While we have always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, it has been a long time since we celebrated with a night on the town. Our more recent St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been focused more on a semi-traditional home cooked meal of corned beef and green mashed potatoes. (We don’t do cabbage in our house.) But, this year, we decided the time was right to head into Portland so that my husband could listen to Irish music and drink Guinness in the company of other happy St. Patrick’s Day participants.
My husband is only half-Irish, but he leans towards those genetics and absolutely loves Irish music. The St. Patrick’s Day activities offered so many great opportunities to catch live Irish music which was our deciding factor in heading out for the night.
We had every intention of kicking things off with an Irish Breakfast, and were excited by the offerings and number of Irish locales opening at 6:00 am. But, our schedule changed, and while we couldn’t head in for breakfast, we did make the most of the late afternoon, early evening options that were available. We got into Portland around 3:30 pm and were amazed at how crowded everything was already. Clearly, it had been awhile since we’d gone out for St. Patrick’s Day and my vague memories of green beer were not a clear indicator of how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Portland although I’m sure we could probably still find green beer somewhere.
Fortunately, we found street parking after only a few loops around the Old Port. I feel that was one of our greatest accomplishment of the night. Not that it would have stopped us. There are plenty of parking garages in Portland so we had a backup plan. But, we always prefer the lower cost street parking when we can find it, similar to how we always shunpike to avoid tolls if we have enough time.
We went to the Brian Boru Public House first. It was a mob scene at the bar and, initially, we held out little hope of getting a drink for St. Patrick’s Day, but we persevered and after getting our beers headed to the back of the first floor area and found that we could in fact sit. While crowded, 80% of the people in the pub were around the bar area. My husband was especially happy because the bar tender had poured him two pints by mistake. How could he say no, especially since I was the designated driver?
There was live music going on at Brain Boru but it was upstairs on the second floor, so while we could hear it a bit, it wasn’t the live musical experience my husband was craving. Brian Boru’s schedule of events indicated The Pubcrawlers were playing while we were there but, honestly, we never made it upstairs so didn’t get a good feel for the music on our initial stop. We did enjoy a pint, or two in my husband’s case, and then were on our way.
For our next, and what turned out to be our final stop, we went to Bull Feeney’s. We headed to the downstairs bar and again, while the bar was crowded, we were able to get a couple of seats at the end of the bar. We couldn’t see the band through the crowd, but we could hear them, and we had ease of access to the bartender so we were happy with the seats. Sitting by the taps, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Guinness being poured in my life. It was non-stop. The other drink of the night was Magners Pear Cider Hard Irish. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
The band was Wrong Side of the Tracks and they were playing exactly the kind of Irish Music my husband loves so we stayed for the whole set. It looks like they play pretty regularly at Bull Feeney’s so we’ll have to head back on a non-Irish holiday to check them out again.
Bull Feeney’s feels like it has always been there and the building has a lot of history but I was surprised to find out that they only opened in 2002. The Maine Irish Heritage Center has more information on their website on both Brian Boru and Bull Feeney’s.
Having scored bar seats, we were also able to grab some food. We ordered the Irish Nachos, as described on the menu, “Deep-fried russet crisps covered in cherry peppers, onions, and melted jack cheese served with a cup of our lamb chili & sour cream”. They were fantastic and extremely filling. There was definitely plenty of food for two people. We couldn’t even finish them. The lamb chili went really well with the potato crisps.
Once we finished up at Bull Fenney’s, we were originally planning to head to Ri Ra Irish Pub & Restaurant which also had a full lineup of Irish music. They had hosted the St Paddy’s Day Annual Rí Rá Portland Plunge benefiting Firefighters Children’s Burns Foundation earlier in the day. Our goal was to hit the big three Irish destinations for St. Patrick’s Day, but being a Thursday night and the start of a new work day looming in our near future, we opted to head home. Next year, we’ll have to reverse our order so that we start at Rí Rá’s. We’ve been there many times before and it’s always a great destination.
Another Irish pub that looked like a fun spot to hang out in for St. Patrick’s Day is The Snug, located at 223 Congress St, Portland. But, that’s a visit for another day too. Most of the bars we walked by seem to be Irish for the night with plenty of St. Patrick’s Day spirit pouring out the door. If we expand beyond Portland, that ups our ante of Irish Pubs to add to our St. Patrick’s Day destinations too. St. Patrick’s Day is a high-energy, fun night to be out celebrating. We really only made a small dent in the extensive Portland St. Patrick’s Day offerings.
There were so many great events happening that started the weekend before, lead up to the holiday and extended into the weekend after too. Maine Today published a comprehensive list of events which you can find at this LINK. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for next year’s celebrations. There’s a little something for everyone.
|things to know|
|Brian Boru Public House||57 Center St, Portland, ME 04101|
|Bull Feeney’s||375 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101|
|Favorite ♥||Irish Music|