We count down the 12 Days to Christmas, why not the 17 Days to St. Patrick’s Day? If there’s one holiday that should be a season of cheer, it’s this one, we say. Here’s Edition 3 of the Vacay.ca St. Patrick’s Day in Canada Countdown — where we name 17 of the best Irish bars in the land!
Day 3: The James Joyce, Calgary
Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — It’s said, if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough. Fortunately, we don’t have to be Irish to share in their lucky day.
While imitators seem to be everywhere, Calgary’s only Irish-owned pub is the place to be on St. Paddy’s day. Says owner owner Gerard Curran: “It’s a true taste of Ireland as soon as you walk in the door.”
Having reached icon status, the city’s oldest, authentic Irish pub has been bringing people together, whether Irish or not, for 15 years. The James Joyce Pub is where the regular crowd takes their now adult kids, mingling with the downtown residents and tourists.
St. Patrick’s Day plans: On March 17, there’ll be a line down the block by noon, so you’ll want to get here early. It’s a full day event and the action begins at 8am ($10 cover). Start with eggs before kegs (licensed for 10am) with The Joycean Fried Egg Sandwich ($12) or Country Style Ham and Eggs($12). Just be sure to go with potato bread and not whole wheat so you don’t look like a poser.
Be sure to tuck into the full Irish menu. Pairing well with pints are Potato Nachos ($11/$16), crinkle fried potatoes topped with all the fixings. For heartier fare, go for the Irish Stew ($10/$13) chock full of tender lamb, root veg and garlic mash. But the big seller, as you’d expect, is fish n’ chips. Dive into Finnegan’s Fry ($12/$15), fresh haddock in a Kilkenny cream ale batter or go upscale, with the Halibut & Chips ($15/$18).
Work off these calories to the lively music of Calgary’s Friad Knot, reputed to be the best Celtic band in Western Canada. They’ll make you burst into a jig until, of course, the real Irish dancers come out and show you how it’s done.
Cost of a pint of Guinness: Let’s face it, you’re here for the beer. Guinness ($8.95 a pint) steals the show with over 60% of sales. If that’s too dark and you still want to stay on the green isle (at least in spirits), best stick with Harp for lager, Kilkenny for cream ale and Smithwick’s for ale.
Quote from an Irishman: Just don’t expect to be served green beer here. “They don’t do it in Ireland, so why would we do it here?” questions Curran.
You know it’s authentically Irish because: There are no TVs, anytime of year. So do as the Irish do, and practice the gift of the gab.
Note: Photos courtesy of the James Joyce Pub.