Montreal Irish Pubs: A Few Favorites
It was on a fine spring evening that I found myself chatting up a charming Montreal Irish pub bartender -- terribly charming even -- who insisted on serving me a delicious Guinness/cider hybrid, a poor man's Black Velvet. Halfway through the pint, I revealed my identity, admitting I was preparing a piece on Montreal's Top 10 Irish pubs. He paused, looked at me incredulously and said 'you mean Montreal's only 10 Irish Pubs?!"
And now, for your top 5!
Photo © Evelyn Reid
I like McKibbin's (the downtown one that is, never been to their other locations). The downtown pub has a room for every taste and personality. The basement floor is intimate and cozy. The main floor is roomy, even when live acts play onstage. And the top floor, dubbed the Toucan, has entertainment value as a seedy pickup joint meets dance floor -- yes gentlemen, if I'm dancing, it's not because I like dancing, it's because I'm hoping you'll disregard my need for personal space and GRIND me from behind* -- populated by tourists, students, locals and West Island-esque hip hop fans. The terrace out back is enjoyable if you're craving fresh air without the people-watching perks of the wee front terrace. Staff offer great service, positive vibes, and if you want a snack, consider the house fries with curried mayo.
Photo © Evelyn Reid
I know, I know. Why didn't Hurley's get first place? Irish ex-pats and visitors consistently insist it's the
pub to visit for a taste of home. And yes, Hurley's has got that special something, offering a enjoyable ambiance when it's not packed and/or when you manage to score a terrace table. See, yours truly likes a seat with her pint and live entertainment. But good luck making that happen unless you get there early in the evening because it's a popular pub on tourist-friendly Crescent Street
. And many are willing to nurse their pints standing, cornered even, cheering along with the toasted crowd. But hey, maybe you don't care. Maybe you want the full Irish experience complete with songs like this
blaring live three feet from you.
Photo © Evelyn Reid
The little Irish pub that could, Ye Olde Orchard seems to be taking over the pub scene, with a newish Plateau location on Prince Arthur and a downtown hot spot on de la Montagne, in addition to the original venue I've personally appreciated in the less central but so very trendy Monkland Village. And while the original pub is cramped for space -- and it's almost an accomplishment to score a terrace spot -- the Prince Arthur and de la Montagne locales are bigger. The menu has more variety than other pubs (think sweet potato fries, capon wings and Sri Lankan curries) but with a price to match. Staff is a nice bunch. An all-in-all solid top fiver on the Montreal pub map.
Can't say McLean's feels overwhelmingly Irish, unless dark wood paneling combined with Guinness paraphernalia makes a pub Irish. But I could be biased because 1) I've never been to Ireland, and 2) every visit to McLean's led me to the upstairs portion dominated by pool tables, darts and other perks that made it feel more like a student lounge than a pub. But I liked it. Both floors are roomy, and McLean's is a great spot for downtown workers or students on the hunt for generous happy hours with good drink specials. Non-outrageous prices, decent food, McLean's is an overall good bet for a beer with the buds.
Located where Woody's -- a pickup joint as classy as its name -- used to be, what sets Irish Embassy apart from its downtown competitors is even though many have TVs to air sporting events, the Irish Embassy's large flat screens are strategically placed throughout the pub's square interior in such a way that it's easy to watch (and hear) "the game" regardless of where you're sitting. There's plenty of terrace space too. They've got a varied menu and their fish & chips are apparently favored by many -- the fish plates I saw looked scrumptious. But I've only ever ordered a burger at the Irish Embassy and I have to say, it was good but the portion of fries was tourist trap size. Tsk tsk.