I was reading Michael Massing’s “Obama: In the Divided Heartland” in a recent NYRB when I was struck by the following sentence (in the first paragraph of section 2): “With a population of 17,000, Perrysburg has a storybook feel to it, with a charming main street lined with restaurants, pubs, a bake shop, a knitting shop, and a coffee shop named My Daily Grind.” Pubs? My first thought was that Massing might be British, but although (according to his Wikipedia entry) he’s studied at the London School of Economics, he’s definitely American, as you can hear from this YouTube interview. So I did a Google search on Perrysburg+pubs and got over 55,000 hits: “Bars Grills And Pubs in Perrysburg OH,” “Perrysburg, OH Bars, Pubs, & Clubs,” “Perrysburg Coupons: Pubs,” “Perrysburg Beer Taverns & Pubs”…. it’s clearly not Massing’s invention. They have pubs in Perrysburg, Ohio, and by extension (since the very reason Massing is reporting from there is that it’s an example of the “real America”) all across the country.

But when did this happen? I think of pubs as an exclusively British and Irish institution, and when I think of a pub on American soil my image is of a place that serves warm beer and has a name like the Kings Head or the Spotted Pig, catering to people from across the Atlantic, and presumably those are found primarily in cities like New York and Boston. Is “pub” now what “tavern” used to be, a vaguely upscale equivalent of “bar”? My barhopping days are fifteen or so years behind me, so I appeal to those with more recent experience in this field.


  1. I think of tavern as a downscale bar, one not serving hard liquor. Pub as British or Irish or Imperial, and an affectation elsewhere.
    I checked the pubs in Portland OR, and a few of them were classic British-Isles-themed places, but most were relatively new (less than 30 years old) yuppyish places.

  2. In Utah, the places that brew beer on the premises (a nice little loophole in our odd liquor laws) have always been called brew pubs. They always had to serve food with the beer (another legal quirk) and still do. In Boston the pubs tended to mostly serve beer with a real, if limited, menu. Burgers and fries, chowder and appetizers sort of thing.

  3. Yeah, places that brew their own beer are always call (brew-)pubs. It’s a fairly recent trend, probably the last 30 years.

  4. Brewpubs, of course—I forgot about that collocation, which has become more and more prevalent over the last couple of decades. Didn’t realize it had penetrated so deep into the heart of the country, though.

  5. rootlesscosmo says

    A map showing the distribution of names for places that sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises would be a nice thing to see. Northern New Jersey Irish-American railroad workers around 40 years ago customarily used “gin mill.”

  6. Bar is pretty generic in MN. I picked up tavern in OR. Club implies something a bit extra, such as good food or music or dancing. I’ve never seen saloon except in a phony nostalgic sense.

  7. I too haven’t barhopped (or pub crawled)* in a long time, but it’s my impression that a pub is
    1) relatively downscale
    and either
    2) serves food to diners at tables as well as serves alcohol at tables or at a bar
    3)has live entertainment on a regular basis–if not every night, than at least on a regular weekly schedule
    Very often, it does both 2 and 3.
    I haven’t noticed tavern used for sometime except as an affectation, as part of a venue’s name (Kelly’s Tavern) or as part of the venue’s advertising.
    *Those two terms might be worth a post on their own.

  8. The strongest association I have with pub, as a Northeastern American who enjoys frequenting them, is that, while being a subset of bars, they have a more defined aesthetic style. They have wooden tables and a wooden bar, and wooden walls. They can be a dive, they can be a brewpub, or they can be more directly Irish pub (nothing, it should be noted, actually distinguishing those from the aforementioned set of pubs except for an Irish name and at least one Irishman behind the bar, or theoretical Irishman behind the bar), but they definitely do not have glass bars, fancy modern illuminated walls, too much metal, or any further contemporary or modern notes.

  9. At least in New England I think “tavern” is completely archaic. Other than the usages kishnevi correctly notes, no one says “tavern” as a generic term unless trying to archaicize. “Pub” has gained currency partly due to brewpubs, but also because in the last 20 years every new bar in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire appears to be an Irish style pub – complete with live entertainment, quiz nights, darts, wood floors and usually actual Irish people behind the bar or serving. I don’t think of “pub” as downscale at all, quite the opposite – it seems to me more like a symbol of gentrification. For example, in my old hometown in NH Patrick’s Pub is the firmly middle to upper middle class faux Irish apres ski joint. And in my new town in Mass, the Irish pub is the chic hangout, the dive is the Cherry St. Tavern around the corner. I’ve also noticed that economically depressed Pittsfield seems to be lacking in “pubs.”

