In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17, @CTDATEPLATES share their picks for the best pubs and bars in Norwalk to celebrate and get your paddy on!
O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
The first stop on our St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl is a South Norwalk classic – the one and only, O’Neill’s! This Irish pub is known for its extensive beer selections, classic English and Irish cuisine, and their next-level Sunday brunch! The O’Neill brothers opened this home away from home on St. Patrick’s Day back in 1999. How fitting is that? The menu offers pub favorites like juicy burgers and Irish favorites such as corned beef sandwiches, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. And it’s a well-known fact, O’Neill’s is the home of the perfect Guinness pour! St. Patrick’s Day will be a day of mega festivities at O’Neill’s.
7:00 AM: Guinness, Irish Breakfast Buffet
All-day Irish Buffet
12:00 PM: Geoff Hartwell
12:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Greenwich Pipes and Drums
3:00 PM: Fairfield County Police Pipes and Drums
3.30 PM: The Jeff Tuohy Band
8:00 PM: Ian Biggs
Isabelle: From the moment you walk into O’Neill’s it immediately feels like what I would imagine walking into a pub straight out of Ireland would feel like. We were instantly welcomed by owner Ollie O’Neill. It is the perfect spot to hang out with your friends and family and enjoy a good beer and a bite! Overall, it felt like O’Neill’s was filled with good energy and friendly people. We even made new friends at the bar (which usually happens when you’re out with Brandon), who were literally visiting CT from Ireland and told us that “O’Neill’s is legit!”
We of course had to have a Guinness, and the pour was pretty perfect as promised! We ordered Corned Beef Reuben Empanadas which was a special and we also tried their croquettes filled with tender corned beef and peppers. I’m a sucker for corned beef and these bites were quite tasty! The croquettes had a little bit of a kick to them which I loved and they were warm and gooey on the inside with that nice crisp outer layer. I LOVED the corned beef filling in the empanadas too. These crispy appetizers paired with that perfect Guinness made for the perfect St. Patrick’s Day combo in my book!
Brandon: As an Armenian with a last name that starts with an O, this is the one time a year that I put an apostrophe after the O in Ojakian and pretend I’m Irish. So, I was extremely happy that we started with O’Neill’s because it was exactly what I had in mind when I decide to go to an Irish Pub. The experience was comprised of one of the greatest staff in SONO paired with a perfect pint and traditional Irish food. I’m talkin’ fisherman’s pie, fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, chicken pot pie, and more. We were intrigued by the corn beef empanadas and croquettes and they were delicious. We were even more intrigued by the locals that we met at the bar that were actually born and raised in Ireland. Like Isabelle mentioned, it doesn’t take much to get me talking to people at a bar but this was research and I discovered something I never knew before. In Ireland, they actually don’t eat corned beef, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, they usually eat Rashers which are slices of bacon that are more round like a fattier piece of Canadian bacon. They told us that corned beef is more of an American thing and conversations like this with Irish customers at the bar over a Guinness is pretty much exactly the kind of vibe you can expect at O’Neill’s.
The next stop on our St. Patrick’s Day tour in Norwalk was Donovan’s! Donovan’s has been a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for the people of Norwalk since 1889. They offer burgers and classic pub food in their cozy tavern and bar. They’re known for their award-winning clam chowdah! For St. Patrick’s Day, Donovan’s will be offering a special Celtic Menu that features apps including Irish Soda Bread and Irish Nachos as well as all the classic entrees including their Original Corned Beef Brisket and Cabbage dinner, a Corned Beef Brisket Reuben, Dublin Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mashed, Shepherd’s Pie, and more! They will be serving Guinness Stout and Smithwick’s Irish Ale on tap and they recommend ending your St. Patrick’s Day meal there with Donovan’s Irish Coffee!
