It’s time for the first instalment of my Weirdo Guide to Dublin Pubs.
You guessed I’d start off with my own local, right? While *technically* I have several other pubs within much easier strolling/stumbling distance, one of the many benefits of city living to someone like me who is essentially incapable of living anywhere non-urban, is having a number of choices and opting for the one that’s a slightly further walk, simply because it’s more what I’m in the mood for on a given occasion. So, today, it’s a look at The Bald Eagle, which stands next to the Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal in Phibsborough (or, if you prefer, Phibsboro – it’s a thing).
For the uninitiated, Phibsborough is one of the World’s Coolest NeighbourhoodsTM, at least according to Time Out, and as a former staffer from back in the 1990s, I have to agree, right? Well, having lived or worked in a few of them, frequently long before they were cool (side note: Walthamstow was most certainly Not Cool when I lived there, but hey, why not now?) because I am An Old, I do (mostly) agree in this case. Although I am not personally cool enough to live in Phibsborough itself, I’m in and out of it several times a day – it’s just a short walk up the canal for me, so I get all the Cool Neighbourhood benefits without the full Cool Neighbourhood price. And Cool Neighbourhoods need cool pubs, but it’s all about being just the right level of cool, and not trying too hard – and that (finally) brings me to what I love about The Bald Eagle.
While the interior is, at first glance, your ‘typical’ Irish pub with a lot of dark wood, a lovely snug, some old pictures, mirrors and a wee bit of taxidermy, it’s spruced up with a splash of pop culture and nerdery: Star Wars and other action figures that seem aimed squarely at my demographic, as well as a tattoo aesthetic toward the back and outside on the sun-trap deck – well, on days when there is sun, that is. There’s also a life-sized mural of a Dalek out back, again, targeting My People very directly.
Of course, it’s also about the beer: there are almost always local beers from Hope, Rascals and Trouble on, and not infrequently another guest tap or two, along with the usual Guinness and Friends lineup you will find everywhere else. There’s always a warm welcome from the staff who make a point of saying hello whenever we appear, even if it’s busy, and it’s the kind of place I can go for a quiet solo pint on a rare afternoon off, an evening out with friends or for a family dinner with the kids in tow – the desserts are always crowd-pleasers, and the seasonal cocktail offerings are a nice change from the beer on occasion.
If this all sounds too much ‘of the now’ for you, there is also a heritage here: although it’s only been The Bald Eagle for a few years, there has been a pub on this spot – or, at least, very near – since the 1740s, though maps from the 1830s onward seem more certain about this being part of the origin story of the current pub; one has to assume the workers at the mill just a bit further along the canal would have wanted a drink. But sometimes it’s nice to leave a bit of mystery, too – something to come back to later, which suits a pub like this perfectly.
I do come back often.
Where: The Bald Eagle, 114-115 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 VX23
Access from the city centre: Buses 9, 40, 46A, 83, 140; Luas Green Line; 30ish minute walk
Food: Pub grub, pizzas, desserts
Sport: Most bigger Premiere League, Rugby and GAA matches are on
TVs: Visible from most of the pub, including the deck, but not overpowering
Music: Usually excellent ’90s jams on the speakers, though not live music
Family-friendliness: Useful kids’ menu and friendly welcome at reasonable hours
Pub-crawl-ability: High. Multiple options within the immediate area
Local sites of note: Royal Canal, Mater Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Dalymount Park
Haunted: Not obviously
Other notes: Handy for a Guinness 0.0 when needed, also some cans and bottles of other local craft beers