  10. A quick google of Chicago pubs show they are concentrated on the sissified North Side, home of the Cubs. That pretty much speaks for itself, but Chicago is a beer town–you don’t order wine here. Of course there are numerous microbreweries. On the manly South Side, home of the White Sox, they are not called pubs. There are a few establishments with “pub” in the name, some Irish, where you can order a black and tan, but they are longstanding and not at all yuppified. For instance there is the Wurst Pub in Blue Island, which can only be described as a dive, which used to be known for it’s mostly lesbian championship horseshoe team, where a red headed lesbian bartender with a master’s degree in social work would insult you before bringing your order. If you asked for Courvoisier, you could get it, but she would insult you again for ordering it. If you wanted it in a snifter, you were out of luck, but she could find you a (clean) wine glass from her archives, along with some eye rolls. I may be a bit behind the times as far as drinking establishments, but no one I know talks about “pubs” here unless it is part of the name of the establishment.

  11. There’s a cult dive bar in Portland, OR, called “The Vern”. It used to be called “X Tavern”, for some value of X, but someone wrecked the sign. It’s an old neighborhood bar in a newly hip neighborhood, and slumming hipsters go there for their PBR.
    Based on reports so far, “tavern” seems idiomatic on the west coast but not elsewhere.
    Sauk Centre MN, pop. ~4,000, home of the first American Nobel Laureate in literature, has six bars on the 500 block of Sinclair Lewis Avenue, and I’ve bicycled to every one of them. It’s a Catholic town in an area where Prohibition was regarded as an attack on the Holy Church itself, and people there respect the ancient traditions.
    “Centre” is correct, for reasons I can’t remember.

  12. Here in Washington, DC, I’d say my experience of the term “pub” corresponds more or less with Z. D. Smith’s. “Tavern” isn’t used in normal conversation, though a few bars/pubs do use it in their names, and I believe taverns are somehow distinguished from bars in DC law, though no one going to them is actually aware of the difference or of whether any particular establishment is legally a tavern or a bar.

  13. AJP (Rose &) Crown says

    The only use of the term I remember is Michael’s Pub in NY, which was a midtown tourist hangout because Woody Allen played Dixieland there,
    What are pubs typically named in Ireland? I can’t remember. They can’t have names like The King’s Head. The Dewdrop Inn?

  14. Is the pub phenomenon so surprising? Remember when bistros appeared?

  15. AJP: In my home town, Galway, The King’s Head and the Dewdrop Inn are about a minute’s walk from each other, on or around the main street. The other notable establishments in the area are The Bunch of Grapes, The Quays, and Tigh Neachtain (usually just called Naughton’s – first syllable pron. “knock”). My impression is that older pubs, especially outside Dublin, are slightly more likely to use the surname of the proprietor – O’Donoghue’s, O’Flaherty’s. That said, my grandfather’s pub, in a small village, was called The Breffni Bar.

  16. Johan Anglemark says

    Pubs in Ireland can definitely be and are sometimes called The King’s Head – which refers to the beheaded Charles I if I recall correctly. They’re often called after the name of the publican: McSweeney’s, Ó Neachtain, or after where they’re located: The Quays, Dame Street Lounge… Nothing special about their names that I can think of.
    Wait, it’s even mentioned in the Wikipedia article on Charles I: “An Irishman named Gunning is widely believed to have beheaded Charles, and a plaque naming him as the executioner is on show in the Kings Head pub in Galway, Ireland.”

  17. I was amazed, when I returned to St. Paul for ESL teacher training, to find coffeehouses sprung up all over like mushrooms. This corner of Chicago still doesn’t know about Starbucks.

  18. The idea that British pubs serve “warm beer” is slightly outdated. They do serve bitter relatively warm, (but colder than it used to be, I believe) but also well chilled lager in large quantities (though not ice-cold as in Oz).

  19. Ah, how I longed for the British pub when I was in Arizona, where the beer had all its taste chilled out of it, and the British imports like Bass were carbonated (!!). How I longed for the 1890s glasswork and stained carpets, the draught pint, and the fat chips.

