The Dublin Pub

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Ask a Dubliner what the city is famous for and they'll look a little cagy, search the sky for inspiration and then eventually reply with a sort of plaintive "Literature? You know Joyce, O'Casey, Wilde em...em...Roddy Doyle". As a city we're guilty of many things (we're particularly good at accidentally knocking down buildings that might possess even the slightest historical significance) and pride in our literary tradition is one of them, despite the fact that few have ever read the collected works of the artists listed - Joyce's Ulyssees presents a particular conundrum being a book about Dublin that most Dubliners won't even begin to read. But the real reason for the caginess described above is the fact that deep down in all our hearts we know that if there's one thing the city is truly famous for it's our pubs.
It's a source of deep embarrassment for a couple of reasons. Firstly because there's an inbred belief that it's a pretty paltry thing for (what we like to think of as) a major European City to base its reputation on and, secondly, because we know we spend far too much time in them really. But it's difficult not to. A good Dublin Pub is the most welcoming place on the planet, combining the comforts of home with...well with a bounitful supply of alcohol, served by a diffident but never subservient barman. And they're real, they're stained with the ochre of a thousand nights of a million cigarettes, they provide anonymity and familiarity at the same time and, unfortunately, they're fast disappearing.
Here then is a list of delightful places you may like to drop into if, in the words of the nauseating song, " ever find yourself cross the sea in Oireland"

Mulligan's, Poolbeg Street.
Old, dilapadated and extremely busy, Mulligan's used to be the local for the now defunct Irish Press - full of disgruntled hacks and aspiring Joyces. It's a tad seedy, but wonderful for it and the barmen serve the perfectly poured pints with a disdain that suits the infamous notion of Catholic guilt just perfectly. As with all good Dublin Pubs don't expect to eat anything there, just ensconse yourself in the bar from the early evening and enjoy the time slip seamlessly away.
It's also worth ensuring you don't cause any trouble. An ex-boss of mine was barred in the early seventies (for a fight that he still claims he didn't start, just finished) - he returned some fifteen years later only to be refused entry on the grounds that they'd already told him he was barred.

The Beggars Bush, Haddington Road
Local knowledge will tell you that the Bush used to be much better - it didn't, it used to be a shed. It was rebuilt in the eighties in the style of...well in the style of nothing really, it's just a pub, there's no fancy decor, no bric-or-brac, just extremely good pints at some of the lowest prices that you'll find in the entire city. It's also around the corner from Landsdowne Road - the rugby stadium - and on match days is full of locals and visitors alike trying to cram as many pints into themselves as humanly possible, in order to make their viewing of the match as uncomfortable as possible. It also boasts the unusual feature for an (almost city centre) pub of a beer garden. Well it's less of a beer garden and more of a large patio that let's you sit and view the traffic as it passes on a busy road.

The Stag's Head, Exchequer Street.
Bundles of Victoriana and, unsurprisingly enough, a massive Stag's Head are the sartorial hallmarks of this joyful den of inequity. Inhabited by students, bohemians and a plethora of people who used to one of either (or both) the Stag's is dark and wonderful for it. The snug (which isn't) has no natural light to disturb your drinking and it's quite easy to loose an entire day in the blink of an eyelid. Which is nice. The pints are great and the Stag's also supplies a rare thing in Dublin Pubs - hot food that doesn't get in the way of the more serious matter of drinking. The sausage and chips are massive but don't order the Quiche if you're male, the slagging that accompanies it is just not worth the grief.

Toner's, Lower Baggot Street
Situated beside the truly awful Big Jack's Bar (that used to be the truly wonderful Baggot Inn) Toner's is a small but perfectly formed pub that provides all the essentials - drink, an open space and a couple of snugs in which to hide should the need arise. The beer is great, the food predictably crap and there is a slight tendency for it to be overwhelmed by an office or slightly touristy crowd. Again it provides the perfect ambiance for the night, though a slight leaning towards the terrible grocer's style of fake Oirish pubs take away from its many positives.

Keogh's, South Anne Street
A couple of years ago Keogh's was sold and the combined student and ex-student population of Dublin took a sharp intake of breath - "Oh no, they'll ruin it" they cried. They didn't. They actually improved the place. From being a cramped, overrun little pub the new owners transformed it into a cramped, overrun big pub, by opening the upstairs - which now sort of resembles your Granny's front room. Situated as it is just off the main shopping thoroughfare of Grafton Street, Keogh's is a blessed sanctuary from the hurly-burly of consumerism and the perfect spot for an early-to-mid afternoon pint or three.

Fallon's, off Clanbrasil Street
Nestling, almost, in the shadow of St Patrick's Cathedral, Fallon's (The Capstan to those in the know) is tiny - it's basically a bar with a few tables scattered around - but a great place to kick off an evening. Get a seat early before lunch and you can enjoy a ridiculous toasted sandwich made with gutbusting batch bread, which is pretty much guaranteed to soak up all but the heaviest of pint sessions.

These are in the words of the lovely songstress Dana 'a few of my favourite things'. It is, of course, not definitive, nor probably complete but gives a flavour of what you can get if you hit the right places. To end on a word of warning... for every half decent public house in the fair City there's at least a dozen horrible places of the kind you can find in every city on the planet - choose carefully, avoid places that have Carvereys and, if you actually want to meet any Dubliners, for God's sake avoid Temple Bar like the plague.

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