St. Patrick’s Day in Boston: Must-Visit Irish Bars

Boston has the highest population of Irish-Americans in the U.S. What better place to partake in St. Patty’s Day food and drink?

J.J. Foley's Cafe

In Boston's South End, J. J. Foley's Cafe has been continuously in operation since 1909, making it the oldest Irish bar in the city. The patio is newly reopened and ready for guests or you can grab delicious fare to go. The menu is eclectic with something for every palate including soups, salads, flatbreads, pasta and burgers. Don't worry, they serve up Irish classics as well. Start with curry chips, the house-cut fries tossed in a mild vegetable curry sauce. Then tuck into the shepherd's pie made with a combination of lamb and beef with a side of Irish brown bread for soaking up every drop of goodness. Smithwick's and Guinness are both on tap to wash it all down. Hot toddies and Irish coffees made with Jameson's are the perfect winter warmers for patio seating in blustery March weather. 

J. J. Foley's Cafe is the oldest continuously operating Irish bar in Boston | WhereTraveler
J. J. Foley's Cafe has been in business since 1909 (Courtesy J. J. Foley's Cafe/Facebook)

The Druid

The ambiance at The Druid isn't that of your typical Irish pub. The bar took over an old, wooden mercantile building in Cambridge and banshee fixtures lurk over the bar. The eerie vibe gives it its own unique allure. Outdoor dining and take-out are available daily from noon until 10 p.m. Choose between two classic Irish stews, beef or mixed seafood, and supplement it with a side of Irish beans. St. Patrick's Day is on a Wednesday this year, so visitors may want to return to The Druid on a Sunday to snag a full Irish breakfast. You won't be able to see the plate underneath the mountain of two eggs any style, Irish sausage, Irish bacon, black and white pudding, beans, home fries, and a choice of either toast or Irish brown bread. On Wednesdays, there's trivia to test your Boston knowledge.

The Druid has repurposed an old mercantile space and called it home | WhereTraveler
The Druid has reopened for business (Courtesy The Druid/Facebook)

The Burren

Pre-covid, music lovers would flock to The Burren. Even though live music is on hold, The Burren is still worth a visit for its laid-back atmosphere and spacious back patio. The Guinness beef stew is reason enough to make the trip to Davis Square. They also serve classic fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd's pie. There's a vegetarian shepherd's pie available as well made with lentils instead of the traditional beef filling. Keep away the March chill with hot coffees (choose between Jameson's or Bailey's), hot port, or mulled wine (a special house recipe). 

The Guiness beef stew is a house specialty at The Burren | WhereTraveler
The Burren is a neighborhood favorite (©Greta Jochem)

Brendan Behan Pub

As the name suggests, the Brendan Behan Pub is an ode to Irish authors and playwrights. Portraits of Irish wordsmiths adorn the walls alongside political memorabilia and punk ephemera. There's no kitchen in this cozy, literary watering hole but pop-up food events happen all the time. Every Wednesday, Rafa is on-site with a variety of burritos and his homemade salsa verde and salsa rojo. The pub has also hosted oyster shucking and sushi nights. Guinness is the only Irish beer on the menu but there are lots of Massachusetts brews on tap for guests to drink local. The back patio is the perfect place for a socially distanced pint. 

Celebrate Irish authors at the Brendan Behan Pub | WhereTraveler
Visit the playwright's namesake bar in Jamaica Plaine (Courtesy Brendan Behan Pub/Instagram)

Mr. Dooley's Boston Tavern

If you're looking for down-to-earth hospitality in the financial district, Mr. Dooley's is the place. The late owner, John Somers, was a musician and filled his space with live performances several nights a week. Until live music can return to Boston taverns, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Mr. Dooley's including the award-winning Irish breakfast which is served all day. On St. Patty's Day (and every day, for that matter), Mr. Dooley's has an entire menu section dedicated to Ireland. Try the Kerry mac and cheese made with imported Kerry cheese, Irish whiskey, and Irish bacon. There's also Guinness beef stew, Irish curry, shepherd's pie, and Dublin fish and chips. Wash it down with a perfect pint of Guinness or the house ale. Make it a boilermaker and add a shot of Irish whiskey. Mr. Dooley's has more than 20 on the shelf.

Grab a pint at Mr. Dooley's Boston Tavern | WhereTraveler
Perfect pints poured daily at Mr. Dooleys (Courtesy Mr. Dooleys/Facebook)

L Street Tavern

The interior of L Street Tavern may look familiar to visitors and for good reason. It's got that working-class Irish bar feel which is probably why the producer's filmed Good Will Hunting there. How about them apples? Even after being showcased in an Academy Award-winning movie, the bar has managed to maintain its neighborhood feel and hasn't been overrun with tourists. It has stayed a proud, Southie watering hole. St. Patrick's Day is always a favorite affair at L Street and green-clad patrons enjoy pints of Harpoon and shots of Teeling all day long. 

Scenes of Good Will Hunting were filmed at L Street Tavern |  WhereTraveler
A proud, Southie institution (©Greta Jochem)