Patrick McGovern's Pub
225 7th St W, St Paul, MN
FIRSTLY, JUST TO GET THIS OUT OF THE WAY, despite its name, despite having a few Irish beers on tap, and despite several Guinness Beer posters hung around the joint, Patrick McGovern's is not an Irish bar. It's as though, in response to the half-dozen local bars that strive for a sort of manufactured authenticity (including The Liffey, just down the street from McGovern's), this bar decided, screw it, we will do nothing at all to pretend we're actually an Irish bar. So it is that they have a dining room with a menu that consists mostly of typical American fare, including several sandwich options, roasted turkey, and blackened pork chops. Their selection of Irish whiskys is minimal -- I counted exactly two, Jameson and Bushmills, which means they have less whisky than they do Scotch, which suggests we might actually be in a Scottish bar, but for the fact that haggis isn't on the menu. They do offer two Irish beers on tap, Guinness and Smithwick's, but Harp is not on hand, and neither, as far as I could tell, is Bass, which means they make their Black and Tan's with an alternative pale. Neither do they offer an extensive schedule with céilí dancing, and you won't find local supporters of Irish nationalism brooding over the subject of a free Ulster in a darkened corner. They have offered some St. Paddy's Day specials, but, then, so do Kosher butcher shops on Columbus Drive in Chicago, so there you are.
With that out of the way, Patrick McGovern's is a local favorite, and with good reason. It's a nice bar -- clean and pretty, with reasonable prices and some entertainingly tacky specialty drinks. Cocktail snobs, take note -- their martini menu offers no actual martinis, and most are made with vodka, so this is not the bar to go to for mixological brilliance. But they do offer something called the "Minnesota Pickle," a vodka martini with pickle brine added in, which, if you think about it, isn't that far removed from a dirty martini. They also offer a selection of hot drinks during the colder months, including a version of the White Russian made with actual coffee rather than coffee liqueur, which is not a bad idea at all.
The upstairs is a sports bar, with at least a dozen flat-paneled television sets lining the walls and rimming the bar, tuned to every imaginable sport except cricket or rugby, which, again, does not speak to the bar's Irishness. Unless a particularly popular game is going on, however, the televisions are sans volume, with music playing instead, and the upstairs bar is actually quite mellow and comfortable during these times. The bar has a reputation for bad service, but that has not been my experience, and I suspect complaints stem from patrons who crowd the bar prior to events at the nearby Xcel Energy Center, when service is bound to be a little slower.
McGovern's has two elements that really recommend it. Firstly, it has a very attractive patio, recessed to one side of the bar, off the sidewalk, that looks to be a particularly nice place for outdoor summer drinking, if you don't mind the fact that it will be crowded with smokers. Secondly, Patrick McCormick's has the best fresh popcorn to be found in a Twin Cities' bar -- it's white, hot, and delicious, much better than the sort of flat, half-cooked kernels usually found baking under a yellow light at local bars. It may seem like a small thing, but, when you're in the mood for a drink and some popcorn, you don't want your beer to be stale and you don't want your popcorn flavorless. No sir. (SPARBER)