Only in Jerusalem do the Irish go heimish. Given the lack of an indigenous alcohol-consuming culture, it should come as no surprise that an Irish pub is one of the best places to grab a pint in Jerusalem. Hidden on a small side street in the center of town, O'Connell Pub and Restaurant is more than just another Irish drinking hole - with a teudat kashrut on the wall, it's every Jew's pot o' gold.
On the weekends, the spot is so packed that a line of impatient patrons forms outside, but the clientele is one of the perks. Attracting the entire spectrum of Jerusalem's varied population, groups of kippah-wearing guys, foreign tourists, secular Israelis, the middle-aged and even shidduch dates fill the wooden seats.
The friendly, cheery atmosphere encourages mingling; a friend of mine even met his girlfriend there.
Inside, the modern tavern is big but cozy, dimly lit and adorned with framed, colorful Irish posters. The back of the (predictably) green menu reveals that the building itself was erected almost 100 years ago during the Ottoman period, and was inhabited by upper-class Muslims. It also tells the customer that on their way to the bathroom, they can view the remnants of a well that once served the very non-Irish residents.
Those sober enough to read further will learn that the bar's namesake, Daniel O'Connell, was an Irish national leader who preached freedom and slave liberation.
Fascinating. On to the beers. Flipping the menu over, the beer list is impressive, but that's about where the Irish authenticity ends. Though the menu boasts atmospheric Irish music, "Kung-fu Fighting" was playing while we ordered our drinks, and the only thing that came close the rest of the night was a U2 song.
Those looking to drown their sorrows will be not be disappointed with the wide-ranging choice of liquors, and their dates can enjoy the respectable cocktail list - which includes pretty, assorted daiquiris along with the regular cosmopolitan choices, but you have to ask the barman what's available.
If you're hungry for more than the dish of peanuts provided (in their shells, which you can throw onto the floor), open the menu to the food selection. While the cuisine is reminiscent of many Jerusalem meat restaurants, it is not inadequate, with diverse salads and pasta dishes, and a variety of munchies like Mexican nachos and chicken strips, which come with different sauces for dipping.
Though the manager cannot always be counted on to be helpful, the wait staff is accommodating and efficient, and you can expect service with a smile even when the place is packed. It's less crowded during the week, when you can ask to be seated upstairs - a more intimate niche with a view overlooking the bar.
When you make the necessary trip to the bathroom at the end of a long night of drinking, instead of finding a dirty paper-towel dispenser, you'll be delighted to find clean, nicely folded towels near the contemporary-looking sinks.
Don't forget to give yourself a quick check in the mirror behind you before heading back out to pay the bill, which isn't cheap, but won't leave you bankrupt.
Located a few minutes from Zion Square, it's worth a trip out to visit this nightspot - for the Irish in all of us - because nobody does kosher food like Jerusalem, and nobody does pubs like the Irish.
And be sure to try the chicken wings.
3 Ben Shetach St.
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