool and sit in the middle of the floor. I believe he did. Now that I've seen the great movie The Quiet Man, he reminids me quite a bit of that film's tipsy Michaleen Oge Flynn.
Durty Nelly's - We were staying just across the way in this very small village, and we jumped at our chance to visit this historic and famous pub, which I knew about ahead of time from a poster that the wife had displayed for years in college. Nelly's sits beside the looming mass of Bunratty Castle, which we were about to visit. We ordered a pint of Murphy's and a pint of the new (for me) Kilkenny beer, which was very, very good. We then wandered around the tavern, enjoying the smell of wood soaked with centuries worth of beer. We soon emerged outside on an upper deck and enjoyed the view of the castle. This is a remarkable pub that's one of the most memorable from our trip, even despite our short time there.
Woulfe's Horseshoe Bar - Our party stopped in Listowel briefly on the way to Killarney, and my trusty travel guide said that this pub was one of the best places to visit. As soon as we were inside, we admired the hearty display of Kerry's colors (the county has been a contender in Gaelic football for a long time). The bar presented and interesting variety of patrons, such as a family with a baby enjoying lunch, a bearded old man in wellington boots, a sweater, and a blazer enjoying a glass (half-pint) of milk, and a very elderly fellow in country farmer garb who happened to clog the toilet. This was also one of the few pub visits that I recall which didn't involve beer, though we did have a fine lunch and tea. I loved this pub!
Courtney's - This pub was my hangout of choice in Killarney. I came here both nights, once even with a group of the older folks on our tour, which included some teetotalers. The music was good enough to entertain folks without drink, though. In fact, this authentic pub was great on a variety of levels. It had a series of rooms, with a music session happening just inside the door. Beyond was a large bar area, featuring the largest beer menu I saw in Ireland, with many beers from the continent. Though I've seen bigger selections, this would put many American pubs to shame in this regard. Of course, I ended up trying a Belgian chocolate beer, which was a bad decision...but the bar was great! We sat near the players and relaxed to some real traditional music.
Killarney Grand Hotel - This large bar in a hotel was very close to our hotel, but was only playing modern music when we visited. Still, it had a nice open layout, though with mostly traditional pub materials. It was a great place to relax in a side booth while enjoying some Guinness.
Christys - The wife and I had some tea and scones in this ivy-covered pub attached to Blarney Woolen Mills, after we climbed up to the top of Blarney Castle. The pub had filled up with coach tourists like us in the late morning, but despite the crowd, we still enjoyed the decor, which seemed a lot like a Victorian parlor done up with a lot of red, patterned wallpaper.
Jacob's Ladder, WatersEdge Hotel - Our tour of Co. Cork was quite hurried, but during our brief time in Cobh I escaped from the Titanic museum to see this lovely seaside town. After getting in some exploration, I went looking for a waterfront pub, and eventually found my way here. I actually got lost a bit in the building, nearly walking into a hotel room that was apparently being cleaned. But I found the bar on the second floor in a beautiful, airy, sunlit room, and soon had a cool pint of Murphy's (cork stout) in hand. I then stepped out onto the patio overlooking the harbor, right next to a rather large cruise ship. I knew I didn't have much time before our bus left Cobh, but I stayed for just a bit to admire the view from what turned out to be my last pub visit in Ireland.
USA (Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá)
Pat Troy's Ireland's Own - This is a rather unique pub. The decor is patriotic, featuring a lot of military and law enforcement items, along with a mix of Irish decor. Though rough around the edges, the place has friendly service, interestin locals, good bar food, and nice prices during the weekday happy hour. It's a great place for a quick supper after work.
Murphy's - Murphy's is a quiet place during the day, but gets wild upstairs on weekend nights with live music and standing-room only conditions. The bartenders are very good here. And so is the economical "champagne" brunch on Sundays - always a favorite!
Daniel O'Connell's - Alexandria's nicest pub in terms of decor, O'Connell's really impresses, with the woodwork and lots of employees imported from Ireland. Though a bit more expensive than most, the worn feel and complex layout affords a variety of unique areas in the pub. It also has 4 different bars for convenience, without feeling too big. Going here is a real treat, especially when the upper deck is open to look out over some of the oldest parts of Alexandria.
O'Shaugnessy's - This place has an Irish name, green walls, and a bunch of Guinness ads, so I suppose it qualifies! It is, however, definitely a dive bar - small, smokey, and dirty. It's definitely the black sheep of Alexandria's pubs.
Castlebay - I happened upon this pub on Main Street after walking away from the State House through a narrow alley. The huge picture windows light up the cozy interior very well, which is comprised of a front sitting area of tables and chairs, with a bar and stage area in the back. The walls are dominated with three enormous portraits of Irish literary figures, which is certainly a stand out among pubs that only have booze signs on their walls. This is a great pub that pours a fine pint of Murphy's. They even supplied a high chair for little Aidan!