  20. Funny about The King’s Head — my late great uncle used to call it ‘The Queen’s Legs’ — and the Dewdrop Inn . How lucky you are to live in Galway, though luck may have nothing to do with it, I suppose.
    Yes, now I remember they’re often named after the owner.
    I agree that having different beers on offer at various temperatures, according to the type, is a big advantage.

  21. AJP Crown (Mrs) says

    I remember returning to San Francisco some time in the latter part of the Eighties, after a couple of years absence, and finding that every restaurant and drinking establishment in the entire city had become the Something ‘Bar & Grill’. That was when I realised I could never live there again.

  22. Washington Irving says

    A bar exists inside every pub, but every place which has bar is not a pub. The name itself is derived from public house, and the bar is simply one of the components of any pub.

  23. Is the pub phenomenon so surprising?
    Not at all, but it’s new to me (in an American context), so I wanted to find out about it. And I’m glad I asked, because this thread is both educational and entertaining.
    In my home town, Galway, The King’s Head and the Dewdrop Inn are about a minute’s walk from each other, on or around the main street.
    And I probably drank at them both when I was in Galway back around 1974; my sottish Oxford traveling companion and I decided to have a drink in every establishment on one block (of Forster St.?) in that fine city, and by the time we were done we were so spifflicated we decided to visit a Galway lass who had been in Irish class with us in Dublin and who had been incautious enough to give us her address, and we crossed the Corrib and staggered through increasingly quiet and leafy streets to a gated mansion that would have intimidated us under other circumstances, but we boldly rang the doorbell and were ushered in by an amused butler, who showed us into the drawing room and told us the young lady would be with us shortly. She entered bearing a bottle of Jameson’s, and frankly I have no idea how we managed to get back to our hotel that night. Wonderful country, Ireland.
    AJP (Rose &) Crown
    Have you seen your cousin AJP (Guild &) Stern lately?

  24. I was in England in October (I live in Canada) and an uncle of mine took me to a number of pubs that featured “real” beer. That is, places that featured actual pumps (as opposed to taps) and publicans and barmaids with strong arms to pull them. I tasted some delightful cask brews such as Voortrekker lager and Old Peculiar .
    I haven’t been able to find a local pub with cask pumps. I’ll keep looking.

  25. There’s a brewpub in the town, in the town
    Where my true love let me down,……

  26. I can’t attest to it, but I’d bet that widespread use of the term “pub” in the USA began about the same time that it became acceptable for restaurants and grocery stores to play non-stop music. But that’s for another forum…

  27. Another Galway reader here, though living in the States almost 20 years now. Spent a year or two in London in the early 90’s, when the Campaign for Real Ale appeared to be in full swing. In Ireland at the time, it was a big deal when Budweiser became available (in the long-neck bottle), to break the monopoly of the Guinness-Smithwicks-Harp triumbeerate. What a revelation then, for a young man, to go down to the local pub (called something like The Frog & Firkin) for a beer that tasted ALIVE!

  28. Please tell me that there are still a few drinking establishments in the US that describe themselves as “gin mills”.

  29. A. Rose Byany-Othername says

    I was going to say he’s dead, but according to Wiki, Tom Stoppard’s play about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern treats Language as a confounding system fraught with ambiguity. Maybe you ought to sue him. And then again, maybe not.

  30. How lucky you are to live in Galway

    Well, strictly speaking it’s not my hometown any more. I gravitated to Dublin.

    crossed the Corrib and staggered through increasingly quiet and leafy streets to a gated mansion

    I’m mentally retracing your steps from Forster Street, and I keep ending up at the Poor Clares convent in Nun’s Island. Were you in a condition to notice whether the young lady was wearing a wimple?
    Galway has changed a lot even since I last lived there fifteen or so years ago; it’s sprawled. But it still has its charms, and it has Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, which you’ll definitely want to visit next time you’re there. Likewise Kenny’s, which would have been going strong in 1974.

  31. rootlesscosmo says

    @ ajay: Please tell me that there are still a few drinking establishments in the US that describe themselves as “gin mills”.
    I don’t know if any described themselves that way. My fellow-railroaders used the term for the places they went for an eye-opener or a couple of pops after work–no-nonsense operations, with maybe a shuffleboard or a crappy pool table but no pretensions to quaintness or sophistication or Gemütlichkeit.

