With the impending closings of the Celtic Tavern and Delaney's this weekend, Denverites will lose two places where they could quaff a Guinness and knock back shots of Jameson or Bushmills. Irish pubs have not fared well in Denver this year; we've already lost Katie Mullen's, Wee Katie's and Maloney's downtown. Decent Irish establishments, the kind found on nearly every street corner of bigger cities like Boston, New York and Chicago, are not as common in the Mile High City, but there are still plenty of places where you can get your green on. Here are the ten best Irish pubs in town, listed in alphabetical order.
The Abbey Tavern
5151 East Colfax Avenue
Call it the luck of the Irish: The Abbey Tavern has evolved into a pub that's better than the sum of its parts. Owner Glen Eastwood turned an old florist's shop on East Colfax into a true hangout for Park Hill, a neighborhood hungry for more restaurant options.
"An Irish pub, to me, is a form of inviting hospitality and warmth, very welcoming," says Eastwood. And the Abbey is welcoming indeed, with eager servers, an excellent weekday happy hour and an atmosphere that attracts families, young groups, older couples and singles alike. They all order from a menu that features a predictable roster of Irish standards and American bar fare, with some dishes — like the Abbey rolls that fry up corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss in an egg-roll wrapper — that are a combo of both. The Abbey is a "public house" in the true sense of the phrase: a gathering place for the whole community.
Clancy's Irish Pub
7000 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
Clancy's was founded in Wheat Ridge in 1973 by Bob "Clancy" Murray. While Murray is no longer with us, a new ownership group took over in 2010 and moved the pub to its current location in 2015 after its original home was slated for demolition and redevelopment. The new Clancy's is far bigger than the original but still maintains its welcoming warmth and homey charm. Raise a pint to Bob Murray as you slide onto a stool at the bar.
Dougherty's Restaurant & Pub
5 East Ellsworth Avenue
Dougherty's is a neighborhood pub that caters to the entire neighborhood — the young and the old, the hip and the square, the firemen, the drunks and the industry people. It's kid-friendly, pet-friendly, family-friendly and drunk-friendly, with cheap lunches all day and happy-hour specials at the bar. The bartenders here pour some of the strongest drinks in town, and when the time comes for soaking up that firewater, Dougherty's also has an excellent pub kitchen, a nice dining room separated from the bar, and a menu that's better than you'd expect. Dougherty's skips the theme-park Irish pub decor, opting instead for a comfortable neighborhood-bar atmosphere for a pint or three.
375 South Pearl Street
Finley's opened on South Pearl Street four years ago, but it feels as if it's been in Denver much longer. A small room with a two-sided bar means you'll feel like you're part of any conversation that may be happening as you pull up a chair — and you're likely to run into someone you know. Beer choices range beyond typical Irish stout, with a tight selection of craft beers from around the world. You'll find Irish-fusion bar food like Irish nachos and and an Irish Cuban sandwich, but Finley's also sears one of the best burgers in town, made with shreds of braised short rib mixed in with the ground chuck.
The Irish Snug
1201 East Colfax Avenue
The Irish Snug has ghosts — specifically, the spirits of Sid King and his troop of exotic dancers, who entertained at the Crazy Horse Bar long before current Denverites ever snuggled up inside the cozy booths known as snugs. But the Snug has a life and a history of its own, pouring pints and shots for more than a decade and hosting numerous community events from runners' clubs to trivia nights, as well as church groups that help distribute sandwiches to Denver's homeless. Nights are rowdy and brunch is hearty here in the Irish heart of Colfax.
The Irish Rover
54 South Broadway
The Irish Rover has undergone several changes since sailing into its home on South Broadway in 2005. The exterior went from red to black, the bar expanded to the space next door, and a rooftop patio was added in 2012. Despite the changes, the Rover has remained a calm port where a draft beer and a whiskey help guests forget about the sea of troubles outside the door. A table on the rooftop means a view of the action on Broadway below, which has shifted and evolved more than the Rover itself.
Ned Kelly's Irish Pub
5686 South Sycamore Street
Irish-Australian bush ranger Edward “Ned” Kelly was hailed by some as a cold-blooded killer, while others considered him a folk hero and a symbol of Irish-Australian resistance against oppression by the British ruling class. Whatever the case, folks celebrate him daily at this authentic Irish pub in downtown Littleton. While the intimate space can get packed during karaoke on Fridays and live music on Saturdays, it’s also a place where you can get to know your neighbor in a relatively short time. Whatever the time of day, Ned Kelly's retains a defiant air — just like its namesake.
Nallen's Irish Pub
1429 Market Street
Nallen’s opened in 1992 and was a neighborhood mainstay long before other bars invaded the 1400 block of Market Street. The family-operated, no-frills spot feels more like an authentic Irish pub than a trendy LoDo bar. Since Nallen’s isn’t overwhelmed with a lot of TVs showing sporting events, it’s easier to concentrate on the drinking here. The bar serves a mean pint of Guinness, along with a decent array of U.K. brews like Smithwick’s and domestic and local beers. Step into Nallen's to experience LoDo before it was LoDo.
2030 Larimer Street
The stretch of Larimer between 20th and 22nd streets is an amusement park of drinking establishments perfect for young bar-hoppers looking for drink deals, live music and nightlife. Scruffy Murphy's fits right in, with a raucous atmosphere that fits its name and the surroundings. No neighborhood bar meant for quiet conversation over slowly poured and slowly consumed beers, Scruffy's will grab you by the collar and shout pub songs in your face until you feel you've no choice but to sing along or move along.
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Sheabeen Irish Pub
2300 South Chambers Road, Aurora
Way out east, the Sheabeen has been quietly pouring drinks and offering shelter since 1989. While there's a small selection of sandwiches, pizza and snacks, this is no restaurant, but rather a watering hole with live Irish music on Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday night is open-stage night, so bring your fiddle and bolster your courage with a little Irish whiskey, and sit in on a true Irish tradition. Sláinte!