The Great St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl
Down a stout or four for St. Patty's Day, but don't drink the green beer
The Irish are renowned worldwide for their sly humor, love of a good brew, and kindhearted congeniality. On St. Patrick's Day, they manage to reign over the whole planet, including Austin.
We will have three big music events that day. Fadó and Dog & Duck are putting on their annual outdoor extravaganzas, described below. But the big-name event will come from the Celtic Cultural Center of Texas and B.D. Riley's, which will be hosting a huge, daylong event featuring Tommy Sands, whom the Irish think of the way we think of Pete Seeger. Sing Out! magazine wrote, "Tommy Sands is one of the most important songwriters in Ireland if not the rest of the world." The center is also bringing in one of the Celtic world's most revered singers, Andy M. Stewart, who will be accompanied by guitar whiz Gerry O'Beirne. All day long, there will be events for everyone in the family. The Cultural Center leaders are in negotiations with the city over closing down Sixth Street, so you should take a look at its website (www.celticcenter.org) to see where it will finally land. Your $12 entry fee goes to support the Cultural Center's work.
While the pubs we've chosen for the crawl are spread a little too far for walking, they're all in or close to Downtown and easy to get to. All the pertinent info is listed below. Here's the order I would follow: Opal Divine's Freehouse, Mother Egan's, Dog & Duck, Fadó, Bull McCabe's, B.D. Riley's, Crown & Anchor, and the Draught House. Of course, given the way St. Patrick's Day ramps up everyone's friendliness, you may end up staying at one place the whole day.
At the bottom, we listed other pubs that are offering St. Patrick's Day festivities. Take a look at our map, and plan out your own fun day.
And don't drink any green beer!
1) Bennigan's 301 Barton Springs Rd.
2) Fadó Irish Pub 214 W. Fourth
3) B.D. Riley's Irish Pub 204 E. Sixth
4) Mother Egan's Irish Pub 715 W. Sixth
5) Opal Divine's Freehouse 700 W. Sixth
6) Maggie Mae's 512 Trinity
7) Bull McCabe's Irish Pub 714 Red River
8) Dog & Duck Pub 406 W. 17th
9) Crown & Anchor 2911 San Jacinto
10) The Draught House 4112 Medical Pkwy.
11) BB Rover's 12101 Jollyville Rd.
12) Sherlock's Baker St. Pub & Grill 9012 Research
13) Tilted Kilt Pub 2701 Parker Rd. Ste. 300-D, Round Rock
14) Tilted Kilt Pub 15605 Tacon Ln., Pflugerville
B.D. Riley's Irish Pub204 E. Sixth, 494-1335
Monday-Tuesday, 4pm-12mid; Wednesday & Sunday, 11:30am-12mid; Thursday-Saturday, 11:30am-2am (kitchen closes at 10pm, Sunday-Thursday; 11pm, Friday-Saturday)
St. Patrick's Day, 10:30am-2am
One time, after a trip to Ireland, I was feeling a little sad over being home. I had an assignment from the Chronicle to go check all the pubs in town with Irish aspirations. Austin was rainy and cold that day, and when I walked into B.D. Riley's, I felt like I was back on the west coast of Ireland. Friendly people, my favorite beer (Smithwick's), and tasty pub grub. I've had a soft spot for the place ever since.
Unless you are a true beer wonk, you may not notice the care they take with beer. They pour Imperial pints (20 ounces instead of the more normal 16 ounces), and the glasses they use never carry anything but beer. So no soda pop, iced tea, milk, or margarita residues. Every beer is served at the precise temperature recommended by the brewery. Finally, someone trains the bartenders how to do a proper pull.
It bears repeating that B.D. Riley's makes the best fish & chips I've had outside the U.K., but there are other good things on the menu, as well. Both the shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage are worth trying. All their specialties are $12.95 and give you plenty of food. The result is a joy for anyone who loves the Irish way of life.
On St. Patty's, they'll open at 10:30am, the music starts at 11:30am, and Floating Crowbar will finish the evening out starting at 9pm. Indoors, they'll be showing a continuous loop of one of John Ford's greatest films, The Quiet Man. No cover, no green beer, and they have God's great gift to the world of whiskey, Midleton's, for $24.75 a glass. – W.M.
