8 Foods You Should And 5 You Shouldn't At An Irish Pub

There's no better way to celebrate your Irish heritage or love for Irish culture than visiting an old-fashioned Irish pub. And with St. Patrick's Day upon us, it's the perfect time to embrace your Irish roots (or to pretend to have them). It doesn't matter if your heritage is wholly Irish, a few generations back, or not Irish at all; anyone can join in on the festivities and partake of the traditional food, drink, and friendly atmosphere at an Irish pub.


There are a few drinks and foods that come to mind when you think of St. Patrick's Day, but some of them are less authentically Irish than others. If you're planning your first trip to an Irish pub and hoping to make a good impression, there are a few orders you'll want to avoid. Some because they aren't truly Irish and others because of their controversial history. But, don't worry, there are other options that you shouldn't miss, so you'll still have plenty to choose from. Based on first-hand knowledge and research, we've compiled a list of some of the best and worst things to order at an Irish pub. Use this as an easy guide to make the best of your next Irish pub visit!

Do order corned beef and cabbage

Many Americans consider corned beef and cabbage the quintessential Irish dish, making it the centerpiece of St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the U.S. For some Irish American families, corned beef and cabbage has even extended beyond St. Patrick's Day to become their traditional New Year's Eve dinner.


Despite its central role in Irish American culture, corned beef and cabbage doesn't originate from Ireland. The prevalence of corned beef and cabbage started with Irish immigrants in New York. In the 19th century, many Irish came to America to escape famine. Before migrating, most Irish families didn't have the luxury of meat, but once in the U.S., they began purchasing corned beef and preparing it with cabbage. The popularity grew amongst the immigrant population, resulting in the iconic and beloved dish. To this day, Irish Americans and any Americans with an affinity for the Irish celebrate Irish culture with corned beef and cabbage.

Given its history, corned beef and cabbage is the perfect dish to celebrate Irish American culture, and there's no better place to get an authentic version than your local Irish pub. Most Irish pubs in the US will have corned beef and cabbage on the menu, and you may even find some St. Patrick's Day specials to make the delicious meal even more enjoyable.


Don't order beef stew

Another dish that many Americans associate with Ireland is beef stew. However, this is not a traditional Irish meal. Classic beef stew is made with cubed beef, beef broth, potatoes, and carrots. It may be the tender, savory potatoes that have many Americans associating this dish with Irish roots. However, the Irish are not known to cook with beef very often. And although some beef recipes, like corned beef and cabbage, were popularized by Irish immigrants in America, beef stew doesn't have that cultural significance.


Although a cozy bowl of stew may sound like the perfect order for a pub night, beef stew is more closely associated with the French and British than the Irish. Some Irish pubs may include beef stew on the menu, but you're better off ordering an authentically Irish meal. While there's nothing wrong with beef stew, it's just not what the Irish are known for and might be the best order at an Irish pub. Save it for another restaurant, or make homemade beef stew another night.

Do order Irish stew

If you do find yourself at an Irish pub craving the warming effect and comforting flavors of beef stew, try Irish stew instead. Irish stew has many similarities to beef stew (which may be why beef stew is often mistaken for an Irish dish), but this order is more traditional Irish and perfect for enjoying at the pub.


The key difference between beef stew and classic Irish stew is that Irish stew is made with mutton or sometimes lamb. Mutton is much more common in Irish cooking than beef. Sheep farming has been prevalent in Ireland for centuries, making it one of the main sources of meat. England, on the other hand, was a beef-eating country. After the English occupation, many Irish farmers produced beef for the English but were too poor to afford the meat themselves.

So, if you're looking to celebrate Irish history and culture, you're much better off going with the mutton version of stew. Traditional Irish stew is also less common on menus than beef stew, so you're less likely to find this tasty recipe outside of Irish pubs.


Don't order an Irish car bomb

The Irish car bomb has controversial origins and is quite possibly the worst thing you could order at an Irish pub. The drink is a type of bomb shot cocktail made by dropping a shot of liquor into a glass of beer and downing the mixture. In the case of an Irish car bomb, the shot consists of Irish cream and Irish whiskey, which is dropped into a tall glass of Guinness. Although this may seem like a fun drink to liven up your night out or St. Paddy's Day festivities, ordering an Irish car bomb is a surefire way to make a bad impression at an Irish pub.


