When you think about Irish pubs in America, a few big names might come to mind – McSorley’s Old Ale House, the oldest of its kind in New York; Boston’s music mecca the Black Rose; or The River Shannon in Chicago.
So it came as something of a surprise that one of only two US pubs in the running for the title of Best Irish Pub in the World (Outside Ireland),’ a competition run earlier this year by Irish newspaper the Irish Times, is a small, admittedly dive-y corner bar hidden away in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The other is a popular New Orleans Irish pub.
Irish Haven, on the corner of 4th Avenue and 58th Street in Brooklyn, was nominated by two different Irish people with very fond memories of drinking there, both of whom lived in the apartments above the pub at different points. One, Morgan Reilly, lived there in the summer of 2012 with 12 other members of the Brooklyn Shamrocks JFC GAA team.
In his entry, he describes it as “an Irish haven in a neighborhood that had become increasingly Asian and Hispanic. It was more important to its patrons than we, a few lads out for the craic for the summer, could ever know” and recounts the kindness of the owners, Maureen and Michael Collins, as they waived an entry fee for watching RTE’s coverage of the GAA championships and plied them with homemade fruit cake.
Another entrant, Helen Nolan Crawley, wrote that the pub was “loved by many, many people both here in New York and those who have returned home.”
So while it might not be a widely-known watering hole, Irish Haven does appear to be a much-loved local and has a good few claims to fame.
Martin Scorsese chose it as a location for “The Departed” (the cranberry juice scene was filmed there), and the TV show “Gotham” recently used the bar’s interior and exterior to shoot the upcoming season.
Finn McCool’s in New Orleans, owned by Stephen and Pauline Patterson from Northern Ireland, opened in 2002, making it a relative newcomer to a city with a long and established bar culture. But it has since become a New Orleans mainstay, offering its patrons a place of solace when it rebuilt and re-opened only six months after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“Many of them had lost their homes, their jobs, or both, and those friendships forged at Finn McCool’s literally saved families from being on the street. Today it has built on those ideals of being welcoming and inclusive, and is a thriving, successful and fantastic bar. The owners and regulars went through something that those outside of New Orleans can not even imagine – and came out the other side stronger for it,” wrote Stephen Rea, who nominated the pub.
The Irish Haven and Finn McCool’s are the only Irish pubs in the US to make the Irish Times’ shortlist for best Irish pub in the world. Other contenders include The Wild Rover in Cuzco, Peru; Bubbles O’Leary, a Co. Louth pub that was re-assembled in Kampala, Uganda; The Drunken Poet in Melbourne, Australia; and The James Joyce in Prague.
Before the shortlist was decided, the US led the pack, with 328 out of 800 nominations (Austria received the second most, with 89 pubs nominated).
What’s your favorite Irish pub? Did it make the cut? Let us know in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
* Originally published in April 2015.