Big Joe picks his favorite New Jersey Irish bars
I love a good Irish bar, have since the time I was of legal age to drink and that’s a long time ago.
There seems to be camaraderie when you walk into an Irish bar that is contagious. I am of Irish ancestry and enjoy some connection to my ancestry when I lift a pint or two or a good Irish whiskey.
I’ve been to Ireland a couple of times and always try to stay away from the city life of Dublin and head just outside to the less populated areas and with a driver, hit a pub or two that ironically has the same good feeling there as I get when I walk into an Irish pub here.
My favorite Irish bars are located from up in Hoboken to down in Atlantic City and I know that I am missing one or two that I just never got around to enjoying or sadly they fell victim to the pandemic and eventually closed.
I have to put in a disclaimer: Don’t yell at me if you don’t see your favorite Irish saloon listed on my favorites list. I am one man and while I enjoy traveling throughout our great Garden State I may have missed or never tried your favorite bar but like any good Irishman, I’m willing to give it a try.
Here are my favorite Irish Bars here in New Jersey in no particular order.
St. Stephen’s Green Publick House – Spring Lake, NJ
The name of the pub comes from the Dublin inner-city public park in which Sir Arthur Guinness paid for the layout and restoration of the park for all to use. Guinness, as you know, is the official beer of Ireland.
Walk into St. Stephen’s and the look and feel leave no question that you are in a pub filled with Irish ambiance. The bar is right out of Ireland except that the wood and well-appointed décor is all new and doesn’t have the old worn effect that most pubs have. That’s OK because you still have the feeling and there’s no doubt where you are. The food is good and has Irish fare on the menu.
The music is great including once a week Irish Seisiún, which is a session of Irish musicians playing traditional Irish music. This is a great pub and a must on your list.
The Celtic Cottage – Long Branch, NJ
Pull up to the Celtic Cottage and you’ll see a pretty good replica of an Irish pub. Flower boxes and a wood shake roof with a bright red door invite you to come into the bar.
Wood surrounds you with Ireland’s county flags and of course a perfect Guinness on tap ready to be poured.
The roaring gas fireplace is one of the best that I’ve seen and completely puts you at ease knowing that you’re about to enjoy your stay.
The locals are relaxed and welcoming and the menu has some fine Irish selections and a great burger. The Celtic Cottage is our home before Belmar/Lake Como’s St Patrick’s Parade. Owners Kevin and his wife Maureen Martin take great pride in making the Celtic Cottage a great experience and I appreciate that.
The Irish Pub – Atlantic City, NJ
The Irish Pub in Atlantic City is an institution. The history of the Irish Pub dates back to the 19th century and the pub has survived hurricanes, two world wars and prohibition; it was a speakeasy back in the day.
Many patrons have graced the worn and authentic digs of the Irish Pub and the long hours of operation make it a must-stop on your trip to Atlantic City.
I enjoy the atmosphere and it’s a great place for a beer and a sandwich late night or for lunch. Check out the pub.
McGovern’s Tavern – Newark, NJ
Since 1936, McGovern’s has been community-friendly. The bar was originally built and opened for the Irish community to socialize, hear Irish music and dance. It soon became an institution.
The first time I walked into McGovern’s I felt like I was home. There was no TV, cell phones were frowned upon and you didn’t walk in and order a Pink Squirrel. The bartenders appreciate the people that have respect for an institution and now McGovern’s has turned into a melting part of the community with many enjoying the camaraderie amongst the cool surroundings.
Dublin House – Red Bank, NJ
The Dublin House has a wonderful atmosphere and a good attitude. You definitely have a feeling that Irish Eyes are smiling on you when you walk in. The décor is simple and Irish, there are many community events and live music and the food is good with the menu sprinkled with Irish favorites.
While the Dublin House caters to a loyal following, first-timers who walk in are welcome and can’t help feel glad that they made the Dublin House one of their destinations, I always have.
McDonagh’s Pub & Restaurant – Keyport, NJ
I always enjoy myself at McDonagh’s. The bartenders are friendly and they have an extensive menu and live music and a great outdoor patio. They painted a backdrop of a small town with storefronts. They serve a good drink and the bar is big enough to be comfortable. Keyport is a great town; McDonagh’s is located at the top of the hill with the waterfront at the bottom. You’ll enjoy McDonagh’s.
Willie McBride’s Irish Pub – Hoboken
Willie McBride’s is a place for fun and music while you enjoy the traditional pub surroundings.
The menu is full service and Irish favorites are sprinkled throughout. They serve brunch and have excellent live music. It is definitely a place for the young at heart at night and enjoyable for a great lunch. I like the staff and it's family-owned. Willie McBride does quite a bit for the community and is respected for that work. I like going during the day but if you like the nightlife and the excitement it brings, head to Willie McBride’s at night.
Kelly’s Tavern – Neptune, NJ
You’ve got to love a bar that’s open at 7 a.m. every day. That tradition of opening early was for the fisherman going out and the third shifters coming off work or for those who had been out all night.
The bar is big and the bartenders have the traditional white-collared Kelly’s shirt and apron and they are all pro’s behind the bar that thrive on good service.
Kelly’s is famous for their Reuben sandwich; the large is as big as my head and most don’t finish it. The mini Reuben is perfect. The corned beef at Kelly’s is outstanding and they go through a lot of it.
This is a great saloon and I enjoy going there to relax and share a beverage with friends or family. Don’t even think of going there on St Patrick’s Day; it’s a mob scene but in true luck of the Irish you have 364 other days to enjoy Kelly’s.
Harrigan’s Pub – Sea Girt, NJ
Take a drive on Route 71 in Sea Girt and Harrigan’s Pub will jump at you with the pale green building and the large Irish flag waving in front. Walk into Harrigan’s and you’ll feel the warmth of a neighborhood bar with an Irish flair that’s ready to cater to you. The menu is pretty extensive and they run many specials, events, and live music to round out the festivities. I’m a fan of Harrigan’s and once you go you’ll know why. Enjoy!
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.