Irish pubs are different than all other types of bars. They have a welcoming, cozy feel, a unique style and friendly atmosphere that sets them aside from the many other theme-driven watering holes that people flock to. At the same time, there is no single formula to which all Irish pubs must comply. There are quiet, upscale pubs that offer craft beers and fine dining, as well as rollicking sports bars where rugby and soccer are a must watch. There are also lovely little neighborhood taverns where local musicians can join in an Irish jig, as well as venues where named acts take the stage. Here are five very different, yet authentic Irish pubs in Connecticut.
Vaughan’s Public House
59 Pratt St.
From the Glenkerry Potatoes and baked potato soup, to the black and tan onion rings and corned beef sliders, the menu at Vaughan’s evokes the Ireland of myth and magic that Americans of Irish descent find quaint, charming and welcoming. There is Guinness Stout, Harp and Kilkenny on tap, along with many other American and English beers. Additionally, Vaughan’s offers a nice selection of bottled beers to help wash down the fine pub food, or to just wet the whistle of those who stop in for a pint on the way home. The place is decorated with lots of local and Irish memorabilia and the setting is warm and comforting.
McKinnon’s Irish Pub
114 Asylum St.
Hartford, CT 06103
From the $4 (on Wednesday evenings) 20-ounce “Irish pints” to the Guinness lamb stew, bangers and mash and cottage pie, McKinnon’s is as Irish as its name. This Hartford restaurant and bar is a true Irish pub, complete with a pool table and live music, which includes both named acts on weekends and an Irish jam on Wednesdays. They have a solid selection of Irish and American beers, plus a full bar with fine whiskey and mixed drinks.
The Black Sheep
247 Main St.
Niantic, CT 06357
The Black Sheep in Niantic lauds itself as “an upscale Irish bar and restaurant,” with hardwood floors, a tin ceiling and a grand bar made of dark mahogany. There is a roaring fire to cozy up near in the cold weather, and an airy patio for warmer evenings, with 15 draft beers and an admirable whiskey selection from which to choose. The menu offers solid pub food, with bangers and mash and Angus burgers. Diners can also choose from more elegant dishes such as pan seared stonington sea scallops and steamed mussels. There is usually some event going on, from trivia games and karaoke to live music and benefit charity nights.
Tigin Irish Pub
175 Bedford St.
Stamford, CT 06901
Tigin Irish Pub in Stamford is a traditional Irish pub of the sports bar variety — and of the kind of sports played, viewed and cheered for in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Great Britain. Tigin is the perfect place to watch English Premier Soccer League and rugby three, four or sometimes more nights a week. The menu starts with traditional bar food, but there are also “big plates” selections that include shepherd’s pie, blackened chicken and shrimp boxty (a boxty is a traditional Irish savory potato pancake cooked on griddle). Of course, corned beef and cabbage and a full Irish breakfast, offered all day, are also on the menu. The draft and bottled beer menu is everything a fan of Irish and English brews could want and more.
McLadden’s Irish Publick House
6 Wilcox St.
Simsbury, CT 06070
Publican and brewmaster Michael Ladden is a world-traveler, real-estate mogul, avid cyclist and pilot, yet it is his appreciation for fine whiskey and craft beer that puts the inspiration behind his pubs. Of Irish ancestry, Ladden has given more than just a version of his name to the “Gastropub & Whiskey Bar” in Simsbury. There are always at least 50 local, national and international beers available, many of them craft beers, as well as a wide assortment of whiskey. Although billed as a “beer lovers heaven,” McLadden’s also has a marvelous menu, which has been described as “gastropub food with pizzazz.” There are build-your-own baked potatoes, burgers, mac and cheese and nachos, plus wings, salads and sandwiches.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.