By Steve McPherson
Minnesota might be known in the larger world for its Scandinavian heritage, but there’s little doubt that the Irish have played a big part here, particularly in the capital of St. Paul. Between 1932 and 1972, nine out of ten of St. Paul’s mayors were Irish, plus current mayor Chris Coleman and his predecessor Randy Kelly are both of Irish ancestry. So it should come as no surprise that both St. Paul and Minneapolis have a wealth of Irish bars that throw down for St. Patrick’s Day.
If you’re going to be in either downtown for the parade, you’ve got options. In Minneapolis, Kieran’s Irish Pub is sure to be the epicenter of the action, with Irish bands going all day and night. On the other side of the river, The Liffey is right on the parade route and will take care of all your green beer needs. Both are owned by Cara Irish Pubs, so you can expect a classic Irish pub experience with rich, dark wood, mirrors, and (obviously) lots of drunk people with green beads and white and green Cat-in-the-Hat hats.
But what if you’re not so into the whole parade thing? We’re talking about St. Patrick’s Day, so there’s no reasonable way to escape the aforementioned beads and hats if you’re headed out, but here are a couple spots a little ways off the parade routes that are worth the trek.
Although Light Rail construction made many parts of University Ave inaccessible in the Dubliner’s neighborhood over the summer, we’re happy to report that everything’s mostly cleaned up and the Dubliner will be ready and raring to go for Saint Patrick’s Day 2012. While most Irish pubs will book some bands (Irish or not) for the holiday, the Dubliner brings the cred of being a year-round great venue for traditional Irish music. Their parking lot tent (let’s face it—it’s often not warm enough to be outside without a protective covering) will be going all day and night and you can enjoy some of the cities’ best black and tans. The Dubliner makes them the right way, with Smithwick’s (pronounced smi • dix) as the tan. And while you probably won’t want to be dropping coin on the spendy drinks after a couple of pints, consider starting your revelries with a shot of Redbreast, the finest pure pot still whiskey that money can buy.
Directly across from Surdyk’s and close to the resolutely Polish Nye’s, Keegan’s has heritage and history on its side. The pub was not only designed by O’Sullivan Interiors in Waterford, Ireland, in 2001, but then actually built there and moved in pieces to Minneapolis to be reassembled. Most of the time, Keegan’s prides itself more on conviviality than raucous festivities but come Saint Patrick’s Day, the tent will come out and things get lively. This is, after all, a bar that celebrates June 17, September 17, and December 17 as a quarter, half, and three-quarters of the way to Saint Patrick’s Day, respectively. Expect Irish food—St. Patty’s Day is probably the only day you can get away with eating more than two corned beef sliders—and Guinness poured at just the right temperature with the proper mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
Steve McPherson is a writer and musician who has lived in the Twin Cities since 2004, where he teaches writing and music at McNally Smith. His dog is named after both a drink and a guitar. He tweets from @steventurous.