St. Patrick's Day live music schedule:
2pm: Cliff Albreight
3pm: Joe Gee
5pm: Andy M. Stewart
6pm: Gilmer & Moore
7:30pm: Tommy Sands & His Irish Band
9pm: Floating Crowbar
Dog & Duck Pub406 W. 17th (at Guadalupe), 479-0598
Monday-Saturday, 11am-2am; Sunday, noon-2am
The Dog & Duck is almost 18 years old now, and you don't get to stay in business that long in Austin unless you get almost everything right. They carry a generous assortment of beer (no liquor, though) including Guinness, Boddingtons, and Chimay Triple White. Prices max out at $5 for a 16-ounce Guinness. They also serve a full menu, and their traditional pub food is well prepared and plentiful. How good is it? They've won the Chronicle Readers Restaurant Poll five out of the last seven years for Best Pub Grub.
Though it is really a proper English pub, on St. Patrick's Day the Dog & Duck's blood turns green, and it puts on one of the best parties in town. Their outdoor music is all free, and it starts at 11am and goes for at least 12 hours. All the usual suspects will be playing, like the Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums, Floating Crowbar, and Ed Miller.
The headliner will be local treasures Ian McLagan & the Bump Band. For those of you new to the Austin music scene, McLagan was a founding member of the Small Faces, Humble Pie, and the Rod Stewart-era Faces. He's played with the Stones, Springsteen, Dylan, and lots more. He's usually playing South by Southwest, so this will be the first time they've been able to tempt him out on St. Patrick's Day. – W.M.
Dog & Duck PUb's 18th annual St. Patrick's Day Live Music Schedule:
11am: The Tea Merchants
Noon: Capital City Highlanders Pipe Band
1pm: Poor Man's Fortune
3pm: Black Irish
4pm: Johnny Hootrock
5pm: Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums
6pm: Floating Crowbar
7:30pm: Ed Miller & Rich Brotherton
9pm: Ian McLagan & the Bump Band
Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant214 W. Fourth, 457-0172
St. Patrick's Day, 6am (for Irish breakfast)-2am
Fadó Irish Pub has an Irish manager – always a good sign. It is part of a 14-location national chain, and though the decoration looks more like an interior designer's concept of an Irish pub than a real Irish pub, the traditional food and Irish drink are spot-on. They serve the correct Imperial pints only, and they know how to pull a proper Guinness. Whiskey lovers will be pleased to see a dozen Irish whiskeys on the wall, including Midleton for a mere $22.
The traditional side of the menu includes some tasty choices, especially their corned beef and cabbage ($12.95) and all-day Irish breakfast ($10.95). If you're not hungry for Irish fare, try the big-enough-for-two bacon cheeseburger ($8.95).
Fadó puts on one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day parties in the city. Besides the regular indoor pub and patio, there are tents out front with music from noon until midnight. If you think of Irish music as the sedate, New Age-y stuff you see on Celtic CDs in Wal-Mart, think again. Fadó is bringing in some rocking musicians like Mysterious Ways, Blaggards, the Tea Merchants, and Black Irish. – W.M.
FADÓ'S GREEN PARTY
Fourth Street Stage:
12:15pm: The Tea Merchants
3pm: The Eggmen
6pm: Mysterious Ways
1pm: Black Irish
3pm: Floating Crowbar
10pm: Mysterious Ways
Opal Divine's Freehouse700 W. Sixth, 477-3308
Monday-Tuesday, 11am-12mid; Wednesday-Friday, 11am-2am; Saturday, 10am-2am; Sunday, 10am-12mid (kitchen closes at 11pm, Sunday-Wednesday; 1am, Thursday-Friday; 2am, Saturday)
Somewhere in your house, you have a comfortable spot. It might be a chair or a sofa or a window nook. It's a place where you relax and feel at home. A good Irish pub makes you feel like that. It's a home away from home.
