For months it squatted on the edge of my consciousness. For more than 150 years it’s occupied a prominent corner in Milltown. Finally, it could be avoided no longer. This past Saturday night we were destined to try The Dropping Well, a local favorite pub. But why, oh why, did I feel so very guilty?
To say that pubs are a Dublin institution vaults one into the annals of sophomoric idiocy shooting par with the student (in my wife’s old department) who offered to point me towards a hash bar in Amsterdam. But finding a good Dublin pub (the “right” Dublin pub) is another story. The pubs of Temple Bar exist to soak the tourists (in more ways than one). As you move away from the quay downtown along the River Liffey and into the outer neighborhoods (Harold’s Cross, Terenure, Ranelagh, Rathgar, Rathfarnham, etc.), the pubs become much more subdued and frequented by locals. Granted, some become deadly dull and boring. But if what you want is a quiet pint, a decent meal, and a place to watch the match (whichever one that might be), then head out from city center, and you’re sure to find one that suits you. Here’s a hint: look for one that doesn’t have a Guinness or Budweiser banner out front. Chances are they still serve Guinness, but they don’t feel the need to advertise it, which means they don’t feel the need to attract tourists. That probably means they do well enough with just the local trade, and that’s always a good sign.
For me, I’ve sampled several local pubs within a mile of home, and, while the Glenside is a close second, there’s just something about the Yellow House that grabs me. There’s the requisite dark wood seasoned with well over a century of smoke, sweat, and beer slop. It’s now blissfully smoke free. It rambles on and on. One dark, comfortable drinking grotto leads to another before it opens into a bright and tasteful dining room with surprisingly upscale menu items (brie, seafood chowder, tiger prawns, etc.) that stand toe to toe with pub grub staples like fish and chips and a giant burger. Though the smaller more personal feel of the Glenside is physically closer to home, and offers many of the same features, I think The Yellow House has that same vibrant energy I found in Rick’s Café American in the movie Casablanca. It’s the bar/tavern I always wanted to run. And it was love at first site.
I think that’s the reason I felt guilty stepping into The Dropping well Saturday night. I was cheating on my true love. And, fabulous as The Dropping Well may be, it just didn’t do it for me. Like many who find themselves on the cheatin’ side of town, I realized that the grass is not always greener.
In Dublin, I think finding the right pub is the equivalent of making a lasting friend. Once you’ve bonded, you always know it’s there, and you can come back to it any time and pick up right where you left off. For expats, it’s nice to establish a local presence (that’s not with other expats) in a place where they will get to know you.
Now don’t go all Cheers on me here. Any pub worth visiting does enough business that everybody won’t know your damn name. Eventually the staff will nod knowingly on your way in the door, and may bring you your first pint before you ask for it. But it’s enough to walk in, see the fire in the hearth, the match on the telly, and feel like you’ve settled in for a quiet evening at your second home.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts: