Bar Review: Patrick McGovern's Pub

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.

Patrick McGovern's PubWith 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)


steve mcpherson said...

I'm in the mood for a drink and some popcorn. Almost all the time. I'd just like to add an editorial comment that I prefer Smithwick's to Harp for a Black and Tan. Smithwick's is a lot closer to the Bass that I grew up drinking in Black and Tans (that's right-- I grew up drinking them), but is actually Irish, which reduces bloodshed and bombings in the glass itself.

s4xton said...

Patrick McGovern's is my least favorite fake-irish pub in the Twin Cities. I made the mistake of going there on St. Patrick's day one year. There were more green bead necklaces on stupid airhead chicks than I've ever seen in my life and it was close to impossible to get a drink. Some people are into that though. Maybe if I had more to drink it would have been different. Or maybe if I brought beads. The place is also to be avoided before and after an event at the Xcel Energy Center.

On a weekday evening it's much more quiet and it's not abnormal to find conservatives from the capital come down here.

I've never liked the food here and I've been poured a bad Guinness: the ultimate insult in a fake-irish pub IMHO. You don't expect a good Guinness pour at a suburban sports bar but when you're playing the Irish card you gotta do it right. On the flip side, I had been poured an almost perfect Guinness here where the bartender drew a shamrock on the top. Cute, but strange.

Even though it's more expensive, I generally try hit the Liffey down the street instead.

Max Sparber said...

I also prefer the Liffey, but, then, I like to sit in dark corners discussing a free Ulster.

Ranty said...

Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer had her office holiday party and "awards dinner" there last year.

No lie.

I haven't been back since...

Anonymous said...

FYI the name is an amalgam of the two original owners Patrick Boemer and Jamie McGovern. Jamie sold his share years ago and Pat kept the name as is. Sure it's not really Irish, but keep in mind this restaurant is over 25 years old and took on it's name well before the Irish bar theme became the fad it is today.

Prior to the Excel this restaurant was a big hit with the locals, and mostly remains so today. This place mostly retains it's pre-Excel charm, especially if avoided during those times when the Excel is hosting some big event. Hey, they've still got alot of great fresh-baked Turkey items on the menu.

In response to the above poster; unfortunately anytime you go out for drinks on days like St. Pat's, or New Years Eve the "airhead" numbers jump considerably. When I was a bartender I referred to such evenings as Amateur Nights. Honestly on such nights your best bet is either staying home or heading out to places like the Turf Club or the CC Club.

cassie said...

We will miss you Mr. Jamie McGovern. You were one great man.

David Peltier