Finding a bar with that gemütlich (if I can mix my cultures) feel is hard in Austin. But Opal Divine's fits the bill. It's a place that makes me happy every time I walk in. The furnishings are cozy, the staff is the right mix of friendly and competent, and they pay unusual attention to the quality of the food and drink. They have one of the nation's great collections of whiskey (the Scottish variety) and plenty of Irish whiskey, too. And they know how to pull a correct ale.
You won't find much traditional Irish pub grub, other than a good fish & chips ($8.25), but they have big juicy burgers made from never-frozen Coleman's 100% Natural Beef and Cracked Pepper Fries ($1.95) that vie for best in town.
So any trip to Opal Divine's is worthwhile. However, owner Michael Parker has decided to change his annual party on St. Patrick's Day and just do business as usual. While I'll miss the extravaganza, with Mother Egan's right across the street, the dueling outdoor music venues were sometimes tough on the ears. If you want the Opal's experience and music, both of the other locations (Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress, 707-0237; Marina, 12709 MoPac at Parmer, 733-5353) will have music most of the day. – W.M.
Bull McCabe's Irish Pub714 Red River, 478-4022
St. Patrick's Day, 1pm-2am
This might be the only bar in town where St. Patrick's Gaelic name, Naomh Pádraig, is not only known but pronounced correctly, and pints are served in true Irish pub proportions: 20 ounces. Bull McCabe's was opened in 1999 by the Keogh brothers, Harry and Jimmy, a pair of fine Irish lads with serious accents who wanted a simple, laid-back pub where their friends and the local Irish community could feel at home. The setting is warm wood with low lighting, a couple of dart boards and pictures of famous Irish writers adorning the walls. Small patios front and back provide fresh air for the smokers or to escape the excellent jukebox.
For the true Irish, McCabe's will be the place to be on March 17, with 15 Irish whiskeys being poured, four Irish draft beers, and their famous Irish Car Bomb, the tongue-in-cheek name for a half-pint of Guinness with a half-shot each of Jameson and Baileys. Expect to find bagpipers and a couple of Irish bands performing, free T-shirts and other assorted swag, and a crowd that celebrates St. Patrick as authentically as you can find in these parts. McCabe's only holds about 100 folks, so stake out a spot early, and remember to pace yourself throughout the night. McCabe's is the friendly type of pub where you'll always feel welcome, and you can expect some good-natured slagging (ribbing) whether you're a culchie (country folk) or a jackeen (urban sophisticate). – Mick Vann
Mother Egan's Irish Pub715 W. Sixth, 478-7747
Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2am (kitchen closes at 10pm daily)
St. Patrick's Day, 10am-2am
The original founders of Mother Egan's, John O'Brien and Mick Morris, came from County Meath in eastern Ireland to re-create an authentic Irish neighborhood pub named after Morris' grandmother. Even under new ownership, at Mother Egan's craic is king; craic is an Irish term defined as "fun, enjoyment, abandonment, or lighthearted mischief, often in the context of drinking or music." This is not a green-beer joint, so raise your pints of stout and your expectations. You'll find Guinness, Harp, Smithwick's, Murphy's Irish Red, and Murphy's Stout among the 16 beers on tap (and at the proper temperature), alongside some 13 different Irish whiskeys.
Mother Egan's will be featuring foods on St. Patty's Day that would make an Irishman proud: shepherd's pie, fish & chips, corned beef and cabbage wrap, Irish stew, and smoked turkey leg (surely you've heard of the famous Irish turkeys that roam the hills of the Emerald Isle). The regular kitchen menu will not be offered due to the expected crush of celebrants. They will have Celtic bands playing throughout the day; expect the Tea Merchants and others, rain or shine. The seating is comfy, whether you're inside or on the big patio outside. Generally the crowd here is older and more professional, but on the biggest Irish day of the year, all bets are off.
It's a great spot to get your Gaelic on, and there is no doubt that it will be even more crowded for St. Patty's than it is for the regular Tuesday night trivia fest. Open at 10am, and going "until we can't go any longer." $5 cover. – M.V.
