The Best Irish Pubs In Boston

By Jacqueline Cain
The Best Irish Pubs In Boston

Comfortable, dimly lit pubs with plenty of beer on tap and whiskeys on the shelf, the Irish influence on bar culture is one of the most iconic in the world. The Emerald Isle also has a deep connection to Boston politics and culture, so it only makes sense that there’s a place for a pint of Guinness or an Irish whiskey, neat, in every Boston neighborhood. Whether you’re looking for a lively place to catch a sporting match, hearty Irish fare, or simply a spot to relax with a pint, check out this guide to the best Irish pubs in Boston.

The Burren

THE BURREN - The Best Irish Pubs In Boston

Founded by a pair of musicians in 1996, The Burren honors that heritage with live music every night in Davis Square. In the convivial Front Room, that’s usually an Irish session, jazz, or other mellow folk, but more goes down in the Back Room venue, including comedy and trivia nights. Sometimes there’s even entertainment on the spacious backyard patio that’s open year-round. As far as food goes, there’s a large selection of classics for lunch and dinner, like Bangers and Mash and Guinness Beef Stew, and vegetarian-friendly fare for the college-town crowd, including uniquely delicious Shepherds Pie with lentils and golden mashed potatoes. The full bar crafts creative cocktails and there’s a proper beer list, too. Beloved by grad students, old-timers, locals, and the possibly lost tourist alike, the Burren is a Somerville staple.

The Banshee

THE BANSHEE - The Best Irish Pubs In Boston
Brian Samuels Photography

Head to The Banshee when you’re looking for a comfortable pub to post up for international soccer, especially the European leagues, as this Dorchester sports bar opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday with a breakfast menu of Salsa Verde Baked Eggs, Pulled Pork Breakfast Burrito, and more. It’s also one of the most reliable pubs in Boston for showing rugby matches and most American sports, too—all with the welcoming vibe of a classic Irish pub. The Banshee isn’t just about physical competition, either: The Wednesday night Pub Quiz is one of Boston’s only independent bar trivia nights. Along with an extensive beer list of imports and local drafts, The Banshee serves up simply satisfying cocktails. The kitchen is open late with plenty of pub fare; we can’t resist O’Malley’s Gaelic Fries topped with butcher’s cut bacon, cheddar cheese, and ranch drizzle.

The Druid

THE DRUID Boston | Best Restaurants in Inman Square

This authentic Irish bar in Inman Square offers not only the friendly atmosphere one expects from the genre, but also some of the best pub food around Boston. The Druid Fish and Chips are legendary, with a fresh filet of cod lightly battered, fried crisp, and served on a plate of food-safe newspaper with homemade tartar sauce and hand-cut fries. (Mouth watering yet?) We love the traditional Shepherd’s Pie with roast lamb and root vegetables, but if you visit during the colder months, try the Oxtail Soup, a house favorite from September through March. The Druid does weekend brunch with signatures including a traditional Irish Breakfast. Live music fills the snug space three times a week, including during Sunday brunch. The pub has stained-glass windows and other cool art like ethereal banshees soaring near the ceiling, and the bartenders’ brogues don’t hurt the atmosphere one bit, either.

Brendan Behan

The Best Irish Pubs In Boston - Brendan Behan

Jamaica Plain’s Brendan Behan pub is a Boston institution that’s only getting better as the years go by. To see what we mean, grab a seat on the heated and covered patio out back, which was in the works even before we knew we’d need a pandemic refuge. Inside, the traditional Irish pub is as cozy as ever, with portraits of Irish authors like its namesake playwright decking the dark walls, and a live Irish music session taking over a table every Saturday evening. There are chips for sale and the occasional food pop-up, but patrons often bring in takeout from one of Centre Street’s many mom-and-pops. The craft beer list at the Behan rivals some of Boston’s best beer bars, with fresh New England IPAs, crisp lagers, local stouts, and even fruity sour beers rotating through 19 draft lines aside Guinness. There are wines and classic cocktails, too.

Irish Village

The IV Boston pub
Credit: Mackenzie Dias

This Brighton mainstay is a timeless Irish pub with squishy black-vinyl seats, a solid wood bar, and gleaming brass fixtures. First opened in 1970, Irish Village doesn’t even have a website—but it has adapted in other ways, such as offering a thoroughly modern selection of craft beer on draft from the likes of nearby Notch Brewing, Fiddlehead IPA, Jack’s Abby, and others. (Guinness still tastes the same, though—just the way we like it.) As for food, your only option is a Toastie, but when the oozing-cheese sandwich arrives at your booth we’re sure you won’t mind. The IV, as it’s affectionately known, is as welcoming to Allston-Brighton twentysomethings as it is to its expatriate Irish regulars, who may even find common ground over a game of darts.

Emmets Pub & Restaurant

Emmets Pub & Restaurant
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Nestled on Beacon Hill is a little portal to Ireland in Emmets Pub & Restaurant. It’s not just the prime location near the State House, Boston Common, and the Freedom Trail that makes this Boston spot so popular: Friendly Irish bartenders and servers dish up wonderful comfort food here. Corned Beef and Cabbage is a March special, but the cured favorite can be ordered as a grilled sandwich anytime, thinly sliced and stacked with melty Swiss. We also love the Guinness Onion Soup, an Irish riff on the cheese-topped favorite. There’s weekend brunch, too, with a Full Irish Breakfast—but the signature whiskey-spiked Irish Coffee is a treat no matter what time of day.

The Black Rose

The Black Rose Boston

Pouring pints of Guinness since 1976, The Black Rose is a bastion of Irish culture in Boston. The “Roisin Dubh” is a beautiful sight, with soaring ceilings and vintage tile floors complementing the classic dark wood bar. After a day spent wandering Quincy Market or the Freedom Trail, many find their way to this downtown pub to warm up with a mug of Jameson Authentic Irish Coffee. They’re often welcomed to their seat by a friendly Irish accent and live music, which frequently emanates from a small stage. Satisfying fare like a famous cup of Clam Chowder, Sausage Rolls with Irish bangers, and whiskey-glazed wings are why we keep coming back whenever we’re in the neighborhood.

L Street Tavern

L Street Tavern

Good Will Hunting posters may have replaced the more standard decor of Old World beer signs at L Street Tavern, and you’re probably just as likely to see the millennial clientele saying “sláinte” with vodka sodas or Castle Island Keeper IPA as you are with pints of Guinness. But this Southie pub is unmistakably a top Irish pub in the most important way: It’s a neighborhood gathering place. Come time for the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, L Street is the heart of the party, but on any low-key night there’s Keno to play and enough TVs to appease sports fans and Affleck stans alike. Bring in some takeout (there’s no kitchen here) and raise one at this famous and friendly local place.

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