UnitedVoice: What To See, Do -- And Drink -- In Dublin: Tips From The Owners Of The "World's Best Bar"

By Heather Whitley

This article is part of our “Street To Street” series, where we ask prominent New Yorkers to share their recommendations for what to see and do in major cities around the world.

When Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry set foot in New York City six years ago, they had a clear mission.

“The idea was to do something that no one had ever done before,” Muldoon said. “We came over here with the intention of making an Irish whiskey pub that was a world-class cocktail venue.”

But beyond offering the finest cocktails, the two Irishmen also wanted their bar to reflect the culture of their homeland.

“The thing about Irish people is that they make people feel welcome,” Muldoon said. “They’re not famous for cocktails, they’re not famous for their food; it’s basically the welcome, the charm. And I don’t think you see that anywhere else.”

Back home in Belfast, Muldoon and McGarry had worked in a five-star hotel bar called The Merchant. But Muldoon said the prim and proper and often downright stuffy atmosphere of the famous cocktail bar was not appealing.

“Some cocktail bars, like, you have to know the owner or you have to know the person in charge in order to get in,” Muldoon said. “We wanted to have an open-door policy where everybody would feel welcome.”

After two and a half years of hard work and determination, Muldoon and McGarry turned their dream into a reality and opened the doors to The Dead Rabbit, named after an 1850s Irish gang from New York. Since then, the three-level bar in New York’s Financial District has been showered with awards and recognition, including being named The World’s Best Bar in 2016.

Muldoon and McGarry may have made their name in New York, but Ireland is never far from their thoughts. Here, we asked them to share their top travel tips on what to see — and where to get the best pint of Guinness — on a visit to Dublin.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

Q. What are the best places for tourists to visit on a trip to Dublin?

One of Ireland’s most infamous prisons, the historic Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796. Shutterstock
One of Ireland’s most infamous prisons, the historic Kilmainham Gaol, opened in 1796.

Muldoon: The Kilmainham Gaol Museum. It’s close to the Guinness brewery. It used to be a jail, and there’s a museum attached to it now. When the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish rebellion and all of that took place, a lot of people, like the Irish Volunteers back then who were caught, were imprisoned in the Kilmainham jail. And you can go see where it all happened. It’s a beautiful museum; it’s a fantastic museum.

I would go to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells. Because that book is a very, very old book, and it’s very interesting to go in and get a look at it. There’s a whole bunch of famous Irish writers who went to Trinity College.

McGarry: The Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are also great places to learn about the big products that have come from Ireland.

Q. What are some of your favorite things to do in Dublin?

Muldoon: I have a love for proper Irish pubs. The thing I find fascinating when you go to some of these old pubs is that you may see a picture of somebody on the wall, and it’s a famous person. Like, we were in a bar in a place called Athy, which is near Dublin, and we saw pictures of this famous Antarctic explorer called Ernest Shackleton. And I’m asking, “Why is Ernest Shackleton — who I always assumed to be an Englishman, not an Irishman — why is he on your wall?” But apparently Ernest Shackleton was born in that area. If you ever go into a bar in Ireland and you see something on the walls, do ask what it is because you’ll find, nine times out of 10, it’s a very interesting piece of information.

Croke Park is Ireland’s largest sports arena and the perfect place to catch a Gaelic football or hurling match. Shane Lynam
Croke Park is Ireland’s largest sports arena and the perfect place to catch a Gaelic football or hurling match.

McGarry: If you are an American going to Ireland, I would definitely try to catch a Gaelic football match or a hurling match just to see the native sports in Ireland. I know Brad Pitt went to a Hurling game, and he called it the most barbaric sport he’d ever watched in his life. So it’s entertaining at the same time, you know? The big stadium in Dublin is Croke Park; it holds about 80,000 people. If you want to go and see a huge stadium and check out a game going on, definitely that would be in Croke Park.

Q. What bars do you enjoy visiting in Dublin?

McGarry: One of the first places we stop off when we go back to Dublin is a bar called The Gravediggers. It’s a very old Dublin pub, and it’s the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever had and I’ve obviously traveled extensively in Ireland. It’s just a perfect pint.

Muldoon: There’s a bar in Dublin called Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street. I was watching a documentary one time, and the guy who owns it said he serves the best pint of Guinness in Dublin, and I thought that was a very bold statement to make. So I actually went to his bar, and he served me the pint, and it was the best pint of Guinness in Dublin!

Mulligans on Poolbeg Street has a rich, 200-year history of serving Dubliners and tourists alike. Shane Lynam
Mulligans on Poolbeg Street has a rich, 200-year history of serving Dubliners and tourists alike.

McGarry: The other place that I would recommend — this is kind of more in the speakeasy setting, or a Dublin version of a speakeasy — is a bar called the Vintage Cocktail Club, and it’s just shortened to VCC. If you’re with your partner, it’s a great place to go for a date or whatever. It’s quite intimate and dimly lit, and they do a lot of good drinks there.