Feelin’ lucky? St. Patrick’s Day is approaching faster than you can say, “Give it a rest, Bono.” These are our saucy St. Patrick’s Day spots to knock back a Guinness, drop some green dye in your Harp and kiss a leprechaun.
Reminiscent of a rowdy but relatively clean frat house, Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub parties pretty hard all year long. Come St. Patrick’s Day, however, Kells is the downtown spot to knock back green beer and flirt with guys in white baseball hats. (Do frat boys still wear white baseball hats?) Kells celebrates St. Patrick’s Day all week long, from Saturday, March 12th through Thursday, March 17th. Enjoy traditional Irish cuisine, refreshments and surroundings while enjoying the music of Oliver Mullholand and toasting the Emerald Isle. High five.
Johnny Foley’s Irish House is a replication of some of the great pubs of Ireland. Close to Union Square, dark, spacious and featuring a full menu of pub grub, Foley’s is home to live entertainment and a lively crowd, which often include drunk middle-aged people trying to bust their moves to a cover band’s rendition of “Eleanor Rigby.” Like any Irish Bar, Foley’s gets green on St. Patrick’s Day. Arrive early, snag a table and settle in with curry fries. You’ll want a front row seat for the priceless parade of drunken debauchery.
The Blarney Stone will be overflowing with people on St. Patrick’s Day. Wanna know how I know this? Because the walls of the Blarney Stone are covered with photos of their explosive St. Paddy’s Day party. To look at these photos, you’d think every Irish ex-pat this side of Southie donned their best green soccer jersey and squeezed on down to Geary and 20th. The bartenders are sweet and the regulars are salty, which is actually ideal for the quintessential SPD experience.
Ireland’s 32 refers to the 32 counties of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The walls are filled with fascinating historical posters and photos of hunger strikes and IRA lore. Practically a museum to the struggle, we dragged my brother’s Northern Irish college roommate to Ireland’s 32 as he rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oh, you’re going to take me to an Irish Bar in America, are you?” As we walked in, Irish roommate’s eyes widened and he ran to throw his arms around the man behind the bar. HIS COUSIN WAS THE BARTENDER. This place is authentic. And relatively packed most nights a week, offering live music, open mike nights and karaoke. St. Patrick’s Day is given the appropriate reverence, with a solidly neighborhood crowd streaming in all day.
If you’re anywhere near North Beach on St. Patrick’s Day, you won’t be able to miss the festivities at O’Reilly’s. This normally mellow Irish Pub and Restaurant shuts down their entire block and turns the street into a green beer garden. This year’s 16th Annual Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration begins at 3pm, featuring live music from Revenant, Lunar Groove, Blue on Green, The Hooks and featuring the ever popular girls from The Whelan Academy of Irish Dance. According to the fine folks at the Guinness World-Wide Awards, O’Reilly’s actually pours THE best pint ‘o Guinness. Find out for yourself, but arrive early. This is the SPD spot of choice for North SF crowd (that means Marina.)
This Lower Haight pub is the official San Francisco spot for serious Euro-soccer folks. But it’s also the perfect neighborhood spot to spend St. Patrick’s Day with folks from the old country. Stay for the popular Pub Quiz, hosted by Mad Dog quizmaster (and actual Irish guy) Peter Malone. Mad Dog’s pub quiz is wildly popular year round, but their SPD version is sure to be the hottest trivia ticket in town.
Have to work on St. Patrick’s Day? No problem. Every single person in the Financial District under the age of 40 will be at the Irish Bank. Nestled in it’s own alley conveniently close to the Stockton-Sutter Garage and Union Square, the crowds spend all day, evening and night drinking under the Christmas lights strung across the Bank’s private little lane. Head inside for pub grub and warmth, and if you happen to snag the one cozy booth along the back hall, save me a seat!
Home to the “biggest St. Patrick’s Day Party in the South Bay,” O’Flaherty’s turns San Jose into a rockin’ slice of Dublin. Once again, they’re opening the extended patio in back, featuring live entertainment, Irish grub and more Guinness than you can shake a stick at. O’Flaherty’s even has a countdown clock on their website, they’re THAT psyched for SPD.
McNally’s McPatrick’s Day is Oakland’s pot of Irish gold. Packed with green-clad revelers, you’ll have to strain your ears to hear traditional Irish music over the roar of the crowd. Known for their friendly bartenders and cozy fireplace in the back, you won’t get to enjoy either of those on SPD, as McNally’s will be wall to wall McPartiers all evening long.
Beth Spotswood, CBS San Francisco