The Irish Pub

Pubs play a very important role in Irish life. American visitors tend to assume that pubs are the same thing as bars, but this isn't exactly true. Pubs do serve alcohol, but they also serve as restaurants, music stages, meeting places, and even as local cultural museums. Most pubs aren't all these things simultaneously, but instead specialize in one area.

One thing that often surprises visitors is the presence of children and families in Irish pubs. The drinking age in Ireland is eighteen, but it's legal for children under that age to enter with their families. The families are there for the music or the food. Irish pub food — called “pub grub” — is generally inexpensive and hearty. While almost any pub can be expected to provide sandwiches or maybe a baked potato, some pubs have become famous for their food; The Reginald in Waterford, The Stag's Head in Dublin, and Langton's in Kilkenny are good places to visit for culinary delights.

Pubs are the place to go for traditional music, or “trad,” as the locals call it. Larger places might bring in professional bands, but the most common format is the session, in which local musicians come with what instruments they have and just get down to business. The musicians in a session are usually playing for beer only, so there generally isn't a cover charge. The pubs in Doolin are famous for their trad.

Why are Irish bars called “pubs”?

“Pub” is short for “public house.” The person who runs a pub is called a “publican.” All pubs offer beer, but the most important thing for a pub to provide is cráic (“crack”) — that's Irish for a jolly good time.

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