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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES in MA » MASSACHUSETTS (all topics) » Bar Hopping the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The Blackthorn
Bar Hopping the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Boston, Massachusetts

By Mike Dunphy | March 16, 2012

As a pretty typical looking Irish American, March 17th represents the one time of year I get to happily celebrate my round face, tiny chin, pasty skin, and stocky body. In Boston, there’s only one real place to shake (and jiggle) them all about: the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Inside the L Street Tavern

Since 1901, the city’s famed Irish neighborhood “Southie” has hosted the event that currently draws upwards of a million people to the main parade route along Broadway. In preparation for this year’s festivities, I took a trip there to scope out best Irish watering holes along the route.

In a brilliant move of strategic planning, I began my quest at the furthest point from the T-stop (for the shortest walk back) about ¾ down the parade route at the L Street Tavern (658 East 8th St., (617) 268-4335). Technically, the pub is a few blocks off it but is still listed on the Boston Globe’s “attractions” map of the parade, and for good reason.

Not just because of the scene from Good Will Hunting filmed there or the cheap booze, ($9.75 for Jameson’s and a Guinness) but for the truly Southie feel and incredibly friendly staff who will probably keep you in the bar longer than intended.

Reluctantly leaving, I headed back to East Broadway, up to K Street, and into The Playwright Bar, (658 East Broadway, (617) 269-2537), ‎one-time winner of the Improper Bostonian’s Best Neighborhood Bar award and called the “next domino that’s fallen in the gentrification of South Boston,” by Fox 25 News. I can’t say there’s any special Irishness in the place beyond the traditional dark wood-paneled interior and Guinness taps but the bartender assures me that it’s owned by three Irish guys right off the boat. Nevertheless, it’s by far the most spacious place of them all, a certainly important attribute when anticipating the huge crowds.

The Friendly Staff at The Blackthorn

From there, it’s about a 15-minute walk (if still relatively sober) to reach the densest cluster of pubs on West Broadway. Blackthorn Pub (471 West Broadway, (617) 269-5510) was personally recommended by Ralph the bartender at the L Street Tavern and is indeed the place to go if you actually want to drink with Irish people (including visiting soccer teams).

Within ten minutes, I was in conversation with more than a few. And where else will the bartender let you fill your own tumbler with Tullamore Dew?

We saved our stomachs for the much-recommended food at Shenannigans (332 West Broadway, (617) 269-9509). The upscale, sleek interior may not ring of Irish authenticity, but at least they include a variety of traditional dishes on the menu such as shepherd’s pie, Irish BLT, and Bangers, Mash and Beans. It’s also the only place with Swithwick’s Irish Ale on the tap.

I ordered the chicken curry ($13.99), which the bartender insisted was Irish. Whether true or not, the saucy concoction served on a bed of rice, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers was damn good—peppery and potent, but not overwhelming. Plenty left over for the doggie bag, as well.


By the time I waddled into Amrheins Restaurant (80 West Broadway, (617) 268-6189), just a block up from the Broadway T-stop, there was barely any space left in the belly to partake of, by far, the most extensive menu (more New England than Irish) of the tour.

But at 121 years old, Amrheins more than qualifies for Celtic respect, much helped by its claim of the oldest hand-carved wooden bar in the country and first draught beer pump in Boston.

The 2012 St. Patrick’s Day parade begins at 1PM outside the Broadway ‘T’ Station.

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