Savour Winnipeg presents 14 Winnipeg pubs perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. Rivers and beers the world over will run green, and…well, I won’t even comment on the wardrobe choices.
And while our waterways are immune, Winnipeggers nevertheless become infected with Irish fever, swarming watering holes to hoist an emerald pint or two.
On more than one occasion I’ve found myself late to the party, stuck in line-ups while friends and family are on the inside. Doesn’t anybody work? I do…I can’t be camping out hours early like some boxing week bargain hunter with a drinking problem.
Although the festivities fall on a Wednesday this year, don’t count on that to mollify the masses. I’ve put together a list of locals sure to provide the perfect platform to unleash your inner leprechaun.
Finn McCue’s – Johnston Terminal, The Forks
Hefty wood beams, wainscoting and wallpaper give this Forks market public house a decidedly authentic feel. Wile away your Wednesday playing pool and darts, and enjoy a spectacular selection of Irish whiskeys and beer.
- 2609 Portage Avenue
- 1875 Pembina Highway
Dylan’s Portage Avenue spot has become a scuzzy shadow of its early days. As uncouth as the clientele may be, the servers are awesome, there’s plenty of beer on tap and live music most weekends. The new Pembina location has a huge St. Paddy’s party starting at noon. They’ve got a special SPD menu with Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and an Irish Burger, obligatory (if gross) green beer, and live music courtesy of Uisce Beatha (the water of life). First 100 get in free, then its a $15 cover.
Toad in the Hole – 112 Osborne
Every bit as worn and weary as a favourite old pair of sneakers, and smells about the same. Menu highlights are the scotch eggs and so-named Best Burger in the City (it really is an awesome burger).The usual Irish brews can all be found on tap and behind the bar.
The King’s Head Pub – 120 King Street
This should be destination one for ‘Peg pub crawlers. The most authentic of the Irish Pubs, there’ll be live music by the Celtic Way and the Tarbenders. Wash down heaping helpings of soggy but delicious chips (that’s the style) with a fantastic selection of local and UK beers. A word to the wise…get there early!
Shannon’s Irish Pub – 175 Carlton
Boasting a spectacular hand-made wooden bar, the main area is dressed in traditional orange and green. Intersected by a dance floor/stage, it’s a decent crack at creating the U.K. pub. The bash begins at 11am for lunch followed by celtic music courtesy of Nathan Rogers. There will be giveaways and live music all night and don’t miss the Brady Irish Dancers at 8pm; Pushing Daisies take the stage at 10pm. Tickets are $10 for general entry and $20 for entry and buffet from 7-9pm.
Elephant & Castle – 350 Saint Mary Avenue
The main floor lounge of Winnipeg’s Delta Hotel, the Elephant and Castle is land-marked by an unmistakable red phone box out front. The atmosphere is more pastiche of a pub, and seating is limited, but the menu does a fine job representing UK staples. Booze infused highlights are the Guinness braised Meatloaf and Jameson’s Chicken with mushroom cream sauce.
J. Fox’s – 414 Academy Road
J. Fox’s is a River Heights haunt that can’t decide if it’s a bistro or bar. You’ll find the usual UK suds, and the owners have paid lip service to local by offering Half Pints Brewing St. James Pale Ale, but I’d love to see them bring in Stir Stick Stout, Bulldog Amber, maybe a Little Scrapper IPA. A short menu hints at some sophistication, but execution (even in the appys) falls frightfully shy of the mark.
- 1824 Pembina Highway
- 2100 McPhillips Street
- 826 Regent Ave West
- MTS Centre
As generic and mass-market as it gets, this cavernous space is a typically north American interpretation of a pub. To the uninitiated, the menu appears good on paper but these mournful morsels scarcely pay homage to pub grub.
Fox & Hounds Tavern – 1719 Portage Avenue
One of the old-timers, Fox & Hounds has been around for as long as I can remember. In spite of an inauspicious location, the character of the exterior continues inside, with plenty of wood and brick. A surprisingly elegant dining room, replete with linens, however is wasted on a pedestrian and un-focused menu.
The Thirsty Lion Tavern – 525 Dale Boulevard
Having said farewell to the Charlie, the Thirsty Lion is the self-appointed A-list watering hole for Charleswood denizens. Attached to the Red Lion Inn, it’s a fair interpretation of a Celtic pub with cozy nooks, dark wood trim and brick walls. Their St. Patrick’s Day bash begins at 11am with Irish trivia games and prizes. The bar boasts a great selection of draft. While the regular menu offers a smattering of traditional pub fare, they promise a pile of authentic Irish grub on the big day.
Luxalune – 734 Osborne St
Lux, as it’s known to regulars, is hailed by many as Winnipeg’s first gastro-pub. I’ll spare you my long-winded argument that it’s neither the first (an honour that belongs to Billabong) nor an authentic gastro. It is, nevertheless, a fantastic hang-out with some yum grub. I haven’t quite forgiven them for ditching their clever interpretation of Fish n Chips (baked potato skins stuffed with fish and smothered with caper aioli) further challenging their gastro-pub cred. But the remaining appys and gourmet pizzas compensate. Lux has the best selection of beer in Winnipeg, possibly on the prairies, boasting over 100 brews from all over the globe, and they’re always adding more. An innovative beer passport allows you to take virtual world tours, earning a spin of the ginormous prize wheel whenever you complete one.
The Irish Association – 654 Erin Street
Not surprisingly, the Irish, and those of Irish descent among us (my grandmother was born just outside Dublin), take the business of St. Paddy’s day pretty seriously. It’s not just a party…it’s a festival. The Irish Club will be open all day Wednesday starting with an Ecumenical Service. Live bands and music all night includes performances from Comhaltas, Kate Ferris, Rinn, Al Smith and the Erin Street Pipe Band and celtic dancing from the McDonnel School of Irish Dance. And it’s FREE ADMISSION!
The Lo Pub – 330 Kennedy
Part of Hosteling International’s (HI) Winnipeg Downtowner, the LO Pub emphasizes LOcal bands, LOcal brews and LOcal artists. Steadily becoming the place to see and be seen, it offers friendly service, vegetarian/vegan food and a warm and inviting atmosphere. Although nothing has been promoted, there’s usually plenty on tap for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Round Table – 800 Pembina
A roaring fireplace and medieval themes make this more like a noble’s manor than public house. Half restaurant, half lounge, both sides sport plenty of oak beams, nooks, and old copper curiosities. Beef is the main feature of the menu, but you’ll also find kingly classics like crown rack of lamb, pork tenderloin and chicken. No special festivities planned, but if you take one part darts, one part pool, add a jukebox and a few bottles of beer…well ain’t that a recipe for fun?