Five Ways to Know You’re at an Authentic Irish Pub
Ireland has two chief exports: its people and its pubs. At Halsted Harp in Chicago, you get both. Co-owner Garrett Diamond frequently mans the bar and emerges from behind it to chat up his patrons. A native of Drogheda, County Meath, Diamond opened the pub with business partner and fellow Irishman Conor Kelly, whom he met when working at restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. In 2009, the pair opened Halsted Harp, an alliterative nod to the Irish roots they’ve planted here in Chicago. As a proprietor and frequenter of many of the city’s Irish pubs, Diamond shared with us his tips for finding only the most authentic.
Listen for the accents.
“Having people from Ireland [work in the pub] helps,” Diamond says. “It’s only natural. I wouldn’t know the first thing about running a Greek restaurant.”
A drinking session turns into a music session.
In a “classic paddy pub” musicians are practically part of the decor. Typically armed with guitars, bodhráns (drums), accordions, or flutes, these musicians leisurely congregate behind a table littered with pint glasses. They pull from a familiar catalog of folk and traditional Irish classics, often inviting others to join in as the session deepens.
Glassware counts. Pudding matters.
At the bar, Guinness must be poured into a 20-ounce tulip pint glass—not, as Diamond warns, into a 16-ounce American pint glass. In the kitchen, full Irish breakfasts should plate eggs, rashers, toast, and black pudding—the cutesy, misleading name for blood sausage.
Blarney swims in shallow and deep waters, Diamond says. It can range from the minor infractions, which might include riddling menu items and descriptions with extraneous Mc's and Os. It might be a tad more visible—and a bit more fluorescent—if green beer flows from the taps. The most egregious blarney, however, might be the hiring of leprechaun impersonators. “You’d never see a little lad running around [a real Irish pub],” Diamond confirms.
Football with no helmets.
“You’d get a little bit of a following for the sports at home,” Diamond says. So with the time differences, expect a rowdy rugby crowd to watch games such as the Six Nations tournament, which can air as early as 7 or 8 a.m.
Updated: As of 2014, Garrett and Conor operate Johnny O'Hagan's, a famous Chicago pub just blocks from Wrigley Field.
John writes and edits stories on food and style.