I’m about at the end of my Irish pub round-up. Today’s post covers three in North Carolina, then some conclusions about the Irish pubs in the region.
Dugan’s Pub was actually the first pub I visited when I started this project. I headed up to Brevard and did a bit of searching for a parking space. I was a bit early for lunch, so I parked on the Main Street and wandered through the shops. I then headed down the hill from Main Street toward Brevard College.
Across the street from the pub I found a surprise. In an outfitters shop my friend Chad Quinn had set up his skin-on-frame kayak building shop. We met Chad when we paddled Turkey Creek and Stevens Creek in McCormick County with my Lowcountry Unfiltered friends. Chad was running a kayak and outfitters shop in Modoc. In the time since I’d last seen him Chad had moved to Brevard. Chad wasn’t in, but I did admire his handiwork in the shop.
Dugan’s Pub is in a fairly modern building.
I went inside and took a seat at the bar. There were some tables and booths in addition to the bar. The small space was decorated for Halloween, but the rest of the decor was typical for an Irish pub.
The menu advertised a “proper Irish pint” of Guinness as well as Smithwick’s, but I opted for Green Man Ale.
The lunch menu had typical pub fare, but didn’t seem to have as many Irish items as other places I’d visited. I ordered Shepherd’s Pie, which was adequate. It could have been a bit warmer and needed a bit more seasoning.
Any deficiencies in cuisine were more than made up for with the delightful bartender. Tiffany looked like an Irish lass with red hair and feisty attitude, but she actually grew up in my former stomping grounds around Duncan. Tiffany chatted with all of the bar patrons. I had no idea whether they were regulars or not because she made everyone feel at home.
Tiffany told me that the pub plans to expand into the empty space next door and add a stage for bands. I asked if they would be offering Celtic music and she said that it would be mainly pop and cover bands.
I visited Dugan’s back in October, but the next two I just recently visited.
Claddagh Restaurant and Pub
Apparently there are two locations of Claddagh, one in High Point, NC, and this one in Asheville. I’m guessing that the one in High Point is the original, because their website is claddaghhighpoint.com. I’d actually missed this one because of its proximity to Jack of the Wood. When I saw that it was so close I had to pay it a visit.
By this time I’d visited several pubs, and this one was pretty much like the others as far as the decor was concerned.
I took a seat at the bar and ordered a Magner’s Cider instead of Guinness. There were several offerings on tap, including Smithwick’s, but I wanted something a bit lighter today.
When I asked for a menu I was informed that if I wanted to order food there were nine people in front of me.
What??? What kind of response is that from a restaurant? It was 2:00 and well past lunch rush, so I have no idea what this was all about, and it seemed rather a rude way to treat a customer. I told the bartender that I didn’t want to order food but that I just wanted to see the menu.
Here again I found the usual Irish suspects. I’m beginning to think I’d love to get a sample of the same dish from each of the pubs I’ve visited and do a taste comparison.
Speaking of the menu, as I was linking to it on their website I came to the conclusion that it must have been designed by a middle schooler. The scrolling space between the header and footer was tiny and made it difficult to read. There were also dancing leprechauns. Ugh.
There was a sound system in one corner and I asked the bartender about bands. Rather, I tried to ask about bands. The bartender was terse and seemed reluctant to speak to me (she obviously didn’t want to take any food orders.) She said that they had the occasional band in, but no Irish music. She said if I wanted that I should go to Jack of the Wood.
I decided that was a pretty good idea. I paid my tab and left.
Jack of the Wood
Jack of the Wood is an enigma. There is nothing specifically Irish about it. It started as the home of Green Man Brewing, whose product I enjoyed when I visited Dugan’s in Brevard. Green Man outgrew the pub and moved to a larger production facility, but the pub retained the Green Man theme, using the other alias, “Jack of the Wood.” Both “Green Man” and “Jack of the Wood” are British terms and are often used for English pubs, but I’m still including this one on the list.
As you might imagine, images of Jack, or the Green Man, or whatever you want to call him, cover the interior in both stained glass and woodwork.
The bar dominates the space, with a few tables spread around.
In one corner is a small stage. This is where the sessions take place.
On my first visit I had a Guinness and on the second I skipped libations completely. There are other microbrews on tap, but Guinness is the only Irish brew I spotted.
As for other menu items, there was nothing labeled “Irish”, but there was typical pub food that I had seen at other Irish pubs I’d visited.
Jack of the Wood is known in the area for traditional music. I’ve only been to the Celtic music sessions, but they also have a Traditional Appalachian session on Wednesdays and a Bluegrass Jam on Thursdays. There are also other scheduled bands playing usually folk music.
I’m really hesitant to call this an Irish pub. If I were to just base it on the presence of Guinness and a Celtic session, then I could probably include The Stomping Grounds. Despite its lack of “Irishness” I’d take Jack of the Wood over Claddagh any day.
As I’ve mentioned several times previously, I tossed out my checklist. I got to thinking about German restaurants. I’ve never used a checklist to determine authenticity. The building doesn’t have to be half-timbered, there don’t have to be beer steins everywhere, and it doesn’t matter whether or not Oompah Band music is playing. It’s just a matter of whether or not they have German cuisine and how good the food is.
The absence of one or more items from my checklist doesn’t mean that it isn’t an “authentic Irish pub.” One of my favorites, The Irish Pub in Greenville, ticks very few marks on my list and doesn’t even have food (yet), but it has an air of authenticity that’s hard to deny. Instead of authenticity perhaps I should just base it on the vibe I get, and that’s going to vary from person to person.
Are there some bad ones? Sure. I wasn’t too impressed with Claddagh and Kilpatrick’s isn’t worth a special trip. The food at some places was better than others, but that stands to reason.
My biggest mistake was in equating Irish pubs with Irish music. The only two places that have Traditional Irish Music sessions (and I’m not including Fitzpatrick’s) aren’t even Irish pubs.
My final observation is that the High Kings were right. Wherever you go around the world, you’ll find an Irish pub.