Some Irish bars are a bit twee. the brass fixtures and paper shamrocks feel Disney-lightweight, as if constructed by pixies and Riverdancers rather than regular people. It’s a shame, really, because a good Irish bar should be a place for regulars, a place to hang out.
Which is why I like The Dubliner. The Dubliner’s a little place, wider than it is long. The polished wooden bar top is scored and marked through use, and the wooden stools have comfy places to rest your feet. It’s dark and there’s not much brass, but there are darts and Guinness posters framed and hung. The whiskey list (including Scotch) is good and long, and food is of the sandwich and cheese plate variety. The bar emanates an easy homeyness that makes you think good stories have been told there and good stories have begun there.
The Dubliner sits on Greenville Avenue and hosts bikers (Sundays are for bringing your scooter or motorcycle), as well as see-and-be-seeners settling in for a low-key evening. Peter Kenny, the Dubliner who owns the Dubliner, is something of a fixture on Lower Greenville and in Uptown; he worked at the original Knox Street Pub and also owns the Capitol Pub and The Gin Mill, both on Henderson.
Cigar smoke wafted in from the front patio on a recent visit. I love that smell. It reminds me of my grandfather Bernie Murphy. But while cigars always feel grandfatherly to me, that night the smoke came from someone who looked, from my vantage point, young (and preppy). Tejano music played over the speakers, and sports jumped across the TV—basketball, I think, though soccer is most commonly associated with The Dubliner. My Guinness was cold and thick and very, very good, and the waitress had a way of anticipating our needs that made me wish I could hire her for something. Or anything.
The Dubliner is the oldest Irish pub in Dallas. When it opened in 1994, it reportedly had Irish Spring soap in the bathroom and Sinéad O’Connor on the jukebox. It did not have the front patio it has now, a covered space with handfuls of picnic tables where people can sit and watch the nightlife or have a smoke. There’s always movement on Greenville, even on a slow Monday night, and the outside tables provide a nice place to people-watch and to be watched.
I come from a long line of Irish people, immigrants pushed by hunger or poverty (or, if one family legend is true, horse thievery) into the vast Irish diaspora. Each struck out and made a new life in a new part of the world, carrying some old traditions with him and adopting others to shape a new identity. It is this idea of adoption that made me appreciate the Tejano music playing in The Dubliner over Cinco de Mayo weekend; the choice of BBQ, jalepeño, plain, or salt and vinegar potato chips; the Franconia (from McKinney, Texas) on tap as well as Guinness. I liked that Texas is incorporated into the bar, rather than the bar trying to make a facsimile of what exists elsewhere in the world. Reproduction can be an art, but it’s a static one. Bars strike me as mutable, living things, shaped and changed by the people
passing through them.
Sure The Dubliner sells more Guinness than any other beer and more Jameson than any other liquor, but it’s a neighborhood pub as much as an “Irish” pub, in part because Irish pubs are about creating community. The Dubliner is a friendly place, Kenny says, “for everyone to meet up and have some conversation. It’s not like a pickup place.” Nope, that it’s not.
“I am large, I contain multitudes,” Walt Whitman, one of the first American poets, wrote. Whitman wasn’t talking about the immigrant experience or bars or Guinness, but I’m stealing the line anyway. A good Irish pub should be a large place in the metaphorical sense, a place of inclusion, an easy place to hang your hat and talk to anyone. I’ve gone to The Dubliner off and on for 15 years. I’ve had some great conversations there—a few with strangers, many more with friends. It’s an easy place to go, a good Irish pub.
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