The combination of Baileys, Irish whiskey, and Guinness brings together the alcohols that Ireland is the most famous for, but the trouble is not with the drink ingredients but with the drink's name. Because of its Irish ingredients, the maker of the drink coined it the Irish car bomb. However, this references a devastating time in Irish history when car bombs were a real threat that injured many people. Some Irish pubs may serve the cocktail under a different name, like an Irish slammer, in which case you should feel free to imbibe, but by all means, don't slip up and call it an Irish car bomb.

Do order colcannon

What's more Irish than potatoes? The only thing we can think of is adding cabbage to those potatoes, and that's exactly what you get with colcannon! Potatoes are a prominent part of Irish cuisine because they grow well in Ireland's climate. They're also inexpensive and filling, making them a staple food for Irish workers. Similarly, cabbage is a historically popular Irish crop and a regular part of Irish diets. Colcannon combines the two into a simple but delicious recipe.


 Although you likely won't want to order it by itself, creamy colcannon — or Irish mashed potatoes, as they might be called on a menu — make the perfect filling side dish to round out your dinner. The next time you visit an Irish pub, enjoy this incredible potato dish on the side of lamb, corned beef, Irish stew, or Irish bacon, as it's the perfect accompaniment to a savory meat dish. That said, we certainly won't judge if you decide to order a bowl all on its own.

Don't order a black and tan drink

Like the Irish car bomb, this is another drink order that's very controversial at an Irish pub. A black and tan cocktail is a popular beer drink made by layering pale ale with a dark beer, typically Guinness. The result is a pint glass with a layer of amber or tan beer and a layer of dark brown beer. Because of the distinct colors of the drink, the name black and tan may seem innocuous, however, it has a history.


"Black and tan" was a name for British recruits during the Irish War for Independence. The nickname "black and tans" came from the Royal Irish Constabulary's (RIC) uniform color. Although ordering a black and tan cocktail may not strike you as offensive, the name references a fraught time for the Irish and is better avoided, especially when visiting an Irish pub. To show respect for the Irish and Ireland's history, don't order a black and tan.

If you still want to try the layered beer drink, ask the bartender for a half-and-half instead. You'll get the same layered combination of dark and light beer but without the politically loaded name.

Do try Irish whiskey

This may go without saying, but we'll say it anyway. One of the best things to order at an Irish pub is a glass of Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey is distinct from other varieties of whiskey because of its ingredients and distilling process. While American whiskeys are made with corn, rye, or wheat, Irish whiskey is made from barley. It's smooth, oaky, and lightly spiced. Irish whiskey is also typically distilled three times, setting it apart from Scottish whiskies.


Regardless of whether you're already a whiskey lover or are just becoming acquainted with the spirit, Irish whiskey is an excellent order. Old Line Spirits whiskey brand founder Mark McLaughlin recommends Irish whiskey as the best option for beginners, as it's not as strong as other whiskey varieties. "Irish whiskey is very typically very mellow and very easy to drink — and it's not overpowering in flavor," McLaughlin told Tasting Table.

There's no better place to introduce yourself to this Irish staple than in an Irish pub. There are plenty of Irish whiskey brands to choose from, including the very popular Jameson, Green Spot, Redbreast, and more. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the choices. But Irish pubs can offer all the options as well as the expertise to advise you on which to order.


Do try Irish coffee

Although Irish whiskey is delicious, drinking it straight can be a lot. If you're not sold on trying Irish whiskey on its own, try ordering an Irish coffee for a delicious and classic drink that includes whiskey. Made with hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and Baileys, Irish coffee is a rich, invigorating, and soothing drink that's sure to warm you up.


This is the perfect order for coffee lovers. Baileys and whiskey make for a robust and rich blend. Then, it's topped with a dollop of whipped cream for a decadent finishing touch. Many Irish coffee recipes also include a little sugar to help balance the bitter and nutty flavors of the coffee and whiskey.

Irish pubs should be well-stocked with the ingredients needed for this cocktail and ready to make it for you. Note that due to the black coffee, this may not be the best order if you're visiting the pub later in the day. For anyone who doesn't typically drink caffeine at night, the Irish coffee may keep you awake. Of course, if you still want to try it, you could always ask the bartender if they can make a decaf version.


