In case there are any that were not aware, San Francisco is a pretty awesome city. Not only is there a fantastic atmosphere, with the people being about as friendly as you could want, but there is a vibrant Irish culture in pockets throughout the city. In and around Union Square, where we stayed however, there wasn’t a whole lot. It became our mission immediately upon arriving there to seek out the best pubs we could.
That brought us to the main feature of our trip: dinner at Foley’s. This place does indeed have a very authentically Irish feel immediately upon entering; from the whiskey barrels, to the old paintings and 19th century decorative furniture, everything gave the place a nice inviting feel. It’s a larger pub, with a huge open room with a high roof just past the host stand. I suspect the large windows were a product of updated building codes, as traditional Irish pubs try very hard to block out natural light (they are called “Ireland’s sunblock” for a reason).
We sat at a table under the watchful eye of a Mona Lisa painting, showing her holding a glass of what we assumed was Guiness, with a white beer head mustache. The menu had lots of good selections on it, but they sure knew how to charge, so don’t go in there expecting a cheap meal. We got the beers we all wanted, mine being a delicious Kilkenny, and ordered some garlic fries. All of this got us watered up for the main course we had been itching to have since my uncle started singing its praises before we left: the Guinness Stew. Yes, I have certainly had this wonderful dish before and I couldn’t wait to try it. Looking at the entrée selections on the menu…no Guinness Stew. No, they stopped making it a few years earlier and replaced it with- wait for it- a vegetable broth stew. Yep, they went cheap. “No matter,” said I and ordered my second favorite and had a fine time of it.
After that, we went to our concert/show and that was fantastic. Lots of history at The Fillmore and the sound was great. The next day we went exploring the city for some more Irishness (when together, our group is real into that.) We found a diner/bar across the street from our hotel called Lefty O’Douls. It turned out this place wasn’t as Irish as we had hoped, as good ol’ Frank “Lefty” O’Doul was a member of the San Francisco Giants baseball team in the 1920s and ’30s. Once again, we made the best of it and had a grand time over pints of Guinness.
That night had to be one of the best times I have had while exploring a big city. We had stopped at a shop by our hotel selling Irish trinkets and decorative items. We asked the very Irish lady behind the counter if there were any good pubs around and she mentioned a couple, one of which was “down a kind of alley.” That’s all we needed and we were off. We never did find that pub, The Irish Bank. We landed at a little nondescript place called Murphy’s Pub. This place was great. There were no free tables when we arrived, so we headed out to the ‘patio’ out in back of the place. This turned out to just be a tarp hanging over some plastic patio tables set up in the alley. It was so unusual for us that is what made it special. Aside from some spilled Guinness, due to the tables being very sensitive to any movement, we had a great meal. When using the restroom inside, we discovered that the door lock did not work and the door did not hang flush in the frame. This became a comical game with each person unwittingly opening the door on the prior occupant.
One particular victim of this game was very good natured about it and after talking with him for a little while, we invited him and his buddy to share a round with us. We pulled up a table in a private back room and had a great time with them. It turns out they are from Malaysia and they had lots of fascinating stories and descriptions of home. This just made this particular stop all the more special and a fine way to end a great trip. I hope to be back very soon.