  32. rootlesscosmo says

    Further to my last comment: there was a gin mill in Jersey City that would cash your Jersey Central RR paycheck. To encourage you to stick around and spend some of it, they set up (railroad pay days only, the 10th and 25th of every month) a potato-pancake production line in the back, three women working nonstop grating spuds, frying them up, and serving them on paper plates with canned applesauce, 3 for a dollar. This was part of that zone of unofficial, semi- or non-commercial workplace cookery–firehouses may be the best-known example–that the foodie world doesn’t seem to have noticed.

  33. There’s a distinct historical break with the prohibition era: to my mind the defining characteristic of an American “pub” is *windows*.
    The idea is that you’re not ashamed of drinking, you’re going to do it in a civilized way, it’s not illegal or immoral and you’re not going to do it to excess.
    Taverns and bars, upscale or downscale, were windowless places where you went to do things you’d be ashamed of later.

  34. delightful cask brews such as Voortrekker lager and Old Peculiar
    Please, that’s Old Peculier.
    There’s a distinct historical break with the prohibition era: to my mind the defining characteristic of an American “pub” is *windows*.
    Except that the whole American “pub” thing started decades after Prohibition ended.

  35. Oh, and as rootlesscosmo says, “gin mill” is not a term used by the establishments themselves but by their habitués and critics.

  36. that zone of unofficial, semi- or non-commercial workplace cookery–firehouses may be the best-known example–that the foodie world doesn’t seem to have noticed
    Great idea! Do you know if there’s a book of firehouse cooks’ recipes?
    I’m just kidding, but it actually is a pretty good idea. Not for slimmers, though.

  37. I had always understood a pub to be a bar that served food and had a more homey atmosphere–people shy less from bringing their children to pubs than to other establishments serving liquor. In the U.S. it seems to me the pub is rare that does not have some Irish or British affiliation–whether in its name (in San Diego: Stout, Shakespeare, The Field, Dublin Square, the Blarney Stone, McMurphy’s, Hooleys), the football [I mean soccer] games it shows, its employees, its patrons, or some combination thereof.
    I have visited MANY pubs in Southern California, Boston, and Seattle, and their patrons have ranged from hipsters to yuppies to servicemen to Irish and British ex-pats of all ages. The universal appeal of the pub is part of its definition, I say.

  38. Oh and cask ale can be found in the U.S.–mostly at the fancier beer bars, e.g., Hamilton’s, O’Brien’s.

  39. At this point I think that idiomatic American is “tavern”, “bar”, or “club”, with “tavern” somewhat geographically restricted, and “club” often modified. In the US nowadays, “pubs” is mostly a cute marketing word, as are “saloon” and “bistro”. Things like “gin mill”, “dive”, “watering hole”, “beer joint” etc. are like nicknames.

  40. My sense is that “club”, especially among young people, is primarily used for establishments where the focus is dancing and meeting members of the opposite or same sex for the purposes of consensual sexual activity. “Going clubbing” is not the same as “bar-hopping”.

  41. AJP Crown, Mrs says

    Personally I never had any luck with that line, ‘I wonder if you’d be interested in arranging a meeting for purposes of consensual sexual activity’, but maybe it works for you, Vanya.

  42. The last time I was in London, the “pubs” were open at specific hours and served a limited selection of hot food from a steam counter, as well as cold beer, warm bitters, hard liquor (“Pimm’s”!?), and the occasional bland American beer. There were a couple hours during the noon lunch and then they opened after work for more hours in the evening, when they had to close exactly at 11:00 (I think–last call). Maybe you had until 11:10 or 11:15 (another exact time) to finish any drinks. After that everyone went to private “clubs” where you had to be a member. The clubs were for dancing and also had specific hours.
    An American “club” is just a fancy “bar” and would probably be focused around a theme “jazz club” “blues club” and have a cover charge when there was live music or a DJ.
    Personally I never had any luck with that line, ‘I wonder if you’d be interested in arranging a meeting…
    Probably depends on whether you use “vous”.

  43. I had always understood a pub to be a bar that served food and had a more homey atmosphere. Not so much homey as housey, “pub” being the abbreviation of “public house” (as I’m sure everyone knew already). A pub should be a house, a home, even a home-from-home, and a centre of a community. You don’t get that with fake wooden rafters, or even real ones, and I am afraid the true pub is disappearing in Britain, being replaced by cheap restaurants which only look like pubs. The smoking ban has had a terribly destructive effect, as well. It’s heartbreaking.