Galway Bay - This pub is within sight of Maryland's old and beautiful State House, on one of the streets radiating from the circle. It has a grand pub front, with seating in the bar area near the windows. The decor is dominated by rustic but tasteful woodwork, with many beer and whiskey signs. There are also many farm implements on the exposed rafters of the ceiling, which suggest that the owners are going for a country pub theme. Just within the front door is a wall covered with family coats of arms, which is really a nice effect, though I can only speculate as to their exact meaning. They all appeared to be Irish, with the exception of one proudly bearing a Scottish tartan. There is also a rather large restaurant area in the back, as well as a cellar that I didn't explore. I enjoyed sitting in the bar area with my first ever pint of Guinness's tasty 250th anniversary stout.
Rí Rá - This pub has a great layout featuring a double-height ceiling in the main area, with a loft over part of the room. It certainly had a festive atmosphere the night I was there.
Four Courts - This is a somewhat cozy pub with a bar running most of its length, and what seems to be a popular mug club. It's decorated with traditional pub stuff. It really gets busy on the weekends.
Tír na nÓg - I noticed this pub when we were taking our son to Baltimore's aquarium. On an upper corner of one of the small malls on the water lies this grand, warm, huge pub. The decor has been brought to Baltimore from old Irish churches and castles, and it shows. A fine place with excellent views of the harbor.
Hensley's Flying Elephant - This is an odd blend of cultures - American music, skate culture, and an Irish pub. It was fairly quiet on a Wednesday night, and filled with people drinking tall boys of PBR. An interesting place for certain.
O'Sullivan's - The Don and I went to this fine pub while I was visiting him in Carlsbad. The decor was nice, the Guinness was just fine, and the fire pit outside was comfortable on a cool seaside night. It's a grand cozy pub, and was quite packed on a Wednesday night.
Killarney House - The family and I all stopped here in the farm country after checking out a house we were thinking of renting (we didn't go for it). This lovely roadside pub reminded me much of its sister in Annapolis, Galway Bay. The place was quite baby-friendly, as was the staff. The Guinness was spot-on, and so was the enormous fried fish sandwich. It really would have been grand to live near this pub, although this seems to be about all there is to do in Davidsonville!
The Auld Shebeen - I believe that this is the first pub that I hit after moving to Fairfax. I heard about it from a work happy hour, and stopped in during a weekend afternoon. I believe they actually had some Irish patrons that day. The place has a large open layout wth Irish country decor and a small stage. Downstairs is a dance area with a DJ, though I've never been. The food is quite good, and I'd recommend this pub if you're actually in Fairfax already.
Patrick's - I had a specific mission to see some apple orchards in Pennsylvania along with a short hike, but I planned to break up the journey with a stop in Frederick. With the rain just ended, the vibrant town center was filled with many pedestrians enjoying the air, restaurants, cafes, and street crafts. I walked a few blocks from my car to the pub just off the lovely square, under a canopy of newly-green trees. The huge glass pub front presented a restaurant and bar side. After ordering a pint of Murphy's from the friendly barman, I walked about the pub admiring the many old photographs and maps of Ireland. I found the decor on the bare brick walls in the bar itself to be minimalist, at least for an Irish pub, and I found this quite tasteful and interesting. The rest of the pub had covered walls, but the decor stayed mostly the same. A grand place!
O'Rorke's - I set out to Gettysburg for the specific purpose of visiting Irish pubs, and stopped here first. On the edge of the battlefield, this pub with an unassuming exterior had a nice traditonal feel inside. It wasn't ornate or anything, and the decor did tend, in some cases, to American beer signs, but the Irish spirit was still there. The Guinness was good, as was the French onion soup and the service. I'd recommend this place for lunch if in Gettysburg.
Spiritfield's - Literally just around the corner from O'Rorke's is Spiritfield's, a cheerfully decorated pub which focuses on Irish stuff, but seems to have more knick-knacks than it knows what to do with. Still, it was a fine place to relax with a stout.
Garryowen - Although I saw this pub on my first trip to Gettysburg looking for pubs, I didn't stop in. However, I was able to do so when I was in Gettysburg trying to make a late Mass. I only had a ginger ale, but I was able to look around and get a feel for the place. This new pub is built in a row house, which provided for some interesting brick and stone wall textures, presumably when their coating materials were removed. Thus, it does a fair impression of a rural Irish pub. The "Irish rustic" decorations are fitting and not too cluttered or garish, and I left with a feeling that I'd like to return to have a pint of stout.
