10 Awesome Rhode Island Irish Pubs
March 11, 2022
According to the U.S. Census, Rhode Island is one of the country’s “most Irish” states with more than 17% percent of the population claiming Irish ancestry.
From the mid-seventeenth century on, many Irish and people of Irish descent have called Rhode Island home. One of East Greenwich’s founding families was Irish, and Portsmouth’s coal mines lured hundreds of Irish workers during the early 1800s.
Between 1824 and 1857, more than 300 Irishman helped build Newport’s Fort Adams, a behemoth that would become America’s largest coastal fortification. Meanwhile, as Providence was rapidly becoming a leader in jewelry manufacturing, many Irish immigrants headed to the city as they left their homeland behind to escape the infamous Irish Famine (in fact, before it was known as the heartbeat of Providence’s Italian community, Federal Hill was an Irish neighborhood). The capital city is now home to the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial, commemorating the tragedy and triumph of victims, survivors, and descendants of that time.
In 1895, Newport’s first Irish mayor was elected to office, and during the Gilded Age, many of the domestic workers in the famed Newport mansions were Irish, traveling in advance of their wealthy robber baron employers to ready the “summer cottages” for the season.
Thus, Rhode Island is home to a wealth of Irish pubs and restaurants serving traditional Irish food and drink. Here are just some of our favorites:
Aidan’s Pub, Bristol
Practically an institution since opening its doors 30 years ago, Aidan’s feels like a traditional Irish Pub and with its location just steps from Bristol Harbor, you may just believe you’re in Galway for a minute! Aidan’s offers a full restaurant, bars, and live music regularly. The menu features, as one might expect, a corned beef and cabbage dinner, in addition to other Irish classics including shepherd’s pie, fish n’ chips, curried chicken, a homemade farmer’s beef stew, Dublin pot pie, and of course, bangers and mash.
At the bar you’ll find more than 80 beers from around the world – including Guinness of course, and on Sunday evenings, enjoy a “traditional Irish session” of live Irish music.
McBride’s Pub, Providence
Nestled in the heart of Wayland Square, McBride’s is a family-owned Irish-inspired haunt named after a pub of the same name in Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan, Ireland. It has all of the hallmarks of a family pub: dark wood bar, plenty of high-tops in the bar area and a separate dining room, plus a comfort-food driven menu with familiar sounding favorites – only McBride’s like to put a twist on Irish pub classics. Take, for example, their corned beef quesadilla, bursting with thick slices of corned beef, shredded cabbage and plenty of cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Irish nachos here are made with house made chips heaped with lashings of shepherd’s pie and the customary grated cheddar, sour cream and spring onion, while the lamb sliders are brushed with a fig sauce you’ll remember long after you indulge.
Other Irish dishes remain sacred and traditional, like the Guinness beef stew, corned beef and cabbage and Beshoff’s Fish ‘n Chips, inspired by Dublin’s legendary fish and chips shop for more than 80 years.
Arigna Irish Pub & Coal Fire Kitchen, Pawtucket & North Providence
With eye-catching red exteriors, it’s hard to miss Arigna’s – both the Pawtucket and North Providence locations. It’s a unique name admittedly, but one straight from the Emerald Isle. The pair of pubs is named after a mining town in County Roscommon, Ireland.
Arigna was the last working coal mine in the country after being sourced for 400 years. On this side of the pond, Arigna Irish Pub & Coal Fire Kitchen features 27 draught beers, 18 big TVs, six “Pour Your Own Draft” tables and has fun pub games including pool and darts. Try the Roscommon pizza featuring corned beef, caramelized onion, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. It might sound funny but trust us, it works.
O’Rourke’s Bar and Grill, Warwick
Located in historic Pawtuxet Village, O’Rourke’s looks exactly how you want your small charming village pub to look with an emerald-hued exterior, flower boxes, an engraved wooden sign swinging on a post and the Irish flag flying in the breeze – and the patio is the place to be in the summertime! While you’ll find a few Irish favorites here, like the Guinness-battered fish n’ chips, the menu is riddled with Rhode Island staples including calamari, stuffies, clam chowder and fish tacos.
