My friend John, God rest his merry soul, was an Irishman and a self-proclaimed alcoholic. One year, we found ourselves in Boston, where they take St. Patrick's Day very seriously. That particular holiday always made him cranky, and he was acting like a boar hog stuck in a bathtub. "What's bugging you?" I asked. "I don't like seeing all these beginners drunk," he said. "It's like amateur hour."
Some of that amateur hour mentality also goes on right here in Austin, and the place to find these slapdash revelers is any place they serve green beer. Luckily, we have a huge number of central city places that are serious about serving great beer and booze, as well as food to bring a smile to your face.
B.D. Riley's Irish Pub (204 E. Sixth, 512/494-1335, www.bdrileys.com) serves Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny, and Smithwicks, and their fish and chips are as good as you'll find anywhere. The free music will start at 10:30am and run till around midnight, with Kenny Tweedy, Joe Gee, the Tea Merchants, Sunday in Leith, the Kristen Gibbs Band, and Sean Orr's Full Celtic Band. There's no cover, and you can always count on a properly pulled Guinness.
After 24 years of putting on the definitive Irish party for the Apostle of Ireland, the Dog & Duck Pub (406 W. 17th, 512/479-0598, www.dogandduckpub.com) now faces stout competition for the title. Still, it's a sure bet that anyone who decides to spend the day at the D&D will be glad they did. The beer selection has something for everyone, while the kitchen will demonstrate why they have won a now-retired Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll award nine times in 12 years. The best cadre of live music in town will be free, as always. Things start at 11am with the Capitol City Highlanders. During the day, they'll have the Inishfree School of Irish Dance, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Mike McCoy, Sean Orr, Black Irish Texas, and Ed Miller & Rich Brotherton. The highlights will include the inimitable, incomparably brilliant, singer-songwriter Kathy McCarty, the magnificent Shoulders, and rock & roll Hall of Famer Ian McLagan, along with his mates in the Bump Band.
Fadó (214 W. Fourth, 512/457-0172, www.fadoirishpub.com/austin) has the city's permission to shut down a big chunk of the Warehouse District, so there's plenty of room for the revelers that congregate each year. Festivities start at 6am, which means you are guaranteed to hear some customer calling out to the waitstaff, "I'll have a Guinness wit' me eggs!" Music starts at 10am; at 4pm, the wee ones have to leave and it becomes a very adult place to hang around. Music includes Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums, the Tea Merchants, Hair of the Dog, Sunday in Leith, Wow, and the Blaggards. Tickets are $10 advance/$15 door.
For anyone who loves the bewitching, myriad flavors that come from the simple combination of starch, yeast, hops, and water, the Ginger Man (301 Lavaca, 512-473-8801, www.aus.gingermanpub.com) is like heaven on Earth. To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, they are having Mason Lemons starting at 4pm. They bill themselves as "the heaviest acoustic band in the world," which makes me wonder if they've ever been around Del Castillo.
Opal Divine's ( www.opaldivines.com) boasts the biggest party in town; in fact, it's spread out across their three different locations at Penn Field (3601 S. Congress, 512/707-0237), the Marina (12709 MoPac, 512/733-5353), and Davenport (3801 N. Capital of Texas Hwy., 512/369-3709). Opal's offers excellent food and a wide selection of Celtic whiskies (plus Texas craft-brewed beers); there's no cover at any location, and each will be open until 2am on St. Paddy's Day. The music starts at noon, and the lineup includes Rich Brotherton & Ed Miller, Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums, Bedlam Bards, Black Irish, Guy Forsyth, Michael Fracasso, and Shirley & Jesse. If you miss a musician at one location, check the website – they're liable to be playing at a different Opal Divine's later in the day.
Moving away from the city center, the 2014 Austin St. Patrick's Day Festival sets up camp this year at the Shoal Crossing Event Center (8649 Mopac Service Road, 512/372-3918, www.stpatricksdayaustin.com). As always, the festival organizers have set aside several activities for the younger members of your family. Festivities start at 3pm and end at the very civilized hour of 9pm. Music will be on offer from the delightful band Girsa, a band composed of young ladies who have all represented the United States at the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Makem & Spain Brothers, Aidan, Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums, and the Tea Merchants round out the music. Tickets are $12 online or $15 at the gate for adults. The ticket price for children under 13 is $3/$5.
At North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery (10010 N. Capital of TX Hwy, 512-467-6969, www.nxnwbrew.com), Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums will start at 5pm; at 7pm, Jeremy Steding & Liver Dance perform. Chef George Powell will be making Irish stew and soda bread while brewers Don Thompson and Kevin Roark will be pouring Irish Stout and Red Zeppelin Irish Red. There's no cover charge.
Eleven Plates and Wine (3801 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Suite. C-200, 512-328-0110, www.elevenplates.com) will offer a special menu for both lunch and dinner.
St. Patrick's Day takes place Monday, March 17. Confirm hours of operation and band lineups ahead of time. An expanded version of this story can be found online at austinchronicle.com/food.
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