  44. We have lots of pubs here in Toronto. Some are bland, corporate, cutesy and faux-Irish or faux-British, and some are more genuinely reflective of Toronto’s heritage. Some are in scruffy neighbourhoods and some are in affluent neighbourhoods. Some are upstarts and some are institutions. They have a few things in common, though… You can eat lunch at a pub. You can take your grandmother to a pub. You go there to drink a beer, not a martini. The aim is to sit down rather than mill around. As noted by others, there’s a lot of wood. The decor harkens back — sometimes tastefully, sometimes not — to an earlier time. The word “bar” conjures up a much different set of images and expectations.

  45. scarabaeus says

    upscale/downscale: it be a case of it being rare or common.
    Gone are the days in Isles where thee can swig down a local brew, A Scotsman introduce the word ‘NEW’ into every ones grey matter so that if ain’t old then thee can take swig. The Gnu follow the trends and pay dearly for the pleasure of keeping up/down with Jones.
    So I take it that Perrysburg Ohio has yet to join the 20th century in its drinking habits,and has yet to brew some new fangled beans from Seattle.
    Watering holes be always the place to spread the word on gene exchange.
    La La Land has many a whistle wetting stops named for a headless king and other rebels on the liffy along with the mucky ducks, due too so many restless ones seeking the truth in barley.

  46. Bill Walderman says

    I seem to recall that maybe 15 years ago, maybe 25, the Taverna Cretekou, a Greek restaurant in Alexandria VA, was persecuted by the authorities because it is (or perhaps was at the time) illegal in Virginia for any establishment to include in its name the word “tavern,” which the Virginia legislature found offensive. Apparently, the restaurant in question, which is still in existence, managed to get an exception or somehow found a way around the rule. Or maybe good sense prevailed and the anti-tavern rule (or should it be called an anti-“tavern” rule?) was repealed.

  47. “In the US nowadays, “pubs” is mostly a cute marketing word, as are “saloon” and “bistro”.”
    Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say. If I see a “bistro” in the US, I expect brick walls, plants, overpriced faux French dishes, and a longer-than-usual wine list. If I see “pub” I expect fake beams, gas fireplace, “hearty” food and a longer-than-usual beer list.
    BTW, there is an odd Galway connection on this site. My brother took off for Galway in 1972 to learn Irish. He ended up working at Ashford Castle. He came back with decent Irish and the ability to pull (is that what one says?) a pint of stout.

  48. I remember a ‘bar’ (but more of a pub, really) in Provincetown, Mass. called The Governor Bradford that when I went there first, in 1973*, I thought must refer to a current Massachusetts Governor but he turned out later to have been another Englishman, a pilgrim.
    *Nidge, ‘When you were four?’.

  49. The smoking ban has had a terribly destructive effect
    When I was in London just before Xmas I explained to my daughter that the new fashion of having tables outside every pub must have something to do with global warming, but I subsequently realised it was because of the smoking ban.
    When we arrived at Liverpool Street Station on a Sunday morning, there was nowhere to have breakfast except a pub! It was actually a very good ‘full English’ breakfast, despite our direct view into the adjacent Gents’ toilets, and though it’s a new thing, a result of the smoking ban, I liked it. I even considered getting a pint of Guinness to go with the bacon and eggs (mushrooms, sausages and toast), but my daughter would not have approved. So I drank tea in a pub. (Boo!)
    Since Liverpool Street sends trains to East Anglia, and nowhere near Liverpool, I can only assume the street is named after the contemporary (of the early railways) PM, Lord Liverpool. Does anyone know if that’s right?

  50. Almost right, AJP:
    From the official station (architectural) guide:
    The station, incidentally, takes its name from the street it is located on which in turn was built and named, during its construction in 1829, after Lord Liverpool, Great Britain’s Prime Minister from 1812 to 1827.

  51. …a very good ‘full English’ breakfast …and though it’s a new thing, a result of the smoking ban, I liked it.
    Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t what pubs are about. Tea is a fine drink and a great British tradition, as well, but it doesn’t belong in a pub (neither do young ladies who don’t let their fathers drink Guinness where and when they feel like it, say I). Tobacco smoke should.

  52. The Norse, like the Irish, are all either drunks or teetotalers. Corona seems to have fathered one of the latter.

  53. Crist is a common Norse surname, so if a Norseman married a Latina, they could quite plausibly name their son Jesus Crist.

