Katie O’Byrne would have loved all the green at her place off Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.
The Ireland-themed tavern Katie O’Byrne’s, located just a few steps from the intersection of State Street, is full of shamrocks, green lights, Irish names, coats of arms and souvenirs from the old country.
O’Byrne was born in Dublin in 1899. Four local Irish-American men – one of them Katie’s grandson J.P. Maloney – opened the tavern in her memory in 2006.
The name probably attracts some Irish. But bar and restaurant people say a genuine, Irish-style pub must have more than just an Irish name. The Daily Gazette has researched some of the more popular Irish-style pubs in the area and assembled a list of 12 essential places that should help people plan St. Patrick’s Day travels this week.
Maloney said an Irish-style place has to look nice. People also have to feel comfortable in the dining room and at the bar.
“You have to have Irish food,” Maloney said. “Corned beef and cabbage, we do every day of the year. And bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes), shepherd’s pie, corned beef sandwiches.”
Authentic flavors help the authentic foods, and that’s why Maloney and partner Tony DiCarlo stock the bar with 17 Irish whiskeys and several Irish beers.
Other essential bars on The Gazette’s list, in alphabetical order, are:
Carney’s Tavern, 17 Main St. (Route 146A) Ballston Lake: The tavern building dates to the mid-1800s and once housed a hotel, saloon, barber shop, grocery store and horse stable.
It became the Ballston Lake Hotel in 1896, a name that stuck until 1971. McDonough’s tavern was in the building; Bob and Rosemary Carney became the caretakers in 1982.
Matt and Stephanie Finnigan took over the business in 2014. Carney’s menu includes Reuben sandwiches and, like other places, corned beef and cabbage will be cooking in the kitchen next weekend.
“It’s a place with an Irish theme,” said Kathy Crowley Smith, who has worked at Carney’s for the past 36 years. “We have music and we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day very nicely.”
Celtic Crossing: The hall at Schenectady’s Ancient Order of Hibernians at 1748 State St. will be open to the public on St. Patrick’s Day. Admission will be $5, but there will be Irish music – and Irish people – all over the place.
McGeary’s, Clinton Square, Albany: The city’s longtime Irish gathering spot, there’s always a crowd after Albany’s annual St. Patrick’s Parade. This year, McGeary’s will double down: The parade and St. Patrick’s Day are on the same day, March 17.
O’Brien’s Public House, 43 Third St., Troy: Like Carney’s, this building serves up a lot of history. Built in 1827, it was long known as the Trojan Hotel. The O’Brien family bought the long-vacant building in 2013 and opened their business the following year.
Shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage are on the menu, and beer like Murphy’s, Guinness, Smithwick’s, Kilkenny and Magners cider are all at the bar.
The exterior of O’Slattery’s Irish Pub in Delmar. Owner Liam Slattery believes successful Irish gathering spots should be family-friendly. (Photo provided)
O’Slattery’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, 318 Delaware Ave., Delmar: Liam Slattery opened his tavern in December 2015. He jokes people really come to hear his accent, which came to America with him from County Kilkenny in southeastern Ireland.
“An Irish pub should be more of a family style kind of place, where you feel you can hang out with your kids,” Slattery said. “In Ireland, this was the place where you got your first job, met your first girlfriend. It was a social hub, before social media, where people would go to meet and catch up on news, sports. It was the inside playground for adults and children.”
Parting Glass, 40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs: The Parting Glass has been an attraction for Irish people and their friends since it opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1981. It’s the huge public house – a concert space, back bar and plenty of dartboards are part of the business.
Owner Joan Desadora believes Irish style means warm and comfortable. “It’s a social gathering place, it’s not just a bar where people are lined up drinking Guinness,” she said.
Irish music and step dancing are featured regularly at the “Glass.” Desadora believes the large clientele of Irish people add to the festive atmosphere.
“You can tell who they are, they wear the Irish caps and green sweaters,” she said. “They come for a fun night and they look Irish.”
Patrons crowd The Parting Glass on Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2017. (Erica Miller)
People are also coming for perfect pours. Bar personnel, Desadora thinks, must take pride in their work behind the tap. “It has to be slow, you have to tilt the glass, stop, take your time, get the frothy head, let it sit,” she said. “That’s what forms the perfect pint.”
Pig ‘N Whistle, 654 Saratoga Road, Burnt Hills: Irish specialties include corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie.
Pinhead Susan’s, 38-40 N Broadway, Schenectady: With Katie O’Byrne’s, the city has two Irish-themed bars located close together. Pinhead’s opened in 2000 and has been a must-stop for revelers around St. Patrick’s Day.
“Good times, good music, cold drinks, hot corned beef,” said manager Tom McDonald. “That’s what I consider good Irish atmosphere.”
Power’s Inn and Pub, 130 Meyer Road, Clifton Park: Another vintage building – it was built in 1786 – Power’s will run St. Patrick’s Day specials each night this week from Tuesday through Saturday. The pub’s take on Irish foods include Irish nachos, corned beef sliders, Irish pub chicken curry and fish and chips.
“A genuine Irish pub is an older house type of building,” said Bryah Gifford, who owns the tavern and Giffy’s Bar-B-Q. “Not a new commercial building. This is an old farmhouse, every room has a different look and feel to it – which is very characteristic of a pub in Ireland.”
Public House 42, 42 Eagle St., Albany: Nikki Rogalo, one of the managers in the bar formerly known as PSP, The Barrell and most recently, the Capital American Eatery and Lounge, said Irish-style means comfort and relaxation.
“I feel there are lot of people in the Capital District who are Irish,” she said. “It’s a place people can go and feel at home.”
Mike Bennett, owner of Stoney’s Irish Grill in Schenectady — shown during last week’s snowy Wednesday and a closed bar day — expects full houses for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. (Jeff Wilkin)
Stoney’s Irish Grill, 1859 Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady: “Every place is a little different,” said Mike Bennett, who owns the bar in Schenectady’s Goose Hill section. “We have a lot of Irishmen around, we have a lot of Irish customers so we lean in that direction.”
Bennett has owned Stoney’s for 43 years now and said the tavern has always had an Irish-style atmosphere. He keeps the tradition going. “We have Irish music at least once a month, sometimes twice a month,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]