Crown & Anchor Pub2911 San Jacinto, 322-9168
Monday-Saturday, 11am-2am; Sunday, noon-2am
For the last 20 years Crown & Anchor has been the go-to pub serving the university community, making everyone from effete professorial types and nerdy engineers to frats and punks feel like this is their own private spot, and all of the disparate groups blend seamlessly: a true haven for people-watching. It's one of those places where the staff never leaves; many have been there for a decade or more. There is a huge selection of brews on the board from which to choose, with enough international selections and domestic microbrews to tease the true beer gourmand.
The burgers are legendary and cheap, and the fries rival any in town. When it comes to pub grub, Crown & Anchor always gets high marks. There is a big, sunny front deck ideal for lizardlike repose and perfect for the dogs (and they get their own water bowls).
The Crown will have green beer on St. Patty's Day, for that element seeking quaff in emerald hues, but more importantly, domestics and pints of Guinness and Harp will be at happy-hour prices all day long ($3.75; one of the best prices in town). Other than that, don't expect much else to commemorate the death and feast day of Ireland's patron saint. This is a bar that doesn't let itself get too worked up about anything, but do expect a big crowd that night. – M.V.
Draught House Pub4112 Medical Pkwy., 452-MALT (6258)
Monday-Thursday, 5pm-2am; Friday-Sunday, 3pm-2am
For 40 years the Draught House has been the watering hole of a diverse group: doctors and hospital staff, students, neighborhood folks, and beer lovers. They can't open early because they share a parking lot with another business, and they can't have loud music because of the neighbors, but they make up for it with Guinness and Murphy's for $2.75 a pint – a great price! The Draught House will be running their regular menu of pizza and calzone (using Mangia's crust), nachos, chips and salsa, and quesadillas. Folks come here to sip and savor fine brews, and the food is to sustain you through the night; it isn't meant to be fine dining.
On their list of some 70 international and microbrew "guest beers," you'll find Harp, Guinness, Smithwick's, and Murphy's from Ireland and Bass, Belhaven, Boddingtons, Fuller's, and Wells & Young's from Britain. They've also got a selection of six different and very potent barley wines (ales with a wine alcohol percentage), not to mention five or so selections of their highly respected house-brewed quaffs. The space is warm, big, and open, with friendly service and good prices. And even though in many respects St. Patty's Day will be just another Monday night here, expect to find it packed with well-wishers toasting Ireland and its saint. – M.V.
BB Rover's Cafe & Pub12101 Jollyville Rd., 335-9504
Sunday-Friday, 11am-12mid; Saturday, 11am-1am
For those in the Northwest side of town, BB Rover's has 300 beers (four Irish and 26 British) and good burgers and bar noshes. For St. Patty's they'll be featuring Guinness, a corned beef and cabbage special, and Celtic music on CD.
Bennigan's Grill & Tavern301 Barton Springs Rd. (and three other locations), 472-7902Sunday-Wednesday, 11am-1am; Thursday-Saturday, 11am-2am
Join Bennigan's for its annual Blarney Blast, featuring beer and drink specials and Gaelic decorations. At 4pm Celtic Songbird takes the stage, followed by three rock bands, with raucous bagpipes between sets.
Sherlock's Baker St. Pub9012 Research, 380-9443
Sherlock's will start celebrating on Friday and will feature a St. Patty's menu of Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage (also British dishes: Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, fish & chips, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, corned beef Reuben). Expect Gaelic decorations, acoustic music 5-9:45pm, and a rock band after that.
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery2701 Parker Rd. #300, Round Rock, 512/244-1505
Sunday-Friday, 11am-12mid; Saturday, 11am-1am
Expect saucy lass servers; drink specials; good beers like Smithwick's, Harp, and Guinness on draft; Irish whiskeys; traditional dishes (corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, etc.); bagpipers and Celtic music; giveaways and swag all day long, and part of the proceeds will benefit local community health clinics.
Maggie Mae's323 E. Sixth, 478-8541
At press time Maggie Mae's had not finalized their celebration plans, but with 25-plus years on Sixth Street under its belt, a large floor plan with several bars, a nice beer list, and room for music, expect frivolity. – M.V.