In a city chock full of Gaelic and "Celtic" "descendents," it’s little wonder our small corner of the country boasts oh-so-many authentic Irish pubs. Not only do the best Irish pubs in Boston serve top-notch beers, but some of them even double as sports bars and nightclubs, sometimes even serving food that is so good, it might place them among the best restaurants in Boston. Grab a friend or two, order a pint and prepare yourself for a night of pure, unadulterated fun.
Best Irish pubs Boston
This is one of the jewels of Boston’s popular Irish pub scene. Named after the Irish playwright, it once hosted standing-room-only seisiúns, attended by the likes of Patrick McCabe and JP Donleavy. Behan’s is not a fancy place—it’s small and dimly lit, with no food on offer—but that’s part of its charm. Locals love it because they are encouraged to bring their own food—usually from the various take-out joints that dot Centre Street—to nibble on in-between pints from the venue's incredible beer selection.
One of the better Irish pubs in a city that has no shortage of them, Matt Murphy’s is well worth a journey into the Brookline outlands. The Guinness poured here is sublime, but what makes it such a hit among locals is its grub. The fish and chips (served wrapped in newspaper, natch) is deservedly famous and the shepherd’s pie superb. The kitchen even makes its own ketchup. If it’s not as youth-oriented as some of the city’s Irish bars, Murphy’s still gets its customers moving once the music starts—if they’re capable of moving after dinner, that is.
A Davis Square mainstay, the Burren is one of the most popular (and largest) Irish pubs on the north side of the river. During the afternoon, the front room—with its wood-slatted floors and a gentle light pouring through the windows—is full of folks tucking into bowls of beef stew, sipping pints of Guinness (or any number of local brews) and listening to informal Irish seisiúns. At night, the Burren is packed, largely with students from nearby Tufts University who crowd the large back room to hear live (and loud) roots rock.
In business for more than a century, this old Irish charmer has long been popular among politicos. Times have changed, however: The room once named after JFK's grandfather 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald is now named after the late Mayor Menino—of Italian descent. The ceilings are lofty, the rooms capacious and the murals high on the walls, portraying scenes from colonial Massachusetts, are gorgeous—the spot does date back to 1882, after all. The generous portions of comfort food and the wide selection of ales and scotches are a bonus. (If you're lucky, you may even get to taste a brand new brew from Samuel Adams, which makes beer just down the road and sometimes tests out recipes at Doyle's.)
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sarah Nichols
Named after Lough Corrib, a massive lake in West Ireland, the Brighton mainstay—open since 1969—attracts plenty of homesick Galway expats as well as students and longtime locals looking for a friendly, unassuming spot to enjoy a warm Guinness, a massive serving of bangers and mash, and a little live music.
The spiritual forefather of Greater Boston’s thriving Irish pub business, the Plough has been going on for some 30 years. In the daytime, it offers the best pub grub in town. At night, the tiny bar is transformed into a hotbed of clashing elbows and live music. Your chances of meeting the novelist of your dreams just went up by 90%.
This low-key, low-lit bar is an institution in Boston—a hangout for bike messengers, tattooed masses, business suits and borderline bums. Anyone who’s lived in Boston for long has met someone at Foley’s, or broken up with someone at Foley’s, or met and broken up with them there on the same evening—or knows someone who has.
You’re there for all of it: the conviviality, the fish and chips, the gorgeous dark wood bar, the Irish music sessions, the 12-strong drafts list and, of course, the impeccably poured Guinness. The Inman Square institution is also a celebrated trivia spot—in no small part because the last place team gets shots from the bar.
Oldies are goodies for a reason. This Central Square mainstay, which dubs itself “the alternative Irish pub,” is le bar juste for playoff games, DJed dance parties, early-morning soccer matches, post-Middle East show debriefs and pretty much every other excuse in the book for a pint and a pile of wings. A surprisingly robust draft selection seals the deal but, if you need greater enticement, take a gander at the summertime patio and happy hour food menu.
With its charming exposed brick walls and a genuine Irish pub-style snug, the Thirsty Scholar is an ideal place to hole yourself away with a special someone for a quiet drink. But it’s also a large room, with big TVs to watch the game, and filled to the rafters with a lively crowd of regulars (especially on weekends). So if you’d rather come out and be sociable, that’s okay too.