  54. but it isn’t what pubs are about.
    Is that right? I thought they used to be places for the family in early Victorian times. I used to have a book, Victorian Pubs, by the great Mark Girouard, but I think my mother’s got it. I’ve also got Drink & The Victorians, by Brian Harrrison, maybe I’ll look at that later, it’s a history of the temperance movement… I’m fairly sure I had tea in a pub in Dublin in the early 70s.

  55. In Chicago, pub is often used in conjuction with another term, e.g. Pub crawl, pub fare, etc. It rarely exists on its own.

  56. if a Norseman married a Latina, they could quite plausibly name their son Jesus Crist
    Norwegians love hyphenated first names, and there used to be a kid in Alma’s class called Christopher-Robin. Now he’s a two metre tall teenager with baggy pants, acne and a wooly hat. One of the older kids in the family was Ole-Aleksander, named after character in a Norwegian series of children’s books. Now he drives a beaten-up 1980s Audi.

  57. scarabaeus says

    yee brew beer and yee brew ‘T’
    “T” became popular because it be expensive and the Lordly ones drank it so it must be good, but it was cheaper to brew a fine ale so those that had the new fangled cash went to the ‘T’ Houses to learn how show off their pinkie.
    As the Lordly ones failed pay the lesser ones enough farthings, the man o’ the street continued to addle the grey matter with tepid brews, in the publick ‘ouse for the common people, but as it became more expensive for brewing , the price hops being what they are, imbibing on ales be hi fashion.
    Thus the names of establishments that sell modified waters equate to the status of the drinker.

  58. AJPT Drinker says

    For my cup of T back in London at this pub by Liverpool St. Station, I was SHOCKED that I got given a T bag. That would never have happened in the old days when they didn’t have T in pubs.

  59. If you have ever tried to drink British coffee, it will give you a new appreciation for tea. The only place to get non-lethal coffee in London is at either an Italian trattoria or one of those Jewish coffeeshops where they all speak some other language, don’t know if it’s Hebrew or something else, but it’s definitely the sign of safe coffee. In all fairness, American tea is unpalatable, and you have to try English tea before you can like tea, although I have learned from the bedouins how to make tea that is superior to even British tea .

  60. I agree with the first commenter. A tavern is a downscale bar. A “pub”, to me (and I think of it as a British concept as well) has more of a “social” aspect to it. People go there to hang out with friends and the like and don’t really go there to drown their sorrows as they do in many taverns.

  61. mollymooly says

    @Breffni: Kenny’s has been a virtual-only bookshop for a year or two now.
    re: Irish pub names: a single pub can have up to three names: The [locale] Inn; [surname]’s; [the symbol on the sign]. Not all three may be displayed outside. If any is missing, this will be the name everyone knows it by.
    A pub is a building with its own address and a door onto the street.
    A bar is:
    1. a counter which separates drinkers from drink;
    2. a room containing such a counter:
    -a. e.g. in a hotel
    -b. in a pub [see below]
    In a pub, there are typically two rooms. One is the bar, with stools and standing room; the other is the lounge, with seats and tables. Optional extra rooms are: the snug, the back bar, upstairs, and downstairs. The answer to the question “is upstairs open?” is either “in about twenty minutes” or “it’s reserved”.
    “hard liquor” is called “spirits”. Pimms does not qualify.

  62. If you have ever tried to drink British coffee, remember you can always switch to Irish coffee.

  63. “The snug” is the bar Ena Sharples used to sit in in Coronation Street, in the 1960s. I’ve never actually seen one, but perhaps it’s more common in Ireland.
    When I was designing (bits of) cruise ships, I found out that “back bar” is (also) the term used for the counter, shelving and mirror, etc. against the wall (as opposed to “bar”, which is the counter between the customers and the bartender).
    I remember that New York has one authentically Irish pub. It’s a bar on E. 6th(?) Street and Bowery called Mc-Something or other, it even had sawdust sprinkled on the floor which is a habit that has mostly died out in Ireland and Britain. Now I think about it, I guess it’s McSorley’s, on E. 7th St. It was always full of Cooper Union students from across the street, otherwise it was fine.

