Bar Review: Dargan’s

Warming Up

Name of Bar: Dargan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

Address: 18 East Ortega Street

Location: East Ortega Street, just off State, and across from the Press Room

Days/Hours: 11:30 on every day; dinner served from 5 to 10, 11 on Fridays and Saturdays

Open Since: 1997

Deals: Follow them on facebook for daily specials.

Known For: its truly Irish fare and Irish “trad” music; purveyor of craic (Gaelic for “good times”)

Notable Decor: a “Guinness for Strength” mural depicting a man pulling a horse in a cart

Patrons: a casual bunch of all ages for whom the Joyce is a bit too rowdy and Old King’s Road is a bit too small

Special Draw: live Irish music at 6:30 every Thursday

Quote from the Bartender: “We’ve tried to create a place in downtown for locals…and I think we’ve succeeded.

Discovery of the Night: Damn good mash!

Before you leave, you should…: …try a Specialty Pint like the Half and Half, Snakebite, or Harp Shandy.

My experience: I needed something warm. It was an unseasonably chilly night, and the specter of tasks undone haunted me. I turned on Ortega, fists thrust into pockets, and dipped into Dargan’s before the crowds hit.

I fell clumsily into a stool and ordered a Guinness. I needed a drink. I needed that creamy smoothness, that dark warmth, to soothe my soul. I drew in a draught and let out a sigh. Beer had never tasted so good. The barman, with shaven head and brutish features, offered me a menu, but I wasn’t ready. I’d heard there would be a trad band here this evening, but I’d come too late. Irish music played on the radio nonetheless, so I was happy. New folk-punk, old fiddle jigs. It brought me back to that pub I’d visited in Galway, the one with the little fireplace and the big voices that boomed and cracked in brassy flares. There, trad music was alive and well. I felt it here, too.

My eyes wandered around the room, vast and pregnant with history. History, that’s what made an Irish pub. The soaring ceilings exposed vents and rafters, giving the pub a warehouse aesthetic. I thought of my ancestors working the New York factories, but then corrected myself. The first Dargan’s had been opened by Paul Dargan’s grandfather in Cookstown, Ireland, in 1927, long after my forebears had fled to these shores. I thought of Dublin, of the smog of urban Ireland. I thought of the Guinness factory. The dark green walls and shelves set with books that toppled carelessly without bookends gave the place a studious look; stoic and refined like a carefully composed poem, but brimming with feeling. I tilted my glass high and readied myself for a new drink. I gazed at the incredible selection of Irish brews and whiskeys. I asked for a menu this time.

In short order, the barman brought me a hot toddy and a plate of mash, both presented with elegance. The barman looked at me expectantly, and I smiled my approval. I was grateful. I looked around at the other patrons, talking and laughing in small clusters at the tables around the walls. I finished my meal and went exploring.

Dargan’s is home to two bars, but both are thoroughly Irish. The front room of Dargan’s is rather like a pool hall, a bit younger and a bit rougher than the back. Here, a jukebox plays rock and roll. On the tables, victories and failures come back to back as young men and women exaggerate their disappointments and muzzle their pride. A young man in a baseball cap tilted back a Heineken and prepared for another shot.

Dargan’s is more than a fun place to relax. The warmth that Dargan’s exudes comes from its sense of history, of rootedness. Through the peat plow hanging on the wall, the fine aged whisky, and the savory comfort food, our ancestors whisper to us: you’re part of something – now have a good time.

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