You may have caught my article on Irish bars last March for the RN&R’s annual Bars & Clubs Guide. It wasn’t so much a local directory as a look at the Irish bar as a concept, but what better time to revisit one of our local Irish joints than halfway to the next St. Patrick’s Day? As it turns out, Labor Day isn’t quite as much of a drinking holiday, but it was a day off from our day jobs, so my wife and I took the opportunity for some early evening adult beverages to wrap up our long weekend. I let her pick the destination this week, and Ceol Irish Pub was her choice.
A nearly empty parking lot gave a hint of the slow Monday night, probably made slower by a long weekend of people overdoing it at Burning Man and the Rib Cook-off now tapering off their drinking for the work days ahead. Inside, it was equally quiet—just a few customers sat at the bar when we walked in the back, and not a single table was occupied. The old brick building lends a bit of of historic feel to the place, like an old traditional Irish bar might. (Full disclosure: Unbeknownst to me until we sat down, the bartender was an acquaintance that I knew through mutual friends and once sold a scooter to, but he was unaware of this column to be written about our visit.) We briefly considered taking our beverages al fresco on the back patio in these last weeks of summer but decided against the still-too-warm evening air.
As I mentioned back in March, Ceol feels like probably the most genuinely Irish bar in town. Owner Ron McCarty’s clan hails from County Cork in southern Ireland originally. Ceol isn’t just the standard Guinness and Jameson, shamrocks and leprechauns on the walls kind of themed establishment. It’s hard to describe exactly, but it just feels more authentic. Irish-American community newspapers, regular live Irish music, Ireland county badge stickers sold behind the bar—these little touches show me there’s more to Ceol than just a Gaelic name. (It means “music.”)
Of course, an Irish bar wouldn’t be a bar without a decent roster of alcohol, and Ceol is no slouch. The expected draft beer offerings from the homeland are there, of course—nitro Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, plus the uncommon Magner’s hard cider. A few average craft selections round out the dozen taps, and the selection of bottles and cans is comparable, with a handful of Celtic varieties and American craft beers. The options aren’t curated for beer obsessives like me, but whiskey aficionados would be happy with the extensive list of Irish, Scotch and American single malt and blended whiskies. A few token wines are available as well as the standard well spirits and a smattering of Irish-themed and other house cocktails. I wanted something light and refreshing so opted for a simple vodka tonic, followed by a gin and tonic. My wife ordered a beer, and when she hesitated before a second one, our bartender offered a half-pint—a kind gesture that you won’t always find. Sometimes you don’t want an entire pint.
Neither the atmosphere nor the selection of beverages alone make Ceol standout, but the sum of the parts is greater. Besides the regularly scheduled live music, Ceol also hosts a Sunday cinema night and a popular pub quiz trivia night every Thursday. The cultural offerings along with a great selection of whiskey make for a genial community gathering spot.