My first St. Patrick’s Day away from home — my freshman year in college — I was determined to find an Irish meal to eat. Growing up, my mom would make an Americanized version of an Irish Boiled Dinner — corned beef, potatoes, turnips, carrots and cabbage cooked in one pot — typically called New England Boiled Dinner. I was excited to meet anyone who understood my undying love for “corned beef and cabbage.”
I take great pride in my Irish roots, even making an annual trip to the outer edge of Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Ohio Street to help clean and put flowers on the grave of our ancestor, Seamus Finnegan. As I’ve gotten older, I feel more connected to my Irish heritage, but my favorite way to connect with it is through the food.
Luckily in Maine, there is no shortage of Irish pubs where I can get my fix. From shepherd’s pie to colcannon, Maine’s Irish pubs bring the best of Ireland to the East Coast. Here is a list of the few where, Irish or not, you can still gather with a pint of Guinness and fully embrace the essence of “Erin go bragh,” through food.
Leary’s Landing Irish Pub, 156 Main St., Bar Harbor
Open since 2007, Leary’s Landing offers traditional pub fare such as shepherd’s pie made the traditional way with lamb, fish and chips (the patrons’ favorite) and Bangers and Mash made with bangers sausage, mushroom-onion gravy, garlic-herb mashed potatoes and vegetables to more classic New England staples such as fresh crab rolls and hamburgers. “It’s pretty much for everybody,” said Cody Gordon, owner of Leary’s since 2015. Leary’s also offers traditional Irish drinks such as Guinness, Magnus Irish Cider and a variety of whiskey. Although the food is inspired from across the pond, Leary’s also sources its meat from somewhere much closer: A Wee Bit Farm in Orland.
Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland
Sitting in the heart of Portland’s Old Port, Bull Feeney’s highlights Portland’s deep Irish roots. John A. Feeney emigrated from the village of Spiddal County Galway, Ireland to Portland in June 1854. John was the father of John “Bull” Martin Feeney, a Hollywood director. As its website reads: “Bull Feeney’s would like to honor those families who immigrated to Portland and elsewhere in the U.S. whether recently or, like Bull’s family, generations ago. Opening on St. Patrick’s Day of 2002, Bull Feeney’s has some lesser known Irish dishes on its menu such as Bangers & Colcannon, which is a potato dish made with kale or cabbage served with the Irish pork sausage. Bull Feeney’s just wants to celebrate it Irish origins through the food.
Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery, 570 Main St., Bangor
Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery — formerly known as John Geaghan’s Roundhouse Restaurant — opened in 1975 and is owned by brothers Larry, Peter and Pat and Larry’s son Andrew, who heads brewery operations. Adapting to customer preferences over the years, Pat Geaghan said they eventually settled into doing more comfort and pub food. “We became more of an Irish pub because that was our true identity,” he said. Geaghan’s food lives up to that. The pub serves corned beef and cabbage on Wednesdays, pot roast on Thursdays, will offer traditional Irish specials throughout the year such as Dublin coddle, a sausage potato stew, and colcannon. And don’t forget to try the Bailey’s pie before you leave — a recipe borrowed from another Peter Geaghan over in Ireland.
Paddy Murphy’s, 26 Main St., Bangor
John Dobbs first opened the downtown Bangor staple Paddy Murphy’s in 2007. With roots in Northern Ireland, Dobbs said he loved the culture, sounds and excitement that the pub scene provides. The outer sign of Paddy’s reads “The Best of Ireland With a Taste of Maine,” and it couldn’t be more true. Dobbs said that while they do have traditional Irish foods, Paddy’s tries to include Maine favorites, like blueberries and seafood, to the menu seasonally.
Paddy’s offers traditional American staples for those who aren’t a fan of Irish fare, such as avocado fries (a personal favorite), chicken fingers and an assortment of salads and burgers. But on the the menu are the featured “Irish Jewels,” which include customer favorite Dublin Fish and Chips, Guinness Stew, Cottage Pie — ground beef, onions and spices topped with a potato crust and cheddar cheese — and traditional soda bread. Add a Guineess or Murphy’s and you’re all set. And St. Patrick’s at Paddys is an experience. With doors opening at 6 a.m., Dobbs said customers “line up the door and out the block.”
Byrnes’ Irish Pub, 16 Station Ave., Brunswick and 38 Centre St., Bath
Joe Byrnes and his wife Pam opened the first Byrnes’ location in Brunswick on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008 and their second location in Bath on the same day two years later. Like Geaghan’s, Byrnes’ Irish Pub is also a family business with two of the couple’s three children serving as managers of the two locations. Byrnes’ does a little bit of a twist with some Irish favorites, making its shepherd’s pie with beef and pork and a Guinness onion gravy, as well as American favorites like the BLT. But there are some meals you can’t deny are quintessentially Irish. From the potato dish champ and Irish Bangers and Mash (made with Maine potatoes) to corned beef hash and a reuben made with corned beef instead of pastrami, this place can be marked as the real deal in my book.