Eating + Drinking

Your Go-To Irish Pub Too Packed? Tap These St. Patrick’s Day Bars Instead!

Here are eight plan-B bars, each one a pot of gold at the end of your Guinness-soaked rainbow this weekend.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Fore/Unsplash

As it falls on a Sunday this year, St. Patrick’s Day is more like St. Patrick’s Weekend. You know what that means: two days of countless Irish blokes and lassies stampeding the streets of New York, stopping at every green-clad watering hole they encounter along the way. We recommend you Irish goodbye the overcrowded joints and instead spend your Guinness-fueled weekend in these underrated pubs and taverns around town.

Instead of McSorley’s, Go to 11th Street Bar

When you think of a proper old-man dive, McSorley’s is probably the first one that comes to mind. Unfortunately, it will probably draw a considerably younger—not to mention louder—crowd this weekend, but the equally old-timey 11th Street Bar offers the same atmosphere with way fewer people. The rustic mainstay is more subdued than most due to its location right off Avenue A, but casual passersby quickly become regulars thanks to a killer whiskey list and homey toasties made with Irish soda bread. If you’re a fan of both soccer and Irish music, you’re in luck on Sunday Bloody Sunday: 11th Street is hosting a Liverpool versus Fulham viewing party in the a.m., a rock revue of your fave contemporary Irish acts in the evening, and a more traditional seisiún before closing. 510 East 11th Street (between Avenues A and B), Alphabet City
Before 11th Street: Visit the St. Mark’s Church grounds

Instead of Passage, Go to the Quays

With easy walkability to multiple pubs and taverns, spirited crowds descend on Astoria every year for Irish-themed pub crawls. If you’re more the low-key celebrator who’d rather avoid the masses, stay away from the Steinway strip and head toward 45th Street. The Quays is Astoria’s version of Cheers, in a sense: Bartenders with strong brogues know your name after a few visits, deep conversations with patrons you just met are normal, and every third drink is on the house. It also has a generous bring-your-own-food policy, so you can pack up some corned beef and cabbage to go with your Guinness pour. 45-02 30th Avenue, Astoria
After the Quays: Eat at Queens Comfort

Irish bars
Photo courtesy of the Quays Pub, Astoria/Facebook
Instead of Coogan’s, Go to Liffy II Bar

Upper Manhattan residents are more than familiar with the neighborhood’s Latin-leaning nightlife scene, but Washington Heights and Inwood were Irish enclaves at the turn of the 20th century. The decades-old Coogan’s is even more popular than before—partially because WaHi native Lin-Manuel Miranda played a major part in saving it last year—so expect the spot to be packed with Hamilton devotees. Consider Liffy II, the last of Inwood’s old Irish watering holes, for a more authentic throwback to the neighborhood’s roots. The lad behind the bar will perfectly pour you a Killian’s pint while reminiscing about the bar’s rowdier past, plus there’s a decent chance one of the old-timers will challenge you to a round of pool. 5009 Broadway (between West 215th and Isham Streets), Inwood
Before Liffy II: Visit Dyckman Farmhouse

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Instead of Donovan’s, Go to PJ Horgan’s

Suburbanites from Nassau and Suffolk counties are bound to make Woodside their first stop in their citywide bar crawl. Knowing Donovan’s reputation as expert Guinness pourers and burger flippers, it’s a guarantee that the longtime neighborhood tavern will be packed to the max. Instead, walk west on Skillman Avenue to PJ Horgan’s, the 21st-century iteration of the Queens Boulevard gem that shuttered in 2015. Even with shiny new decor touches—lightbulbs hanging in cages and rustic wood ceiling panels—its Irish heart remains pure. Come ready with an empty stomach (for Scotch eggs and cheap Jameson tipples) and open ears (a soundtrack full of—what else?—U2). 49-02 Skillman Avenue, Woodside
After PJ’s: Eat at House of Inasal

Instead of Duffy’s, Go to West Cork Union Hall

Forest Avenue is Staten Island’s four-leaf clover when it comes to Irish pubs. That being said, it’s a sure bet that the crowds inside emerald-clad Duffy’s Tavern will have you exclaiming “Christ on a bike!” this weekend. Mosey a few blocks north to Henderson Avenue, where West Cork Union Hall awaits your arrival. Its Irish pride is subtler than its West Brighton neighbor—with shades of red splashed on the walls, Budweiser logos above the dartboards, and 14 types of beers (most representing American breweries) on tap—but it’s ready to shower you with céad míle fáilte (“one hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic) when you walk through the door. 502 Henderson Avenue, Staten Island
Before West Cork Union Hall: Visit the Staten Island Cricket Club

Irish bars
Photo courtesy of West Cork Union Hall/Facebook
Instead of An Beal Bocht, Go to the Punch Bowl

An Beal Bocht may be home to the world’s shortest St. Paddy’s Day parade, but the 47-foot-long stretch still turns out a mighty crowd. The Punch Bowl, its nearby neighbor on West 238th, is an easygoing alternative should you prefer avoiding the sea of green. Long considered hidden in plain sight since its opening more than a century ago, this unpretentious dive is beloved by sports fans (especially of the Mets and Giants), older clientele frequenting the spot since its transformation into an Irish bar in 1979, and lovers of darts and karaoke. PSA: If the weather’s nice enough for a few rounds of old-country sporting before (or after!) beer o’clock, Gaelic Park is only two blocks away. 5820 Broadway, Bronx
Before the Punch Bowl: Eat at Yo-Burger

Instead of the Wicked Monk, Go to Kitty Kiernans

Home to the largest Irish population in Kings County, Bay Ridge is the place to be for Brooklyn-centric Irish festivities. The nabe’s most widely known pub is the monastery-inspired Wicked Monk, but Third Avenue’s first Irish pub—Kitty Kiernans—is equally deserving of your hard-earned green. Owned and operated by a Dublin transplant, Kiernans has the classic elements of a well-seasoned watering hole: brick-adorned archways, gaslight lamps, a roaring fireplace perfect for a nippy St. Paddy’s night. The bar, surprisingly, also has Spike Lee cred; it was used as an integral setting for his 2002 flick, 25th Hour. 9715 Third Avenue, Bay Ridge
After Kitty Kiernans: Eat at Bab Marrakech

Irish bars
Photo courtesy of Kitty Kiernans/Facebook
Instead of the Rambling House, Go to Keane’s

Where else would you want to be on March 17 than New York’s unofficial Little Ireland, Woodlawn? Thirsty kilt wearers will try their luck squeezing into Katonah Avenue’s biggest drinking hole, Rambling House, but walk down the block for the smaller-but-equally-lively Keane’s. The family behind Keane’s has been working in the Irish bar biz for the past four decades, so they know what it takes to run and operate a successful tavern. Here it’s their bangin’ Irish breakfast plates and Strongbow on ice that lures patrons inside—and their intimate Irish music sets that keep them staying. (Best be ready to tie up your dancing gillies for a long night of stepping.) 4340 Katonah Avenue, Bronx
Before Keane’s: Go to Van Cortlandt Park

Irish bars
Photo courtesy of Keane’s Bar and Restaurant/Facebook

Pair your Irish bar crawl with some equally good grub. We have a few recs to get you started.