Keegan's Irish Pub and Restaurant
16 University Ave NE
THERE IS A COMPANY in Waterford, Ireland by the name O'Sullivan Interiors, and they've developed quite a cottage industry making traditional Irish pubs and shipping them to the United States. There is, for example, Dublin Square Irish Pub in San Diego. Then there's Gus O'Conner's in Rochester, MI. And, locally, we have Keegan's, which O'Sullivan's built to resemble an Edwardian bar in Eire, and which is located directly across the street from Surdyks. So if you're peering at the Irish whiskys at the venerable St. Anthony liquor store, and you find yourself wondering what Tullamore Dew tastes like, pop across the street and order three fingers of the stuff.
I haven't been to Ireland, but I have drunk at several New York Irish bars that date back to the Edwardian era, and, based on those, there's a quality to Keegan's that's a little like a stage set. The Irish bars I've been to tend to be wooden and clean and dark and plain, while Keegan's is wooden and clean and well-lit and filled with bric-a-brac. There are little Irish collectables everywhere, from bowler derbies to regional crests, all in glass containers, a barroom version of objects d'art. It's a busy but uncluttered accumulation of props that seem to serve the same purpose they might in a realist play -- to convince the audience of an authenticity of location. It's as though, if the bar had enough earthenware whisky jugs, we might actually believe ourselves to have been transported to Hibernia.
And I don't mind it, even when it gets a bit silly. For example, the bar offers a kilt night on the last Saturday of each month, and anyone who walks in wearing a tartan apron gets a discount. It was a while ago that the Irish claimed they had invented kilts, but there is scant evidence that this is true, but never mind -- bars are no place for history, and if men want to wear ahistoric skirts while enjoying their pocheen, who are we to complain?
The bar has a nice menu, featuring a variety of British and American offerings, including a category called "comfort food," including macaroni and cheese if you're feeling like a Yank and Shepherd's Pie if you ain't. They also offer an Irish cheese flight for their late night and breakfast menu that I'm sorely tempted to try, if I could manage to be awake for either option. Keegan's has bucked the trend of having a noisy bar, but it's a busy one -- their schedule includes Irish singalongs, frequent bands, and pub quizzes, all of which can be satisfyingly rowdy. The pub itself might have a staged quality to it, but the atmosphere they've created -- which is warm and fun -- is entirely authentic. (SPARBER)