About five years ago, I discovered the smooth, delicious spirit that is Irish Whiskey. Since then, I’ve sipped a number of them. Fortunately for me, Grand Rapids has plenty of Irish Pubs where I can sample the wares.
This year, I’ll have another reason to revisit these pubs. In May, my son, Chase, will return home from spending 4 months studying in Dublin, Ireland. I’m looking forward to visiting some of these pubs with him, where he can reminisce and share stories with me about his adventures abroad.
Known for stout beers, like Guinness, and Irish whiskeys, like Jameson and Bushmills, you can count on these Irish pubs for a festive atmosphere and, almost always, Irish music.
While St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to enjoy Shepherd’s Pie or Bangers and Mash with your beer, these local Irish Pubs go out of their way to make you feel welcome any time of year.
Quinn and Tuite's front entrance translates to “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.”
Photo Credit: Experience GR (Taken by Bree Girard)
Quinn and Tuite’s Irish Pub
When I first saw the tagline, “Céad Míle Fáilte!”, which means “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes,” I knew I’d find warm hospitality at Quinn and Tuite’s. Owners Bill Quinn and Rick Schall bought the former “Pete Brown’s Office” bar in the late ’80s and eventually turned it into a popular Irish pub. (Tuite is Schall’s mother’s Irish family name.)
Today, you can expect live Irish music and other concerts, open mic Fridays, pool and darts, over 40 different Irish whiskeys, and award-winning pours of Guinness. “We were given the distinction of the best pint poured in Michigan, by Guinness,” says owner Bill Quinn. “We have the perfect mix of nitrogen and CO2, we use the proper gas, our lines are constantly cleaned, and our help is educated on how to pour a proper pint.” In addition to Guinness, you’ll find Irish mainstays on tap like Harp Lager, Smithwick's Irish Ale, and Magner’s Irish Cider.
Quinn and Tuite’s has been recognized for more than its Guinness pour. A few years ago it was named the best neighborhood bar in Grand Rapids and one of the state’s best neighborhood bars. I especially like its friendliness and great prices, and I’m sure Chase will, too. “You’re a regular the first time you’re in here. You’re never a stranger,” says Quinn. “It’s like being in Ireland.” That will be good news for a young man who’s just returned from living in Dublin for the last four months.
Enjoy Guinness and traditional Irish food in the heart of downtown at Flanagan's.
Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids
Flanagan’s Irish Pub
I love strolling around downtown Grand Rapids in every season. Whether it’s a snowy winter day or a brisk fall evening, when I’m ready for a break, it’s easy to pop into Flanagan’s. In the heart of downtown, across from Rosa Parks Circle and the historic McKay Tower, the welcoming Irish pub has a relaxed vibe and is filled with character and ambiance.
While I favor an Irish Whiskey, Chase has already become a Guinness fan and, naturally, Flanagan’s has Guinness on tap. It also has several hand-picked selections for flights of whiskey and a Tuesday flight special that allows you to select your choice of a $6, $8, and $12 whiskey to create a custom flight for just $15, which makes it a great place for the two of us to visit together upon his return. Flanagan’s cooks up lots of traditional Irish fare, including a Guinness Stew family recipe on Thursdays. Made with roast beef, carrots, and potatoes, it’s perfect on a chilly day. The Reuben is also really good.
Although Flanagan’s doesn’t currently feature live music, it does have a great jukebox.
O'Toole's has a friendly, upbeat, come-as-you-are atmosphere.
Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids
O’Toole’s Public House
When twin brothers Dave and Paul Reinert were younger, they loved visiting the ubiquitous Irish public houses scattered throughout Boston. It struck them that Grand Rapids might embrace an Irish bar that was warm, welcoming, and lots of fun. “That’s where the whole concept of O’Toole’s came from,” says Dave Reinert.
They opened O’Toole’s in May of 2003 and they’ll celebrate its 17th anniversary in spring 2020. The Bridge Street corridor where O’Toole’s is located has seen tremendous growth and change in the past few years, bringing more bars and restaurants to the area. “When we opened we were one of the only places on the road,” says Reinert. “It’s been cool to see everything evolve.” (As a side note, the brothers also own Butcher’s Union, located on the same block.)
The vibe they’ve created is friendly and upbeat. “We have a really relaxed, come-as-you-are type of atmosphere,” says Reinert. “O’Toole’s is a great place to come with your friends and let your hair down a little bit.”
When you visit, you’ll find Guinness on tap and plenty of Irish whiskeys. But O’Toole’s also has a nice selection of scotches and tequilas, plenty of Michigan craft beer, and lots of locally-sourced menu items. I’m partial to the hand-pattied burgers made with beef sourced from Byron Center but I have friends who swear by the corned beef sandwich served with cabbage that is brined in-house.
No matter which drinks and food they choose, I’m guessing Chase and his friends will enjoy the tunes on O’Toole’s curated jukebox (with CDs, not digital). But if your preference is to belt out a song or two yourself, head to O’Toole’s on Monday nights, when it hosts a popular open mic night from 9 PM until about 1:30 AM.
A little farther out...
Grattan Irish Pub (Belding, MI)
A little over 10 miles southeast of Rockford, off of Belding Road, you’ll find Grattan Irish Pub. I stumbled onto it a few years ago and think it’s a quaint dive bar with a solid Irish Pub feel—shamrocks galore!
Built by Irish farmer immigrants, and established in 1937, Grattan Pub is family owned and operated. The menu offers Irish fare, like the corned beef Rueben sandwich with homemade sauerkraut (that they brine), but it also offers fairly traditional bar food. The burgers and wings are both tasty and, although I’m not a burrito fan, theirs get good marks from friends. On weekends, you can also choose a ribeye or New York Strip steak, both of which are sourced locally.
On Tuesday nights, Grattan Irish Pub has team trivia and sometimes, in the summer months, it has live music. Check the pub’s Facebook page for more information.
The Curragh Traditional Irish Pub (Holland, MI)
My oldest son is a soccer fan, and Curragh is the place to go to cheer on your favorite team on the pitch. (The pub shows all major matches during operating hours.) In addition to soccer, the focus at Curragh is on tradition, hospitality, and conversation. Check its website for events, music and sports schedules.
Hennessy’s Pub and Whiskey Bar (Muskegon, MI)
Like other Irish Pubs, Hennessy’s serves plenty of Guinness and Irish whiskey. It also offers lots of classic Irish Fare like Bangers and Mashed Potatoes, although I always go for the Fish & Chips with cod, hand-dipped in the pub’s Smithwick’s batter.
Hennessey’s also runs great specials like BOGO Burger Mondays and Perch Thursdays (hand-battered perch dinner for just $9.99). If you’re on a quick lunch break, check out the 15-minute Lunch Express menu.
For more Irish Pubs in Grand Rapids, and information on what’s happening for St. Patrick’s day, check out this page on Experience Grand Rapids.