Ah, Saint Patrick’s Day. The celebration many look forward to in the days and weeks leading up to it (St. Pat’s falls on Monday, March 17 this year), and many regret the day immediately following it (which, unfortunately for most, will not be Saturday or Sunday.)
When you tell your story of regret on Tuesday though, let’s make sure it’s doesn’t involve some chain restaurant (sorry Pat O’Brien’s!). While on the whole these bars are few and far between, San Antonio does have some unique Irish pubs where you can get your Guinness on.
Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub
200 S Alamo, (210) 224-3343
An exact replica of Durty Nelly’s in Ireland, one of the oldest continually operating restaurants in the world, our version has been serving the Alamo City since 1974.
According to Caroline Floyd, Durty Nelly’s webmaster, the concept of the San Antonio location came from Bill Hunter, the general manager of the Hilton Palacio del Rio in the 1970s. After visiting the bar in Ireland, he returned to San Antonio with the desire to build an identical pub under the Market Street Bridge.
When you walk in, it feels like what you might imagine an Irish pub would be like, with its dark interior surrounded by wood, slate and weathered stained-glass windows. Maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but nice if you like your bars a little more “dive-y.”
Come Saint Patrick’s Day, Durty’s wants to start the party early, with booze flowing and music starting at noon (as opposed to 4 p.m.). On top of the usual St. Paddy’s Day staples of beads and green beer, Durty’s will also bust out their cabbage and corned beef (the only day of the year they offer it) and their traditional St. Paddy’s Day T-shirt, with this year’s design. An additional outside bar should help ease the load (a little bit), but if this is your kind of place, get there earlier rather than later. Even if you are not at the pub on Monday, Durty’s will have a barge on the river during Saturday’s parade, with a piano player and other staff performing.
Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub
234 Riverwalk, (210) 229-9299
Whereas Durty’s looks like a “real” Irish Pub, Waxy O’Connor’s does not.
But don’t be so superficial. Why? Because it IS an Irish pub. Well, as close as it can be outside of Ireland.
Waxy’s was built on the Emerald Isle, at the Truwood Joinery Shop in County Monaghan, Ireland, by Irish craftsmen, and then assembled by a team of Irish carpenters. If you can’t go to Ireland and visit a pub, this might be the next best thing: The pub is visiting you, and what a beautiful pub it is. A nice long and airy bar (an effect no doubt helped by mahogany wood and tall ceilings), Waxy O’Connor’s gives off a more modern and less traditional, but no less authentic, vibe.
For St. Patrick’s Day, they want to immerse you in Ireland. There will be music all day, including appearances by bagpipers, and a limited but still varied menu (shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, etc…). Beads and green beer are par the course, but unlike last year when the holiday fell on a Sunday and they had to contend with archaic laws (no alcohol could be served before noon unless accompanied by food), this party gets started at 10 a.m., so have your sick day excuse ready.
The Irish Pub
9726 Datapoint, (210) 692-7620
If you can’t make it Downtown, fear not; there are other Irish pubs around San Antonio, such as, well, The Irish Pub. In case you are not sure what kind of place this is (a Mexican cantina? A gin joint?), the stained concrete floor, brick walls and green ceilings should tell you: This is, without a doubt, the most authentic Irish pub experience you can get without leaving Datapoint. No, really.
Expecting the bartender to scream “Sásta Lá Fhéile Pádraig!” as soon as I asked her about the establishment’s St. Paddy’s Day events, she instead blew me away with the pub’s ambitious plans. The Irish Pub will be open at 10 a.m., there will be a live band inside, music piped outside, a second bar, a food truck and even those Irish mariachis we all love: bagpipers.
As the bartender put it, “We go fucking HARD on St. Paddy’s Day.” Not knowing what poem that was from (a James Joyce original perhaps?), I just nodded my head and smiled.