Don't go with your typical cocktail order

Irish pubs are just as well stocked as any standard bar. Along with classic Irish whiskey, beer, and other Irish alcohol options, you'll also find gin, vodka, wine, and any of your standard bar orders available. You can easily order a gin and tonic, vodka soda, or rum and coke at most Irish pubs, just as they are at any other bar. But just because these options are available doesn't mean they're the best order you can make.


Visiting an Irish pub is the perfect time to celebrate Irish culture by enjoying traditional Irish foods and drinks. Instead of sticking to your go-to drink order, use the opportunity to try something new that you wouldn't find at just any bar.

Dylan McCabe, general manager and bartender at Jackdaw NYC, a popular Irish pub in New York, encouraged patrons to step outside their comfort zone and skip their standard cocktail. "As an Irish bar, we love when people diverge from their typical cocktail or beer orders and try something more traditionally Irish!" McCabe told Eat This, Not That. "Some people who usually stick to vodka or tequila cocktails, or domestic beers think they wouldn't be a fan of whiskey cocktails or Irish beers, but are oftentimes excited by how much they love them."


Do order Guinness

Guinness is likely the most popular Irish pub order, and with good reason. It's a simple drink order with solid Irish roots and years of tradition and culture. This is the perfect choice for something classically Irish and not too fussy. Guinness is a dry Irish stout that combines malty and bitter flavors and light notes of coffee in the complex brew.


You'll likely recognize the harp logo right away, as this beer has become iconic. The history of Guinness dates way back to 1759 when Arthur Guinness started his brewing company in Dublin. The brew took off, and to this day, Guinness is one of the most common drink orders in Ireland and has ventured far beyond the country's borders to be enjoyed in bars and pubs worldwide.

Guinness is a reliable and traditional drink at the cornerstone of St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the U.S., so be sure to order one the next time you're in an Irish pub. Whether you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day or simply find yourself there on a normal night, you can't go wrong with this beloved Irish drink.

Don't order any American beers

Although you may have a favorite type of beer like Bud Light or Budweiser, those standard orders are better saved for when you are back at a standard American bar. When at an Irish pub, seize the opportunity to sample Irish beer. Ireland is known for its delicious brews, so you would be missing out to skip it.


Guinness is the most famous and a great place to start, but there are many other Irish beer brands, and a traditional Irish pub will have plenty of them to choose from. Some of the best Irish beer brands to try are Kilkenny, Smithwick's Irish Ale, Murphy's, and O'Hara's.

If you find the beer list overwhelming, don't be discouraged. The many options are no reason to retreat back to an American beer out of habit. Instead, ask your bartender for their recommendation. Odds are a bartender will be able to make a recommendation based on what you like or normally drink.

Do try hot Irish whiskey

If you want a traditional Irish drink that's a little more unique than a standard stout or sipping whiskey, try a hot Irish whiskey. This is the perfect drink option for a cold night. The warming effects of Irish whiskey combined with hot water, lemon, and spice are sure to have you feeling relaxed and comforted. It can also be made with a bit of honey for some sweetness to balance out the other bold flavors. The hot drink is like a soothing lemon tea with the addition of whiskey to give it a boozy kick.


You may also have heard this cocktail referred to as a hot toddy, a popular winter drink that originated in India. The Irish version is quite similar, except it uses Irish whiskey for the alcohol. You can order a hot Irish whiskey at most Irish pubs and enjoy the soothing drink mix, which is typically made with Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Do try Irish breakfast

Irish breakfast may only be available at some pubs, but if you've got a big appetite and find yourself at an Irish pub offering breakfast, it's an absolute delight. You may have heard of the full English breakfast, consisting of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, and sausage. A full Irish breakfast is similar but with some key differences. An Irish breakfast will also offer a combination of hearty, savory foods like eggs, baked beans, sausage, and bacon. However, as you may be able to guess, an Irish breakfast can also include potatoes. The potatoes may be made into hash browns or bubble and squeak, depending on the pub. Irish breakfast also often includes black or white pudding and slices of Irish soda bread. 


The hearty meal is a classic Irish dish. It's quite filling, so if you aren't sure you'll be able to eat a full Irish breakfast on your own, you can always order it with a friend to share. Don't forget to complete the breakfast with a cup of tea, or try it with an Irish coffee if you want a boozy brunch the Irish way.