Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th, drinking green beer amongst a rowdy crowd, in an actual Irish pub; has long been on my bucket list. I sought to cross it off this year. Although it wasn’t quite what I conceived and fantasized.
We planned to meet for happy hour, thinking it wouldn’t be too busy this early, and that we could take advantage of cheap food and drink prices. But despite it being a Thursday, it seemed like no one else was working or had classes. The city was out at 3pm. Irish bars already had bouncers, stanchioned lines, and were charging cover. Looking around the Granville entertainment district, other, non Irish bars were busy as well. They too took advantage of the day to sell green beer.
Our first choice had a shorter line with no cover, but they took in more people than capacity. Not everyone was guaranteed a seat, let alone a table. I wanted to eat so we went across the street to Irish option number two.
Already all green throughout the year, “Doolin’s” showed additional patty pride with a bouquet of green and white balloons, door men with green sweatbands and velvet rope. The line was longer here, and the cover shot up from $7-$10, however with a larger space and two floors we were more optimistic of a table. Little did we know, they would be inviting in more patrons than there were tables as well. Groups stood idle in the centre of the room, couples leaned on one another in corners, and majority of the guest were putting up post at the bar.
After two laps around the main floor we took advantage of the back bar and ordered a couple of drinks. But sadly there was no green beer to be had. They teased it on signs and suggested a “real beer” instead. With our regularly coloured beer we stood at wait by the live band. They were playing jaunty Irish jigs and drinking songs. I was envious that others knew the words and that I could not sing along.
The bar was full, heavily seated with bar stools and high tops, corner booths, and plenty of places to lean and huddle against. In the frenzy of finding a space to call our own I didn’t get a chance to soak in any of the decor. All I made note of is how explorative the place is, how all the patrons were able to get up and mingle in their respective claimed spots. Multiple bars and servers in green shirts paired with plaid mini skirts or leather kilts serving from them.
There we were, standing and waiting for 4pm to hit. There was promise that the lower floor would open up. And that if we were patient we would be able to get a table and seat down there. We assumed the wait would be for the same bar, only to find out that it was their separate sister bar, “The Belmont”.
Our eagerness translated to us being the first ones down. We got to see the live band do a practice set and the serving staff having their pre-shift rally. We choose a booth at the back, with a view of all the high top tables and benches before us. The walls were lit in green lights and decorated with glittery shamrocks, helium filled balloons, and banners wishing drinkers luck.
They had St. Patrick’s Day wearables for those who lacked green or wanted a little more. Mardi Gras beads, blinking shamrock pins, clovers on headbands, and green leis. We helped ourselves to a few, utilizing them in our photo op.
Guinness, the Irish beer brand took advantage of the people’s want for free merch, and the free advertising it provided them. Their reps gave out their own branded novelty wearable. Both miniature and oversized pint shaped hats and green fitted tees with their names on it. I didn’t need one, but like all the others wanted them because their were seasonal, fun, and free.
Without the tinge of green and dollar store decorations, it was a pretty classy looking bar. Brick columns, cushioned walls, horseshoe shaped booths, and a stage for live music. I have been in on nights where they have performers playing and patrons dancing, and it is quite the space to enjoy both in.
Their bar was most impressive, if I were to come on a normal night, this is where I would like to be seated. Beveled decorative counters, sculpted edges, and leather seats with copper detailing. Behind the shadow of the stone archway this was an impressive historic 1930’s looking bar.
The entire room quickly filled with bodies, laughter, and plenty of drinking. This must be their “Christmas”, they would not doubt be making a killing tonight in drink sales. My hats went off to the staff and the management. This was a tight ship that they were running. Tables wanting non stop beverages, round after round. All the many bodied moving about, it was no doubt hard to keep track of them all. Not to mention the need to watch out for clumsy drinkers bumping into you and knocking your tray of multiple drinks. I watched our server maneuver around the floor like a performer, she tipped toed and twirled, guiding customers out of her path like the lead in a dance. Their day was just beginning, it would only get busier as the patrons got more boisterous with liquid courage. We left well before that.
I was still sore about not getting green beer so settled for a pint of Guinness, I guess their branding reminders worked. Especially as I also got some Guinness in my entree.
The “Guinness beef pie” was a hearty braised chunk with sautéed mushrooms in Guinness stout; under a flaky pastry with a side of seasonal vegetables and garlic mash. It wasn’t so much a pie, but a disc of buttery pastry covering a dish of meat and gravy. It was a little one tone and strong, but helped along by the side of mash potatoes and grilled vegetables. Although I would have preferred the carrot and some corn and peas going straight into the stew just to balance the heavier meat and gravy. Similarly the pastry helped to balance things like a side of toast.
But before we could eat we had to get our hands on some utensils. It was hard to attract anyone’s attention in the crowd of raised hands. So after a few failed gestures, I got up to search for a set or two. I ended up at the bar helping myself to a fork and knife bound by a folded napkin. I tried to ask for the ability to take, but was unable to draw the eyes of anyone behind the bar. They were very content on keeping their heads down, towards their hands instead of up and meeting the faces of anyone. Though since it was super busy, I totally understood, and didn’t expect much or anything otherwise. Once again I was already very impressed by their multitasking and ability to hold composure. And reflecting on it now, I would be even more impressed to see them still as chipper and on the ball at night’s end.
My guest got the “chicken strips and fries”. House made savoury buttermilk marinaded chicken strips with a side of fries, vegetable sticks, and a honey mustard dip. This one was pretty standard bar fare. Crispy white meat chicken dipped into mustard with a break of chewy potato fries and crispy carrot and celery sticks.
I wanted to stay longer, to be rowdy far into the night. I wanted to drink, dance, and party with like minds. However the stars didn’t align for my plans. I ran into too many people I knew, and instead of reminiscing I decided to run. It’s only fun to get messy when there are no witnesses around to document or remember it. I wouldn’t get that anonymity in this crowd of green and faces I knew. So we left for the night and didn’t engage in any more St. Patrick’s Day festivities. We didn’t feel like waiting in any more lines or paying more cover for a cramped shoulder to shoulder setting.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Irish pubs are a must on this day and what better a one, than one with two floors and plenty of people to drink and be merry with. I would definitely be repeating this again next year. Maybe I will even request the day off work and get in an earlier start, to avoid lines, cover, and a wait. Thus ensuring we get a table, service, and the comfort we wanted in a booth. Until next year, don’t deny your cravings on St. Patrick’s Day!