There's nothing quite like St. Patty's Day in Boston. Go to Ireland: they get all pious and holy; go to The Vatican: and all the Roman Catholics are saying their prayers; Anywhere else in the world they don't even know what you're talking about. But in the United States, when it comes to this particular day, Americans do what they've always done on holidays religious, national, historical, or otherwise: claim it as their own and throw one hell of a party!
Of course, living in Boston, you have to be completely daft to have missed that we are the original and unmatched Mecca for all things Irish-American. St. Patty's may not be a public holiday anywhere else in the country, but here, it is a serious drinking holiday, and I know many a Bostonian willing to call in "sick" for an early start at the bar.
Here is a crash-course to Boston's best celebratin' neighborhoods, each well-worth a visit on Boston's favorite holiday. In the spirit of responsibility we're pointing out public transportation access points near each. (We all want to make it home for the next-day hangover don't we?)
Access: Red Line -Broadway stop
St. Patty's Day Parade
The fact that St. Patty's Day falls on a Wednesday is no great deterrent for Boston's most Irish neighborhood. The famous Southie will kick off celebrations this Sunday with the oldest St. Paddy's Day parade in America. The parade kicks off at 1 pm and will no doubt have its attendees feeling the Irish spirit until the wee hours of morning... Thursday morning that is.
From the Broadway T stop, wander down West Broadway to Amrheins Restaurant (80 W. Broadway), a Southie mainstay since 1890 that will feature Irish step dancers, mixed drinks, and their famous boiled dinner in honor of the occasion. Heading away from the T, you'll run into the Blackthorn Bar (471 W. Broadway), where WFNX will cover the parade on Sunday and live music will be featured on Wednesday at no charge. Of course, as a St. Paddy's Day requisite, the Blackthorn and all other bars I mention have at least Guinness on tap.
To get off the beaten path, head down L Street to the L Street Tavern (658 E. 8th Street), another popular Southie bar you might remember from selected scenes in Good Will Hunting. This neighborhood dive is an excellent choice on any night, but with live music and Irish entertainment all day long, not to mention drinks on the very cheap, there's no better place to celebrate the holiday than the L Street. It's recommended that you grab yourself a Guinness and a seat before the cover charge goes into effect; along with every other bar in Southie on St. Paddy's Day, the place can get crowded quickly.
Finally, as you near the corner of Dorchester and West 8th, you'll approach Sullivan's Pub (238 Dorchester Street), one of the most authentic South Boston establishments at which to find yourself on March 17th. A working-class, kitsch-laden Irish bar, the pub will charge no cover on St. Patty's, but will be open at 8 a.m. to help you get an early start on the day's debauchery. With the exception of L Street Tavern, all of these establishments also fall on the parade route, so if you're looking for a St. Paddy's Day trial run, Sunday's mood is sure to be equally as celebratory and, again, should you choose to celebrate the holiday like Boston's Irish, it's recommended that you arrive well before noon.
Neighborhood: Back Bay
Access: Green Line -Hynes Convention Center stop
Though you may not have guessed it, the Boylston strip contains a small and unlikely collection of solid Irish establishments. Coming from the T stop at Hynes Convention Center, head down Boylston to McGreevy's (911 Boylston Street), where the Dropkick Murphys will be partying all week, starting March 12 with the release of their new CD, Live on Lansdowne. McGreevy's will also be hosting "St. Practice Day" on the 16th and, of course, one hell of a St. Patty's bash the following day, smack dab in the middle of the week. Best of all? St. Paddy's Day brunch begins at 8 a.m., and Irish breakfast is served all day, along with Guinness BBQ wings and 20-ouncers of Magners. Enjoy.
And should you stumble out of McGreevy's, you can always stumble right in to Lir (903 Boylston Street), another Irish pub just next door, where Dublin steak tips and, of course, Guinness are on the menu. With a huge, open storefront and two floors of debauchery, the place opens at 11 a.m. and is likely to fill up quick on Wednesday, so get there before the evening to avoid a cover charge.
From Lir, you have two options. You can head further down Boylston to one of my personal favourites, Solas (710 Boylston Street), a wee, laid-back Irish pub just beside the Lenox Hotel with phenomenal Shepherd's Pie and Smithwick's on tap (Remember: this is pronounced "Smittick's." Enunciate your "th" and you run the risk of being shunned or, at the very least, misunderstood). But if you're feeling more rambunctious, make your way from Boylston down Massachusetts Avenue toward Beacon Street, where you'll find Crossroads Irish Pub (495 Beacon Street) and some of the best pizza you'll ever have - yes, at an Irish pub - not to mention a handful of the staff who speak with an Irish lilt. The doors open at 11 a.m. but, again, arrive before 6 o'clock to avoid the $10 cover charge.
Neighborhood: Financial District
Access: Blue Line - State stop
With St. Patty's Day in the middle of the work week, the Financial District will be a unique mingling of business folks and drunken stumblers sharing it's narrow, winding streets. However, it promises to have some of the best entertainment in the city, both inside and outside these bars. Stop into McFadden's (148 State Street) any time after 8 a.m. for the traditional Irish-American version of the holiday, complete with green beer, jello shots, and an Irish car bomb station, as well as live Irish music, bag pipers, and fire eaters. True, there will be a $20 cover to get in, but green beer and fire? You get what you pay for on St. Paddy's.
But if you prefer not to have food coloring in your beer, cross the street and stop into the Black Rose (160 State Street), where the doors will be open at 6 a.m. for you to get the earliest head start you possibly can. WFNX will be broadcasting there live and the New York-based Irish rock band, "Black 47" will be performing at 9 a.m. Cover charges will vary throughout the day but can get up to around $25 at pique times, so if you plan on heading into the Black Rose, as always, the earlier the better.
Last, but not least is Mr. Dooley's Boston Tavern (77 Broad Street), where breakfast begins at 9 a.m. Irish folk musicians Patsy Whelan and Paul Kenny will be performing from 2 p.m. until close and, as always, there will be more beer, booze, and pub food than you can shake a stick at. Cover charge is $25 for this event, but I am of the belief that you can never really put a price on good Irish music and a well-poured Guinness. Erin Go Bragh.