Molly Brannigans - I believe I was at this 2nd Street pub during the summer of 2005 or 2006, just before heading up to State College. My mother, sister, and uncle were here too. While enjoying the lived-in surroundings at this well-executed place, I had a Young's Double Chocolate Stout and some great shepherd's pie. Good stuff.
McGrath's - Harrisburg is a fine place to visit for those who enjoy beer, since there are two fine breweries there. And, while visiting one of these, I remember planning to go here, having read about the extraordinary crab dip on beeradvocate. The reviewer was right about this, and also for McGrath's being a fine Irish pub with the added bonus of having a diverse beer menu. I've been back many times, including for part of my bachelor party. And I even saw it written up in the travel book Going Local, so the word is spreading! This is a wonderful place.
Ceoltas - The wife and I came here after some purposeful Irish pub research. It's a beautiful place with rich dark wood and tasteful, spartan (for an Irish pub, anyway) decor. Even the taps at the bar are in the Irish style, with oval signs on the tower rather than on the handles themselves. I really like the look and feel of this place, and have already brought more friends here.
Vaughan's - In 2005 Ickes and I ended up here completely by accident. We were driving to Maine for a ski trip but decided that we were far too tired. We stayed in a hotel in the middle of Hartford, but decided to venture out. We ended up at this cool pub where we talked to some locals. I recall they drew a map for us on a bar napkin to find more interesting places, but that's about it. I came back in the morning to take some photos. I wonder if I'll ever see this pub again?
O'Dowd's - While briefly in KC for a job interview in 2006, I explored all that I could. Among my adventures were two visits to this wonderful pub in the Country Club Plaza area of the city. The decor was very traditional, and they had Beamish on tap, which I was told did not have much of a future in America (it's still here years later, though). They also had Grimbergen coasters, which I scooped up. You don't see those often, let alone at an Irish pub. I managed to convince a bunch of the other interviewees to come here that night, and we heard some solo live music, and they even played one of my favorite songs...I couldn't have hoped for more fun in KC!
Annie Bailey's - This huge pub is right in the middle of old Lancaster. The ground floor has grand high ceilings along its great length. In the back a large patio with an outdoor bar lets you have some fresh air. Upstairs is what seems to be a quieter dining area. There may even be a basement with more than just restrooms, but I didn't investigate. The pub is finely done up in a traditional fashion, with many hand-painted signs. It's worth another visit for further research!
McCleary's - This town was only a name on a road sign when I heard from the wife's father that a new Irish pub had opened. We were there a few months later, and I'm glad that we took the trip! The large, freshly renovated place offered up a traditional experience and modern-style cuisine with an Irish twist. I had some excellent salmon and Guinness. The tap list included a good deal of local beer as well. And despite the size, the layout of the rooms afforded intimacy. However, the pub does have an expansive semi-outdoor area with a lovely bar behind the building. It's out of the way, unless you're traveling between York and Lancaster on Rt. 30, but if you are, take the short detour - you won't regret it!
Flannery's Tavern on the Square - This beautiful old house in tiny Mercersburg boasts a beer-focused bar with excellent, from-scratch food and a friendly staff. Ickes and I stopped in here on a lunch break at the very close Whitetail ski area. If I ever find myself exploring this area of the Cumberland Valley again, I'll be sure to stop in.
Coakley's - My first word of this place came via text from a certain Ukrainian, celebrating the holidays away from college near his hometown. I resolved to visit, and when I learned that there was a great Irish store next door, I was ready to go. The large complex offers a drinking and dining experience for most tastes, though it does lean towards a sports bar/pub hybrid atmosphere. I can imagine that the excitement is high, though, in the evenings at this fine pub.
Tumulty's - This old pub in the old town of New Brunsick definitely has atmosphere. You can tell that decades of folks have enjoyed themselves here. I ventured into Tumulty's while visiting New Brunswick on intern business trips in 2005. I really liked the feel of this place, and want to go back.
Kildare's (Manayunk) - The wife had told me many a tale of fun nights at this Manayunk pub. Since she was pregnant, I went down the hill alone one night, and had a blast. The place had a variety of good stuff besides the usual stout, and the patrons were friendly and talkative. I enjoyed the music and the fact that women in boxing robes showed up to promote some fight. A fine place!
Fergie's Pub - While walking through center city, we stopped in this little pub for a quick drink. It seemed quite friendly and comfortable, though it was abandoned in the early afternoon. It certainly appeared to have a lot of history, judging by the decor on the walls.
McGillin's Old Ale House - This pub was recommended by a sister-in-law, and it was a good choice. Even in the afternoon it quite hopping. The place even attracted some historical reenactors. The old pub was covered floor to ceiling with local mementos and photos, as well as odd (in an Irish pub) but seasonally appropriate Cinco de Mayo decor. A real star was the beer, which included the fine Sly Fox O'Reilly's stout.