  64. I visited McSorley’s a couple of times early in my NYC years, then gave it up because of all the loud annoying students. I never thought of it as particularly authentic, just old and famous. There are plenty of authentic Irish pubs/bars in NYC; there used to be one around the corner from me in Astoria that had a full supply of local papers from Ireland and the accents were so thick I could barely understand them. That was the place I took people who wanted a real Guinness.

  65. Yeah, you’re right. I’m just getting old and I forget everything. I’m sure the ones in Queens are more authentic in the sense that they’re more connected to Ireland, but McSorley’s looks more like a pub. The thick accents result from Liffey Water overdose.

  66. Portland OR has a real Irish bar run by real Irishwomen called “Biddy McGraw’s”. It seems to be a gathering place for Irishpersons in Portland, together with Americans who like the kinds of things they do (i.e. not sentimental Irish-Americans). It’s “authentic” in a non-nostalgic way — like a contemporary nationalistic Irish bar. They’re notably unfriendly to people with British accents.

  67. And yes, real Guinness that takes five minutes to draw. The Irish have no sense of time.

  68. In a real Irish bar, at busy times, the Guinness is poured in advance, like Big Macs in McDonalds.

  69. mollymooly:

    Kenny’s has been a virtual-only bookshop for a year or two now.

    I thought that too, but according to their site, they opened a new physical retail shop in Liosbán last summer:

    Completely different to the nooks and crannies of the former High St shop, the new Bookshop is more akin to an American style Bookbarn with wide open spaces and long aisles of books. And when you find a book you love, you can relax in one of the many armchairs to read.

    A lot of people will miss those nooks and crannies – and Liosbán isn’t quite as handy as High Street if you’re wandering around town of a Saturday afternoon – but I’m glad to hear they have a physical existence again.

  70. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve never noticed anyone Irish to be unfriendly just because I’ve got a (kind of) British accent. I suspect this may be an American myth. On the other hand I don’t want to derail a good discussion of Guinness.

  71. There are plenty of authentic Irish pubs/bars in NYC
    I think the thing that ties all these pub places together is that they’re old. There are some very good Modernist bars, but I cannot think of a single ‘modern’ pub that is pleasant in any way. They have that awful smelly yellow-green carpet and low, acoustical tile ceilings and video games. I think a (Irish & British) pub at its best must be authentically pre WW1. Or not, maybe I’m being too conservative.

  72. Corona, you Saxon motherfucker, Biddy’s is authentically Irish. Probably your lackeys and concubines are the only Irish you know.

  73. AJP Guinness says

    I have no concubines. My lackey is Icelandic (horse). Garrison Keillor or however you spell it, is authentically Minnesotan. He doesn’t speak well of you, Emerson.
    And by the way, I don’t drink fucking yuppie Mexican beers.

  74. What ever happened to that guy Zyxopholous, the beer expert? He’d be in heaven in this thread. He could correct all my mistakes. Starting with his name.

  75. Keillor’s brother Steven is the author of a number of interesting books about Minnesota and related history, of which I have just ordered one.
    Keillor hates me because I refuted his claim to have been the oldest Second Class Scout in Minnesota.
    You may well ask, who was in fact the oldest Second Class Scout in Minnesota?
    Me, obvs. Keillor is a wannabe.

  76. mollymooly says

    I get the feeling there is more anti-British feeling in Irish America than in Ireland, at least the Republic of Ireland. Someone might care to draw an analogy with Koreans in Japan who sympathize more with North Korea than South Korea. Irish people tend to like English people, and to dislike the same things about the UK that English Guardian readers dislike about the UK. International sport is another kettle of ballgame.

  77. What ever happened to that guy Zyxopholous, the beer expert?
    That was zythophile (which means ‘beer-lover’ in pseudo-Greek). Yeah, he’d enjoy this thread, and he was here just a couple of weeks ago so he may well see it. (His site is here, and it’s well worth a visit for you beer fans.)

  78. Well that’s nice to know you’re the oldest, second-class something, even if it is just boy scout.

  79. Speaking only for my own prejudices: a bar is somewhere you go to drink hard liquor and a weak beer while watching a game of handegg on the bigscreen telly; a pub is where you go have a pint and perhaps play darts or a game of skittles (casual discussion of sheep is optional).

  80. real Guinness that takes five minutes to draw. The Irish have no sense of time.

    The classic representation of the anticipation involved in waiting for a pint to settle is this.

