Don’t Overlook The Irish Pub
The city’s quieter Irish bar has plenty of charm, and lower prices than other Third Ward spots.
It’s that time of year; all green everything. If you were Downtown last Saturday you may have spotted Shamrock Shufflers painting the town a sloppy shade of emerald and alcohol. It seems like St. Patty’s Day festivities get extended more and more each year. At this point we might as well declare all of March a drinking holiday. (Wait, isn’t that the summer?) As it stands, we have at least one more big weekend of Irish-themed festivities and the official celebration next Tuesday, the only day (aside from New Years Eve) that you can ride the city bus for free, after 6pm.
If the Trinity, Water Street or East Side pubs are too rowdy for your taste, I suggest stopping in at the creatively named The Irish Pub, 124 N. Water St. A staple of the MIAD area since 2006, The Irish Pub is unlike its Third Ward neighbors, who appeal to a more upscale crowd. The century-old corner building at 124 N. Water Street, which gets lots of light and looks out onto a bridge over the Milwaukee River, is charming without the hiked prices.
The Irish Pub boasts an impressive happy hour anchored by $2 Millers and Pabst, $3 Krombacher, $3 rails, and $4 Tullamore Dew and Jameson shots. It runs from Monday through Friday, 3pm-7pm, and also features $5 glasses of wine and $1 off all taps. Guinness is one of those taps, obviously, flanked by other imports including Smithwicks, Harp Lager, Magners Cider, and Stella Artois. On the domestic side they have Spotted Cow, Riverwest Stein, Lakefront IPA, Blue Moon, and a seasonal local. I got a pint of the rotating local tap, Brenner Brewing Co.’s City Fox Pale Ale, which is actually more like an amber, with a nice touch of citrus. In their fridge the Irish Pub keeps almost 20 micro and craft bottles, a dozen domestics, and a dozen imported bottles and cans. Not to mention, three different kinds of Jameson and Bushmill’s.
March is the only month The Irish Pub is doing cocktail specials, sponsored by Jameson. The Peach Pony (Jamo, peach, bitters, ginger beer, lime) and the Hot Hot Toddy (Jamo, honey, lemon, Sriracha) are the most intriguing of the lot. Four food specials (starting at 4pm, with the purchase of a drink) will keep your stomach full on the cheap, with $1 burger Mondays, 50 cent wing Tuesdays, $2 chilli dog Wednesdays, and $2 taco Thursdays. Each day has its own drink specials, almost all featuring a double-tall mid-shelf mixer for $6 and a $2-$3 beer or $4 shot. Thursdays have $5 margaritas, $3 Tecates, and $4 Cuervo shots to go with the $2 tacos, mandatory fare at an Irish pub.
I stopped in on Monday for a $1 burger. The buck only gets you a patty and a bun, with each additional topping adding another buck, but it’s still one of the best burger deals in town. I also got a half-order of their freshly hand-cut fries and I swore they gave me a full-order. Not so, they are simply generous with their seasoned, sliced potatoes, as any Irish establishment should be. They are easily one of my top 3 fries in town. Plus, they come with a scrumptious garlic mayo. (On the menu it says they also have spicy mayo, but I wasn’t given the option. When the fries arrived the lovely Sarah, my bartender, informed me that I could make it spicy by squeezing in Sriracha. Touché. )
The rest of the menu looks yummy. The Irish Fish & Chips with eco-sustainable North Atlantic Cod and “Milwaukee’s Largest Grilled Cheese” (American & cheddar, crunchy fried onions, tomatoes, bacon, on a grilled flatbread) are the stand-outs.
On Saturday The Irish Pub will have live music from 3pm to midnight, and on Tuesday from noon to 8:30pm. There will also be free giveaways, more drink specials, and it should be a great first weekend to spend some time on their spacious back patio, which may or may not need the heated tent. Inside the bar you might notice some of the original architecture from its days as a Pabst Brewing Co. Saloon and Boarding House, back when the Irish were still arriving in America by the boatloads.
When St. Paddy’s Day is but a green beer stain on your trousers, The Irish Pub will still be a fun place to grab a pint and catch some action, especially during March Madness. It’s an official alumni bar of Marquette, Kansas and Michigan State. The Irish Pub broadcasts Nations Rugby matches and our hometown ball club, the Milwaukee Brewers. Overall, The Irish Pub has a unique neighborhood feel in the Third Ward and blends an old world aesthetic with local flavors, fare and fandom.