Lounge around amid red carpeted luxury.
Picking a favorite Dublin pub is some combination of naming your favorite child and most treasured blade of grass. The options are numerous and most are spectacular. But John Kehoe’s earns the rare distinction of providing a dose of authentic Irish drinking in one of the most commercially-dense areas of the world, Dublin’s Grafton Street district.
Past such luminaries like Zara and a Disney Store, one left turn opens up a simple side street and a view of Kehoe’s flower-dominated façade just a few feet away. The neon-supported sign is cause for visit alone, a comforting green background with the words “Kehoe’s Lounge” etched in glowing orange. Inside, the space is snug after snug, a winding maze of secluded drinking sections that when busy feel like speed bumps on an endless slow crawl through the first floor.
On quieter days, there is no finer place to drink among a cast of dozens but feel as private as a kitchen counter. The interior somehow balances natural light-infused airiness with enough wooden partitions to encircle the building many times over. Each new section unfolds into a chance for small groups of three or four to plot, plan or just get drunk.
The main bar itself is stunningly beautiful, the name of the bar inscribed along the front and a classic library-worthy bookshelf full of booze behind, an explosion of polished wood and glistening liquor bottles that makes it hard to leave the bar’s warm grasp. A clock dots the top of the bar itself, a pleasant view to take in and then ignore as the hours melt away into a Bushmill’s or 10.
But what separates Kehoe’s is the rickety staircase that opens up additional layers of drinking opportunities, with the first stop on the second floor the aforementioned “lounge” area of the pub, with a pair of rooms that provide open seating access and a dedicated bar to serve the second story. Officially termed the Living Room, the area is dominated by red carpeting that has likely seen more beer than the sum total of all patrons at any given time in the pub. A fireplace and worn piano complement the space.
Of course, this is Ireland, so the drinking can naturally spill out into the streets, with a robust patio setup ringing the corner building. Given the pub’s location, sidewalk beer is a scenic activity, with throngs of people ambling by, likely to or from the many bars that dot the Grafton Street neighborhood.
From the snug-dominated first floor to the red-carpeted free-for-all upstairs, Kehoe’s provides a much-needed drinking oasis amid the capitalist frenzy a block away. Head for the neon sign and do not look back.