The pub of the Irish

Be it sorrow or celebration, Irish pubs know how to do it

Ceol is well-stocked with music, beer and whiskey.

Ceol is well-stocked with music, beer and whiskey.

photo by lauren Randolph

Irish pubs know best how to drown a sorrow or celebrate a new chapter in life. My friend Heather and I intended to do both as we set out one Saturday night to explore the local Irish pub scene.

O’Skis Pub and Grille
840 Victorian Ave., Sparks; 359-7547

At 5:30 p.m., the bar of O’Skis Pub and Grille was packed with twentysomething regulars. The menu offers Irish twists on pub favorites—some combinations work better than others. We couldn’t finish the Shepherd pie fries, as the meat and mixed vegetable blend were a bit heavy for us. The Irish tacos were a tasty trio of white corn tortillas overflowing with crisp sauerkraut and corned beef. We polished off every tender morsel of the Guinness-slow-roasted corned beef.

Surrounded by local sports memorabilia and Irish flags, a marlin festooned with bras and panties adorns the back wall. The lingerie toss offers ladies the opportunity to score free T-shirts, though the waitress admitted that the bra throw is mostly a late evening, summer sport.

Ceol Irish Pub
538 S. Virginia St.; 329-5558

“Ceol” is Gaelic for “music,” and Ceol Irish Pub is known for its live music as well as its extensive variety of brews and whiskeys. The pub’s sophisticated, low-key atmosphere amps up considerably during live performances. We arrived at Ceol in time for happy hour (3 p.m.-7 p.m.) but too early for Saturday’s act. Heather sipped a smooth Bailey’s and coffee while we watched musicians assemble their guitars on stage.

My Magners Irish Cider was dry and crisp, as promised by our waitress, who remained friendly and attentive despite our remote table and a growing crowd at the bar. The clientele represented a broad span of ages and professions. As much as we enjoyed our drinks and the ambiance, we craved sustenance, so we headed over to Foley’s Irish Pub.

Foley’s Irish Pub
2780 S. Virginia St., 829-8500

“You come to an Irish bar to meet people,” co-owner Dianne Foley explained as she made her rounds during a bustling Saturday night. Many of her regulars helped the Foleys move to their current location in 2007. A procession of faithful patrons carried bar stools and photographs down Virginia Street, ending with a celebratory Irish coffee at the new locale.

Foley’s waitresses deftly moved through the lively, over-30 crowd with a penchant for cuisine selection. Foley’s menu features a broad span of Irish and American dishes, ranging from bangers and mash, to scotch eggs, pizza and burgers. Heather’s beer-battered shrimp were crisp and succulent. My spinach salad with slivers of brie and strawberries was the perfect accompaniment to my Harp Irish Lager. ”Irish bars are about community,” Jim, a pilot from Dublin, said as he sipped his Guinness.

St. Patty’s Day specials

All three pubs are gearing up for a busy St. Patrick’s Day. O’Skis celebrates their eighth birthday on March 17 with outdoor seating, live music and corned beef and cabbage. Ceol promises to have plenty of beer and food stations outside. Sacramento’s Nine-8th’s Irish band will start the musical festivities from 4 p.m.-7 p.m., while the father-son duo Blarney Band will play from 8 p.m. until midnight. On the 17th, Foley’s menu will be strictly traditional Irish fare, including corned beef and cabbage, Guinness beef stew and fish and chips. Irish Step dancers from Blanchette School of Irish Dance will perform starting around 3:30 p.m. Bagpipers are slated to play at Foley’s throughout the afternoon and evening. And it’s business as usual—except for the throngs of people on Wells Avenue—at Corrigan’s Bit O’ Ireland, which claims to pour the best Guinness draft in town. And Ryan’s Saloon will serve corned beef and cabbage, green beer by request, and last-minute specials aren’t uncommon at Ryan’s for St. Pat’s Day.