In 2006, the founders of Dublin Square Irish Pub & Restaurant followed through on their longtime vision of bringing a small piece of their homeland to East Lansing?literally. Much of the pub's interior decor was gathered or built in Ireland then transported some 4,000 miles to its new home in Michigan. That includes the hand-carved mahogany bar, which was reassembled on-site by the same craftsmen who built it across the pond, where the wood would otherwise have toiled in obscurity as an ornate armoire.
Surrounded by these Irish relics, the pub's visitors can truly celebrate the craic?a term for the camaraderie and good cheer that abounds in a welcoming pub. They can also dig into classic Irish dishes, such as bangers and mash, a dish consisting of locally made Irish sausage, crispy haystack onions, and a side of Guinness mustard. The menu honors American favorites, too, including New York strip steaks and pizza. All of these meals come together over rounds of drinks that range from draft beers to international wines.
More than 30 years ago, a neighborhood gas station reopened as Harrison Roadhouse—though it took years of work to transform the building into the popular neighborhood joint it is today. Service-bay doors became towering windows, barstools and tabletops replaced docks, and auto mechanics were swapped for wait staff. Exposed brick surrounds the now-unrecognizable interior, where glasses and silverware clink beneath Spartans sports flags and the hundreds of license plates that checker the walls. In the kitchen, grills sizzle with burgers, seafood, and steaks, and behind the bar, glasses brim with 24 different types of draft beer and cocktails. The bar offers drink and food specials throughout the week, including a weekly Friday fish fry, where unlimited seafood draws ravenous diners and walruses alike.
The dining room at City Limits Sports Grill is a peaceful retreat from the bustling bowling center just outside, where pins clatter and leagues cheer beneath flat-screen TVs and a colorful wall mural. The grill's menu collects classic American comfort food, such as 13 kinds of grinders, St. Louis–style baby back ribs, and beer-battered fish sandwiches. Pints of beer or root-beer floats poured into frosty mugs help round out each meal. In addition to leagues, City Limits also hosts open bowling, birthday parties, and bowling fundraisers.
Elk and wild boar make unlikely bar guests, but the stuffed trophies of both are regulars on the walls at Jimmy’s Pub alongside a cadre of vintage portraits. This East Lansing bar—which has the old-fashioned, outdoorsy air of a brick-paved street, complete with antique-style street lamps—has been serving frosty mugs of Fat Tire and Guinness brews for more than a decade. Behind the wooden, horseshoe-shaped bar, bartenders pour drafts and mix specialty martinis such as the Blue Angel, whose vodka, blue curaçao, and crème de cacao come together only when shaken at 7 Gs. A hefty menu of Italian and American bar bites complements the libations with plates of seven-layer lasagna, half-pound burgers, and pretzel-crusted salmon. Fifteen high-definition televisions broadcast sports games throughout the expansive dining space, and a jukebox thrums with peppy tunes.
Black Cat Bistro's chefs may use ingredients from local purveyors, but they transform them into a menu of international favorites. Starters include puff pastries stuffed with baked brie and drizzled in black cherry-almond compote. The main dishes are no different?there's mussels steamed in white wine and tortilla-crusted whitefish with corn salsa.
The drink list is just as fun to peruse, especially if you can fold it into a swan. It contains several house versions of the moscow mule and the bloody mary. Those who prefer a more traditional drink can always order a glass of wine, though they'd be remiss to pass up clever cocktails such as a ginger-pear sour with pear vodka and ginger brandy.