The Pub, Matunuck
Few places can get away with just being “The Pub,” but this is a Matunuck institution holds the title of being the “oldest Irish bar in Rhode Island on the beach.” While some may describe the outside as “divey,” The Pub’s great asset is an intricate multi-level back patio (“patio” doesn’t do it justice) perched on beachfront.
The Pub is also home to the annual “Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Beach Parade” which extends from the nearby Ocean Mist bar to The Pub. If you’re looking for a little recovery brunch, The Pub is your place on the weekend. Try the Irish breakfast with rashers, sausage, hash, two eggs, home fries and toast…and maybe a little hair of the dog.
The Fastnet PUB, Newport
An Irish gathering place at the base of Broadway, Fastnet bears the name of both a striking lighthouse off the shores of County Cork on the Irish mainland and the world’s largest offshore sailing race of the same name. It’s not uncommon to see this pub packed first thing in the morning when there’s an international rugby tournament being broadcast live from overseas.
With an approach that makes everyone from college kids to seniors feel welcome, it’s the hospitality at Fastnet that keeps folks coming back for more. In the warmer months, all of the huge street-facing windows are removed and the huge back patio is something you just don’t expect to see in the heart of downtown Newport.
Open since 1929, this part Irish pub, part New York deli is part of the very fabric of downtown Providence. While Murphy’s menu will have all of your pub favorites, you’ll also find seasonal additions throughout the year. It’s hard to pick a signature small plate but the Irish poutine, an indulgent pile of fries smothered in white banger gravy, cheddar cheese curds and garnished with scallions, is something you don’t want to miss.
The Ruben eggrolls are a delightful fusion of two international favorites while the Fed Hill fried bologna sandwich is a tribute to flavor found closer to home. Murphy’s, the oldest running pub in Providence, is big for pre-gaming too, whether before a PC Friars game or a show at nearby PPAC.
O’Brien’s pub, Newport
Since 1945, O’Brien’s (“O’Bs,” as locals often say) has been welcoming folks to sit back, relax, sip a beer and enjoy some food that satisfies. O’Bs has grown exponentially since it opened nearly eight decades ago, most significantly with front patio that extends the entire length of the restaurant along Newport’s bustling lower Thames Street.
O’Brien’s so family-friendly that they turn the center patio fountain into pond for catching toy goldfish in the summer time. And human kids aren’t the only love-bugs welcome here – bring your pooch where they’ll be able to soak up some sun and make new furry friends. Merch has serious street cred in this place so pick up a sweatshirt or cap, and food offerings include just about everything including a dedicated gluten-free menu.
County Cork Irish Pub, Warwick
This picturesque pub perched on Warwick Cove overlooks Brewer’s Marina. With a beautiful wood bar festooned in the ubiquitous first responder patches, plenty of Irish and Guinness swag and proudly displayed Irish whiskeys, you can see why this neighborhood pub (with neighborhood prices!) is a staple.
In the warmer months you’ll want to claim an Adirondack chair and watch the boats saunter by with a cold one in your hands. Also, you can sail right up in your dinghy! The owner, Cora, hails from Cork, Ireland, and the Irish stew here is her mother’s – so it’s as authentic as you can get!
Malt on Broadway, Newport
This Irish gastro pub on Broadway is a local favorite. Owned by a pair of wonderfully welcoming Dubliners, Malt offers three distinct dining areas: the bar, the high-tops adjacent to the bar, and the dining room.
As the name hints, Malt boasts an enviable selection of single malts, bourbons and Irish whiskeys, but the menu is also well curated. Must-haves include the loaded potato croquettes, Thai shrimp nachos, and the Malt burger with maple smoked bacon, aged cheddar, pickled onion jam, fried rosemary and mustard aioli sandwiched between a soft, crisp-edged bun. But the specials here really outdo themselves with farm to table dishes that always impress.
Whether you are Irish or just want to celebrate the Irish, Rhode Island’s pint (of Guinness!) overfloweth with options from end to end! Without a doubt there will be, as they say in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte,” or “one hundred thousand welcomes!”