  81. It’s a bit of a myth about the Guardian, though. If you ever read the ‘Comments’ sections in the Guardian you’ll see that Guardian readers are as big a bunch of xenophobic arseholes as Daily Mail readers. (Except me, of course.)

  82. There’s no Guinness like a black and tan. Followed by a shot of Jameson.

  83. The Guardian has comments? I just fired off a rant to their editor because I couldn’t find a comment section, only the second time I have ever done so in my life. The first time was to the BBC, I seem to remember that one was also about corpses.

  84. Perhaps they only sometimes have them. Anyway, they’re not the kind of people you would want to be stuck on a desert island with.

  85. Thanks for the name-check, guys, and my apologies for arriving late at this particular party.
    Funny that “tavern” should apparently be downmarket now in the US – it started in England (in the 13th century) specifically as the name of a place that held a licence to sell wine, and was therefore as upmarket as you could get.
    Down the social scale from the tavern came the inn, which was originally specifically a place that supplied accommodation – hence the Inns of Court in London, originally accommodation for lawyers. At the bottom were the alehouses, places for drink only.
    “Tavern”, “alehouse” and “inn” are now obsolete as names in everyday use in the UK, swept away by “pub”, which only seems to have arrived (as a short form of the 17th-century “public house”) at the start of the 19th century, too late, presumably, for it to have been carried across the Atlantic with British emigrants to make it into American English.
    I could (but won’t, or not here, anyway) write you an extended treatise on the development of the concept of the bar, but my impression is that in the British Isles, “bar” as the name of the whole establishment was specifically an Irish and Scottish useage. Since the 1980s Britain has seen the arival of wine bars (regarded in the UK as originally American) and spirits/cocktail bars (ditto): the former are regarded as something different from a pub, the latter I’m not so sure.
    In an English (and Welsh) pub, meanwhile, and in places in Ireland and Scotland calling themselves pubs, “the bar” is both the counter where drinks are served and the room in which they are served, which would generally have a specific name denoting its status: “public bar” for hoi polloi and “saloon bar” for hoi aristoi being the commonest divisions. Many pubs have had their bars “knocked through”, however, to become “one-bar pubs”.
    “Crown” (on its own), incidentally, is the commonest pub name in Britain, just beating Red Lion …

  86. “Kron bar”? That’s inauspicious if you ask me.

  87. AJP Commonest Pub Name in Britain. says

    I like it.

  88. Here in Taiwan, they are all called pubs, never called bars. Except for the term girlie bar, or a new concept pub called in English signage “Talking Bar” in which scantily-clad hostesses sit next to male customers and chat with them while playing gambling games and getting them to drink more and more so the hostesses will earn extra money and the customers won’t even remember the bill they paid the next morning.

  89. The Guardian has informed me via a DONOTREPLY email that they can not publish my letter until I provide them with my street address and telephone number for verification; however they will put my letter on the desk of the appropriate editor/writer. #*@&!# corpse photos. They probably won’t even open it. Good thing I put it all in the heading.
    I used to pick up the Guardian when I stayed in London because it had Doonesbury. There was a comic that was supposed to be Scottish, but I could never understand it.

  90. Dr AJP Johnson says

    There was a comic that was supposed to be Scottish, but I could never understand it.
    In that case, it may well have been Scottish.

  91. There was a comic that was supposed to be Scottish, but I could never understand it.
    On the other hand, I was able to understand people in Scotland a little easier. One time I struck up a conversation with someone as we were both disembarking from a train, probably to find local information about where to eat at that hour, and soon found myself in a pub with a motley assortment of guys who had the largest set of dominoes I had ever seen. Although I couldn’t understand what they were saying, they apparently were making prurient remarks about the material and method of construction of the dominoes. Just as I had decided I was in the wrong pub, my informant admonished them and they immediately turned to a more understandable form of whatever they were speaking and bought me a drink. Of course I had to accept. My next pub in that neck of the woods–Scotch pub? Scottish pub?–was in the restaurant/bar (one room with tables and a bar at one end large enough for 4 or 5 stools) of some hostel where I met someone who had seen Nessie with his own two eyes. That time I knew I was in the right pub/bar/restaurant. It seems they have two forms of Scottish/English: one for themselves and another international form that is easier to understand that they can switch on or off at will.

  92. There’s a tiny Scottish detective whose series is often on Norwegian tv. My wife used to watch it to hear him say ‘mudder’ (murder), but now we all say it so she doesn’t have to (watch).

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