Having had a hand in literally building the city—immigrating to New York in waves since the dawn of the 19th century—Irish settlers have contributed a lot more to the Brooklyn way of life than just Jameson and Guinness. They’ve also created some of the most convivial establishments to drink them in. And while a lamentable majority of the borough’s most beloved public houses have vanished, a fair number remain, many dating back 80 years or more. So raise a glass to Brooklyn’s history this holiday, by taking a tour of our very own Emerald Isle, comprising indomitable watering holes like Farrell’s in Windsor Terrace, the Irish Haven in Sunset Park and The Wicked Monk in Bay Ridge.
The Wicked Monk
Bay Ridge is blessed with more longstanding Irish bars than perhaps any other neighborhood in Brooklyn, and they all have their impassioned proponents; from the gaslight lamp-lit Kitty Kiernans, which served as backdrop for Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour, to the 80-year-old O’Sullivan’s, which starts slinging pints at 8am, to The Harp (formerly Mooney’s) which boasts both a fireplace and a beer garden, and Pipin’s Pub, a corner fixture since 1969, which, while temporarily displaced during construction of a condo development, has actually been promised a ground floor space in its original (if largely modernized) home. Then there’s The Wicked Monk—also recently relocated—which is all about atmosphere. It regularly hosts live bands, dart and pool tournaments, Mardi Gras Nights and, yes, St. Patrick Day parties in their cavernous, gothic monastery-inspired space. It features stained glass windows, pulpits, pews and gargoyles from a 19th-century Irish chapel, and a 36-foot long mural of tipsy monks adorning the recessed ceiling.
9510 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
While many modern-day Irish bars merely hint at their roots by keeping Jameson behind the bar and Guinness on tap, Rocky’s proudly waves the orange, green and white from the rafters—make that the sprawling roof deck—and offers weekly Irish language classes (not to mention marching for Irish language rights during their annual St. Patrick’s parade). But that is not all: there are film screenings, curated reading series, live bands, such as The Lost Tribe of Donegal and Sean Tyrrell (of the newly-released “Moonlight On Galway Bay.”) Although Rocky’s moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in 2007, the community-minded bar feels indelibly intertwined with Red Hook. It takes an active role in restoration projects post-Hurricane Sandy, and launched a “Think Global, Eat Local” menu that showcases lobster from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, salad from Added Value, and beer from next door neighbor, Sixpoint.
34 Van Dyke Street, Red Hook
Greenpoint’s current drinking scene may be best associated with its ever-growing roster of craft beer meccas like Tørst, but hoary old dives like the 86-year-old Connie’s stand in stark and proud opposition. A squat, windowless bunker of green brick, its sign adorned with a sprightly duo of shamrocks, imbibing options run to $1 mugs of Coors, Coors Light or Bud, which, when weather permits, can be accompanied by plates of bring-your-own-meat, grilled on the barbecue out back.
158 Norman Avenue, Greenpoint
Its signature, 32-ounce cups may have gone the way of the city’s proposed styrofoam ban (not to worry, lidded to-go “containers” remain available in less environmentally detrimental materials), and women are actually allowed to order at the bar (having previously been relegated to tables), but otherwise, nothing much has changed at this 1933-era institution; one of the first establishments to obtain a liquor license post Prohibition. And while Windsor Terrace has been beset by early-to-bed stroller pushers, Farrell’s—gamely administering Stella until 4am—remains a reliable hub for after-hours signs of life.
215 Prospect Park West, Windsor Terrace
A contemporary destination for taco crawls and dim sum Sundays, it’s hard to remember that Sunset Park was once one of Brooklyn’s most established Irish communities; thickly settled by longshoreman and stevedores, who worked the nearby docks. And the aptly named, agreeably no-frills, 50-year-old Haven remains a welcome bastion of those bygone days, where Celtic tunes are a mainstay on the jukebox, creamy pillars of Guinness are expertly dispensed for only $5 a pint, and the only half hearted attempts at modernity include a Facebook page and yes, a Taco Tuesday night.
5721 4th Avenue, Sunset Park
Almost without exception, Brooklyn’s Irish bars are multi decade-old monuments, improbably buoyed by favorable extended leases. Which means, it’s the rare business owner angling to open a new, hole-in-the-wall dive, eking out revenue from dollar bottles, darts, and corned beef and cabbage happy hours. That being said, the two-month-old Hartley’s — modeled after convivial, Irish countryside shebeens — suits the New Brooklyn aesthetic to a tee; with poetry and literature nights, sets from Irish folk and rock bands, and food options far exceeding shepherd’s pie slopped out of steam trays; think potato and leek soup, grass-fed beef and Guinness stew, Irish butter-slathered radishes, and freshly baked brown soda bread, fashioned into cheddar and smoked salmon toasties.
14 Putnam Avenue, Clinton Hill