The Phyrst - It's definitely not the most representative, but this is still what comes to mind when I think "pub." It was the first stop when I turned 21, my first St. Patrick's day destination, and my favorite St. Pat's destination. In 2007, I went back to PSU for this noble celebration. Since spring break was just ending, most students were out of town. A massive snowstorm struck, and kept most everyone away, but the wife and I braved the weather and made the journey in twice as much time as normal. We were into the pub at 6AM, and actually had room to maneuver, unlike any other St. Pat's day there. Other great memories of course include the Michael O'Brian band and of course table wars. What a place!
The Dubliner - An Irish pub that the wife's family has been hitting up for decades, the Dubliner is an interesting place. It certainly feels old for an American pub, and is quite relaxing. The decor is traditional, as is the food and drink. It's certainly a fine place if you're near the Capitol.
Murphy's - We stumbled on this pub while waiting to go to Mass at the church nearby, after a visit to the zoo. It's cozy and friendly, though not quite as nice as the location in Alexandria.
Fado - This pub on 7th street has very intricate and interesting Irish decor. You could be entertained for hours just by inspecting the items on the walls and shelves. The layout of a wrap-around bar and back tables works, as do the interesting twists on Irish food that fill the menu. A favorite is a boxty roll appetizer with a spicy sauce.
The Blaguard - Unlike many places on this list, I've only been here late at night, and it certainly can get crazy! The narrow place ends up with a big crowd, but there are certainly some friendly bartenders. A fun place in Adams-Morgan. It's a bit more low-key than the other places I've been on 18th Street.
Nanny O'Briens - An unassuming pub, with warm afternoon sunlight coming in the windows - a pleasant thing in frigid December! This long and narrow pub is cozy, and pours a roasty pint of Guinness. Nothing special, but fun nonetheless.
Ireland's Four Fields - This pub in Woodley Park, just across the street from Nanny O'Briens, has a lot going for it. The decor is full of interesting detail, with much focus on county and provincial coats of arms. There are also a number of quite old looking plastic back-lit signs that, despite their corniness, add a lived-in feel to the place. When I was there, the Christmas decorations were in full and festive effect. The beef stew and Guinness were spot on, and they offered some other craft beer as well. They also have a very extensive dart room.
McFadden's - This cavernous pub near Georgetown is wonderful! It was the 8AM destination for my 2009 St. Patrick's Day adventure. They offered free breakfast, cheap (light) beer, and a fine and festive atmosphere. The bartenders were quick to take care of us, and the pub even had beer pong! The extensive areas inside include multiple bars on at least two floors, and lots of dark wood on the walls. I'm looking forward to going back in the future.
Mackey's - I was planning a photo trip to Georgetown, and I wanted to include a new Irish pub on my trip, since a pint or two of the black stuff makes for even more fun. This turned up on Google Maps, and I was sold as soon as I looked at the web site, despite the long walk from the University. The pub front is very well done, and offers a strong bit of bright red contrast in an otherwise dreary neighborhood of concrete and glass. Inside, I was immediately taken with a small sitting area that consisted of some worn leather chairs and a stocked bookshelf. I ordered a pint, and was soon stretched out in my corner enjoying a book. After a bit of this, I got another pint and wondered around the pub, enjoying the various framed prints and photos of Irish scenes. In the back, there's another large sitting area with leather couches and a fireplace. Finally, a large area is dedicated to a series of snug-like semi-enclosed booths. The center of the pub is devoted to a very long bar. I like the variety of seating areas in this pub, as well as the well-poured Guinness.
O'Lordans - I'd never even heard about this town, but I had a free day, and drove from Gettysburg with Aidan to get here. The pub occupies a rather large old stone house in this lovely town. The decor is in tradtional pub form, with lots of stained wood and dark paint, along with natural stone. The service and Guinness were excellent, as was the food. I'd like to plan a get-together at this out-of-the-way pub, since I'm sure most everyone would enjoy it!
Catherine Rooney's - A definite Wilmington highlight is this fine pub. Though not impressive on the outside, the spacious interior sports an incredible amount of rich woodwork. The walls are decorated with a good variety of Irish signs and photos, and the space set aside for darts in the back is both large and safe, not often seen in pubs! There also happen to be some fireplaces, which I'd love to see blazing in the depths of Winter.
Harp & Fiddle (closed as of July 12, 2009) - One of the nicest things about York is this big pub in the heart of the old city. Well-decorated in traditional fashion, it also sports a fine menu and good beer selection. I've had a number of great times here. You won't be sorry with a visit to this lovely pub.