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 12 of the Vacay.ca St. Patrick’s Day in Canada Countdown — where we name 17 of the best Irish bars in the land!
Day 12: King’s Head, Winnipeg
Story by Jody Robbins
WINNIPEG — An English pub with an Irish bartender is how locals describe the King’s Head. It’s been going strong for the past 15 years, with an established reputation for great food and interesting character(s). The ‘Peg’s largest pub might not be Irish per se, but the owner’s wife’s family hails from the Emerald Isle, which is good enough for us (and we all know who wears the pants no matter what side of pond you’re on).
Even the building has character. Walls of exposed brick and mortar betray its history as an electric company and give this 110-year-old joint a real heritage feel. The multi-floor pub keeps expanding and now occupies two buildings. It can hold a crowd of around 200 on each floor, each watching a different band at the same time.
When the thirsty crowd gets hungry, they tuck into the King’s Head curries that include colonial favourites such as Makhani Murgh aka Butter Chicken ($12.95) and Shrimp Quorma with cashews and raisins ($12.95). Specially for St. Paddy’s Day, the pub will offer Guinness Lamb Stew ($10.95) served with scones and Lamb Shank ($14.95) with mash and veg.
With a broad demographic, the pub appeals to suits, the university set and a few Irish regulars. They all watch the countdown clock to St. Patrick’s Day with more enthusiasm than any other party, including New Year’s Eve.
Quote from an Irishman: “When I grew up, St. Patrick’s Day meant mass, the parade and then the pub. Things are a little better now,” admits cheeky Irish bartender Frances McVoy. He’s more than a fixture here, as he’s stayed behind the bar at an age when many might retire. In fact, folks come in here just to be served by this charming bartender — something he needs to be pressed to admit, “I wouldn’t want to be braggin’, but it has happened,” he told me sheepishly.
You know it’s authentically Irish because: Well, it’s not. But it is a traditional pub, supporting soccer scars and splashing various sports jerseys and beer signs across its walls. More importantly, it has 30 beers on tap from all over the world and a good atmosphere, earning it genuine pub status.
Cost of a pint of Guinness: $6.75. Jameson Irish Whisky ($4.25) and Baileys ($4.25) tend to also go down quite well on the patron saint’s day. And keeping in the same tradition as fine pubs across Western Canada, you’ll not find any green beer on these premises. “We’re not an American bar,” says owner Jay Khanuja. “We serve real beer and you don’t want to ruin that.”
St. Patrick’s Day plans: The King’s Head will be open by noon and lined up by 5 pm. A troop of Irish dancers will be hoofing it in the afternoon and the battle of the bands begins at 6 pm. Two bands will play simultaneously on different floors until the 2 am close. There’s a $15 cover at door, with all proceeds going towards a local charity.
Contact info: 120 King Street, Winnipeg, MB; 204-957-7710; www.kingshead.ca