Isabelle: Donovan’s is another great fun bustling pub that gives off a very welcoming and neighborhood vibe! It is another friendly spot where strangers all seem to say hello to you just because! This is pretty rare these days but so refreshing! We ordered their famous clam chowder and it did not disappoint! It had plenty of clams mixed with perfectly cooked cubes of potatoes all nestled in a thick and oh-so-creamy chowder. I was tempted to order another cup to go to devour later! We also tried their Fish and Chips which was also spot on! The fish was cooked to perfection on the inside and had that perfectly golden crunchy crust. The fries were skinny and crispy just the way I like them. Definitely one of the better fish and chips I’ve had. Overall, Donovan’s had a very fun and welcoming energy with delicious pub food which is all you could really ask for on St. Patrick’s Day!
Brandon: Going into Donovan’s, we had already heard that they claimed to have the best clam chowder around but there seemed to be some debate from locals whether that was the case. So obviously we had to go see for ourselves. This is the oldest bar in South Norwalk and we could feel the nostalgia when we walked up to it and saw the gorgeous mural on the side of the building. No surprise, we immediately ordered the chowder and honestly, it definitely lived up to the hype. For me it was the thickness that really grabbed my interest and then tasting all the flavor in that bowl, I was sold. Our server was the best and told us that her favorite thing on their menu is one of their amazingly juicy burgers. And the special that they have this week is the Irish Burger topped with cheddar cheese, Irish Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and served with a pile of fries. That burger is what I have my eyes set on Thursday when I head down to Donovan’s. That and probably a shot or two of Jameson!
Dry Dock Bar & Grille
Next stop, Dry Dock, which has been a Norwalk mainstay since 1974. This newly refreshed laid-back space serves up top-notch American classics including over-stuffed sandwiches, burgers, and pizza. They also do a Sunday brunch that looks killer! Their St. Patrick’s Day menu features all the classics including Corned Beef and Cabbage, a Corned Beef and Cabbage Sandwich, Shepard’s Pie, Irish Stew, Key Lime Pie, and Pretzel Bites! For drinks, they will be offering special festive cocktails, Rainbow Charms Jelly Shots, and Pickle Back shooters.
Isabelle: We LOVED everything about Dry Dock! We sat by the bar with another great crowd and enjoyed all of the snacks, libations, and tasty bites we tried there. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and my favorite shot ever invented, we ordered a round of the Pickle Back Shooters for our table of two! Sticking with my favorite pickle theme, we also ordered their Homemade Fried Pickles which are breaded and served with a chipotle ranch dressing. Brandon and I have eaten A LOT of fried pickles since we started dating because we’re obsessed, and these were some of the best!! They had the perfect balance of crispy breaded outer shell to inner crunchy and juicy pickle inside. Plus, the dipping sauce was absolutely heavenly. Creamy and refreshing with a little spice to it! We also ordered their Idaho Potato Skins which were loaded with all of the best toppings. Even though I was getting pretty full at this point on our St. Patrick’s Day crawl, I couldn’t help but devour these happily because they were just that good! Definitely a fun spot not to be missed this St. Patrick’s Day!
Brandon: Dry Dock is such a cool spot in Norwalk to visit any time but especially this week. When we walked in, I immediately ordered two shots of Jameson to get in the festive spirit. Apparently, Isabelle takes her Jameson with a side of pickle juice so that’s how we ordered our second shot. Come Thursday, I’m planning on heading back and trying the Irish Salute which is Jameson with some baileys and Guinness. I can’t think of a better combination than Irish liquor and beer in one drink to celebrate St. Patty’s Day. Speaking of great combinations, the ingredients in the Irish stew may be the best things to combine since me and Isabelle. Lamb, potatoes, onions, turnip, carrots, and barley in one bowl will definitely be my dish of choice come Thursday’s holiday.
A few other spots we recommend adding to your St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl are Tavern on 7 and BJ Ryan’s East! BJ Ryan’s East is the newest addition to the BJ Ryan’s family. You can’t go wrong with any of their hearty sandwiches, pizza, loaded salads, and of course their cocktails! Tavern on 7 is another great local bar and restaurant that specializes in all things wings, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and their house-made desserts.
Whichever restaurant you choose to visit on this list, we are confident that you won’t need the luck of the Irish to have a great experience!