While a lot of the pubs in the neighborhood are more cattle staging areas littered with TVs and Irish kitsch, there's a sense of the authentic (or at least what passes for it) at this small pub with no food and a long wooden bar. The low ceilings, musty books, and tea-cup and biscuit-tin décor enhance the sort of poetic pint-glass musings an Irish pub is supposed to engender - just be prepared to strike up a conversation with the person you're literally rubbing elbows with. Over the course of a Smithwick's ($4) we heard at least four languages/English dialects and saw at least five stages of inebriation.
Durty Nelly's, 108 Blackstone St., Boston. 617-367-2114. somersirishpubs.com
Just around the cobblestone corner is the popular Green Dragon, established in 1654. Like Nelly's, it's owned by the Somers Pubs group, but we found it a lot less inviting. The antique mirrors and ornate curtains expressed a charm of sorts, but the collection of loosened-tie after-work types, children, fanny packers, popped-collar college bros, and hungry men wolfing down shepherd's pie somehow made us homesick even amid the American Patriot vibe. The Irish pub here is as American as take-out Chinese food.
In a way, the bar seemed a metaphor for Boston itself: filthy with history, but not entirely sure how to carry all that weight into the future. On the way out, the theme from "Cheers" of all things came on. Outside, a camera-toting dad hustled his son in front of a Revolutionary War soldier statue. "Let's take your picture with this guy," he said.
"Why?" asked the boy.
Green Dragon Tavern, 11 Marshall St., Boston. 617-367-0055. somersirishpubs.com