Irish pubs are full of comforts — the warm, dark environs; the fried food; the cheering and commiserating among strangers and friends both. But on St. Patrick’s Day, the mood changes, heightening to a spectacle in which normally mild-mannered Baltimoreans could be caught Irish stepping and belting, “Too-ra-loo-rye-ay.”
Brandon Phaneuf, owner of The Canton Local, said last St. Patrick’s Day was the biggest business day since the pub opened two years ago. This year, he commissioned a 4-foot ice luge of a leprechaun to mark the day.
“Everyone gets a little wild on St. Patrick’s Day,” bar manager Sean Monahan said.
Whether for a raucous holiday or a quiet night at a local haunt, here are five Baltimore pubs and restaurants serving Irish-themed food.
The Canton Local
With February flurries swirling around South Decker Avenue, the sight of the orange and green door of The Canton Local is a relief. Inside, the pub is toasty, and staff is on it, refilling water glasses before they’re empty and checking on orders without breaking conversation with regulars. Twice, I was asked if I was still happy. The Canton Local’s strength is its ability to make you feel comfortable, whether you’re an English soccer fan parked in front of the TV or just wandering in new.
Like most of Baltimore’s Irish pubs, the menu contains bar food with nods to Ireland: bangers and mash or fries, housemade Irish stout cheese sauce clinging to pillows of pretzel or branches of broccoli, a corned beef special for St. Patrick’s Day. I meant to just have a few bites of the fried Brussels sprouts, but the light char just made them so easy to eat, accentuated by tangy Jameson honey mustard made in-house.
801 S. Decker Ave., Baltimore. 667-212-5888. thecantonlocal.com
Starting with the Kelly Green exterior in South Baltimore, seemingly every aesthetic element at Delia Foley’s calls back to the Emerald Isle: flags on the ceilings, whiskey and beer signs in the window, right down to the green and white sandwich paper clasping pub food such as cod and curlies, skillet beef shepherd’s pie, a Galway Reuben, Guinness-battered fish tacos and wings.
Yes, wings — Delia Foley’s boasts 40 flavors, including a rotating one for the week. Spanning Cajun, Jamaican, Thai and southern, among others, there are still a few Irish hints, such as the hard cider barbecue or the Irish Wake. (The menu, which gives a warning of three spicy skull shamrock icons, reads, “Call your family and tell them you love them before taking a bite.”) You can cool off with bread pudding and an Irish mule, both spiked with Jameson.
1439 S. Charles St., Baltimore. 443-682-9141. deliafoleys.pub
Guinness Open Gate Brewery
At Guinness’ enormous U.S. outpost, St. Paddy’s Day festivities last all month. The Irish village will host activities, live music and dancers from McGrath Morgan Academy of Irish Dance during the second and third weekends of March, according to a news release. Each Thursday in March, Guinness will also release a different St. Patrick’s celebration brew: Irish breakfast amber made with tea, coffee cream ale, Irish barley porter and clover honey ale.
The taproom, one of several food outposts on premises, is adding corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips to the menu. Guests can also register for four-course dinners with beer pairings ($100) held on Sundays. Think ossobuco, fig demi, cippolini onions, carrots and risotto paired with the new barley porter.
“For the ossobuco with fig demi, you’ve got the good Irish porter to bring out those stronger flavors but counteracted with the sweetness of the fig,” Executive Chef Brian Stewart said.
For dessert, chocolate pots de crème get a layer of vanilla ganache on top to resemble the same draught stout from which they’re made.
5001 Washington Blvd., Halethorpe. 443-575-6893. guinnessbrewerybaltimore.com
Mick O’Shea’s naturally divides between single guests at the bar, hooting or shaking their fists at the TV screens above, depending on how the game is going, and larger parties taking up tables and roaring with laughter. Whichever you are, it’s nice to see a spot in the heart of downtown with a take-your-coat-off-and-stay-awhile atmosphere.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Mick O’Shea’s will present Irish music around 4 p.m. and festive dishes such as corned beef and cabbage with boxty (Irish potato pancakes), Irish soda bread, bangers and mash, Irish lamb stew, fish and chips, and Reuben egg rolls. (“I know it’s not really Irish, but everyone thinks corned beef is, so whatever,” longtime owner Dave Niehenke wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun.)
For the fish and chips, a regular fixture on the menu, cod stays delicate despite its thick crust, matching the golden, perfectly fried color of steak fries, and served with house tartar sauce. And Irish pub or not, this wouldn’t be a Baltimore seafood dish if it weren’t seasoned with Old Bay.
328 N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-539-7504. mickosheas.com
Sláinte Irish Pub & Restaurant
On a February night, a man wandered into Sláinte Irish Pub & Restaurant and sat down at the end of the bar. He told the bartender that he just wanted to sit and have a beer but couldn’t pay. Before long, a beer was produced, and the bartender pointed out the gentleman who’d treated him.
Given how similar all the menus and décor tend to be, an Irish pub is defined by its regulars and its staff, especially those with a little Irish hospitality. Sláinte gets a mix of personalities — Fells Point pub crawlers, soccer devotees, relaxed day drinkers — but it exudes warmth and invitation to all.
[ Cue the corned beef: Catholics can eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day, Baltimore archdiocese says ]
The dozens of whiskeys, ranging from Japanese plum-flavored to Lagavulin 16 Year, are enough to keep the jigs going all night. In the Irish Maid cocktail, Tullamore D.E.W. is lightened by elderflower, lemon and cucumber. The Irish coffee utilizes Zeke’s Coffee’s Market Blend, a medium roast developed for the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, along with healthy portions of Jameson and whipped cream.
The food menu offers plenty of American Irish pub must-haves — corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie with local Hillside Meadow Farm lamb, Irish breakfast featuring black and white pudding — plus some unusual ones. (Irish bibimbap is kind of a head-scratcher, but Guy Fieri disagreed on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”) The Scotch egg differentiates itself from the original British Isles snack by using fatty bison sausage and grits that lean more toward creamy than cheesy, like a play on sausage and gravy, finished with a mustard-based sauce. Potato leek soup is just what you want when winter bleeds into March, silky and pleasantly salty with a strong vegetal flavor.
1700 Thames St., Baltimore. 410-563-6600. slaintepub.com